Why Nick Saban Will Leave Alabama

Michael CrossContributor IAugust 17, 2010

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 24:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 24, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Don’t worry Tide fans—this prediction does not carry a timetable that threatens Nick Saban leading Alabama to its fourteenth national championship.

But don’t expect the never satisfied, businesslike, unflappable leader to grow grey and old bleeding crimson red.

The University of Alabama head football job is the pinnacle of the college coaching profession. So was the University of Kentucky basketball job and New York Knicks lead role for Rick Pitino. Bill Parcells had enough of what appeared to be an endless run with the New York Giants. Why wouldn’t Jimmy Johnson overlook a few stressful days with Jerry Jones to scoop up a few more Super Bowls?

These, and many other coaches have something in common—they thrive on challenges, building something broken down back up to a championship level, and being at the center of attention. The last part is a bit more complex, and we’ll come back to that. But the other common threads are easily supported by career choices made by these larger than life, charismatic personalities.

Pitino, the king of resurrecting franchises and programs on hard times, took one broken-down team after another to playoff or championship levels that are well chronicled.

Parcells is a very interesting example in that he seems to be satisfied with the quick fix and doesn’t necessarily need to ride it out to a championship. He had oversight for the obvious Giants success, but he brought the Patriots, Jets, and Cowboys to high levels without the grand prize.

I think Jimmy Johnson put so much into his coaching efforts with Dallas, he knew the gig was up after some quick improvement made in Miami.

Saban is a CEO, and the closest comparison is the track that JJ took—not because they both walked the sideline in Miami, but because Saban’s focus is on championships. He wants titles through taking struggling programs on hard times, building them back up through constant effort, and running it with the organization and leadership of a corporation.

He won’t bounce around quickly to improve three or four more teams. He will target one more big college program and maybe even entertain a run at the NFL again. It’s not a matter of IF; it’s WHEN.

He returns eight of 11 starters on offense, and though he lost the heart of his defense, he is building it back up with tremendous youth and talent. Barring any unforeseen NCAA violations, Saban might be smart to follow Johnson’s pattern again and pick up one or two more BCS trophies at ‘Bama. By then, slick Nick will be getting a tad antsy, and the walls of Tuscaloosa may start driving Nick to look for a new home.

What will be happening at Notre Dame? Isn’t Florida State’s conference soft? How about a return to the Big Ten, the one place Saban never really reached No. 1—maybe Michigan or Penn State?

Guys like Saban absolutely love turning losers into winners. I don’t think their main reason is to bring attention to themselves. In fact, I don’t think they may even be aware of the extent of how much credit, whether it be positive or negative, falls directly on them from the media and fans.

There was an interesting quote from Saban after the Tide’s victory and redemption over Tim Tebow’s Gators that I didn’t read anything about. The usually media-savvy Saban was unprovoked when mentioning, “It’s not just about me...” as though he knew that he absolutely was front and center as to why Alabama was headed to Pasadena.

Now sure, he might be genuinely humble, and I am sure he knows that the players are out there making the plays, but the climax of turning these programs around is the ultimate satisfaction for Saban.

He can win more championships at Alabama, but he can’t replicate that same feeling as he did last year. However, he can replicate that feeling and be the center of attention, but only if his straw hat (or beanie) has maybe an Irish logo across it.


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