Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Saban best of show for college football
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, greets Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman before an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Tens of thousands, including Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman, have called Nick Saban the GOAT.
Greatest of All Time.
Many also know Saban can be like a cranky old billy goat.
Alabama’s head football coach has an unbelievable record in the last 15 years, and yes he and Mrs. Terry are generous philanthropists because they can afford to be.
The man makes about a million bucks a win from Alabama, and when he decided to open a car dealership he went with Mercedes-Benz.
He is a guy who talks down to most people and uses the media to get messages to Tide fans and even his team.
He does have close friends who claim he’s nothing like his persona, but they wouldn’t be friends for long if they didn’t say that.
Saban and Alabama football are so high profile that this Saturday’s game against Arkansas — on secondary ticket sites — seats are going from $107 in the nosebleed section to $720 in the lower bowl.
In his 15th season at Alabama he has a 182-25 record, six national championships and was runner-up three times.
He is 72-18 against top 25 teams the past 15 seasons and his former assistants make up 10% of the FBS head coaches.
Prior to Alabama, he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins for two years, but like so many before him, his college act didn’t play well on the NFL stage. He was 15-17 in those two seasons.
He denied numerous times that he was leaving the Dolphins for the Crimson Tide.
Just as he did when he left LSU for Miami.
Saban had success with LSU, going 48-16 in five seasons and won his first national championship in 2003.
All of this has come in the South in the SEC West. The West Virginia native turns 71 on Halloween.
Prior to that he had mostly moderate success.
At Toledo, he was 9-2 in his first head coaching job and also turned down an applicant named Urban Meyer while he was there. He resigned after one year to go to the NFL as the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator for Bill Belichick for four years.
He and Belichick share some of the personality traits.
Saban then took the Michigan State job who was on NCAA probation for recruiting violations from the previous coach’s regime, and the Spartans had not had a winning season in five years.
Michigan State was average for the first four years under Saban, going 25-22-1.
In his final season, the Spartans went 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten, finishing tied for second in the league with Michigan behind Wisconsin.
Saban resigned at Michigan State to take the LSU job and did not coach in the bowl game.
He almost didn’t take the LSU job. When he researched the job, he didn’t understand things like why coaches had policemen surrounding them.
While at Michigan State, he had interviewed for the head coaching job with a NFL team and appeared to be the leading candidate, but at the last minute withdrew because of their latest draft.
Then someone stepped up to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Saban and convinced him to at least visit Baton Rouge and see what football was like in the great state of Louisiana.
LSU and Baton Rouge rolled out the red carpet and Saban came away impressed enough to call the man who had suggested he visit and say he wanted the job.
That man was super agent Jimmy Sexton, who has more power over the hiring of SEC coaches than anyone with the exception of Commissioner Greg Sankey.
GOAT or a billy goat, it is hard not to be impressed with Saban’s eye for detail, ability to recruit and motivate. Or for his knowledge of the game and his work ethic. No one outworks him.
He drives ticket demand, too, all over the SEC.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.