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The Rare Sustained Success of Alabama's Nick Saban

Take a moment to reflect on not just what Nick Saban has accomplished at the University of Alabama, but also how he has kept the train rolling.

Nick Saban.
Nick Saban.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

For some people, success comes easy. Sustained success is another thing.

When the plane carrying Nick Saban touched down at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport on January 3, 2007, it filled the University and the state of Alabama with a joyful hope that had not been seen in several decades. Whatever expectations that Tide fans have put on Saban, he has already exceeded them. In nine seasons, he has won 105 games as opposed to a mere 18 defeats (Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, Mike Shula, and Joe Kines went a combined 67-55). Add in eight straight double-digits win seasons and FOUR National Championships within the last seven years. He is on the cusp of being called the Greatest Of All Time.

College football is forever evolving and changing. There are ebbs and tides (no pun intended since we know there is only ONE Tide) to schemes, programs, rosters, and coaches. Saban, however, has found a way to buck the trend that so many others have fallen prey to, which is the trend of college football coaches having early success and then fading away.

Remember some years ago how Greg Schiano was winning games at Rutgers of all places and was looked upon as the next big thing? He is now only 49 and has not coached since 2013. In December 2011, Kevin Sumlin was a hot commodity. Yet four years later, the villagers are at the gate with pitchforks and torches, calling for his head. Barring a miracle, I cannot see him helming another major program if he gets fired this coming winter.

It is not just the young up-and-comers who suffer from this predicament. Since the beginning of this century, there have only been only two coaches who have won a National Championship after his fourth season at a school.

Season Team Coach Championship Year at School Following Years
2000 Oklahoma Bob Stoops second season
No follow-up championship; Growing stale in Norman
2001 Miami (FL) Larry Coker first season Fired in 2006.
2002 Ohio State Jim Tressel second season Tattoo-gate embarrassment; 5-year show-cause penalty.
2003 LSU Nick Saban fourth season Dolphins and then to Bama.
2004 Southern Cal Pete Carroll fourth season Left for Seattle with the NCAA breathing down his neck.
2005 Texas Mack Brown eighth season Forced out after 2013 season.
2006 Florida Urban Meyer second season Went 9–4 in 2007.
2007 LSU Les Miles third season On the hottest of hot seats.
2008 Florida Urban Meyer fourth season Lost to Bama, became ill, moved to Columbus.
2009 Alabama Nick Saban third season Still making history in T-Town
2010 Auburn Gene Chizik second season Fired two years later, currently UNC's DC.
2011 Alabama Nick Saban fifth season Still making history in T-Town
2012 Alabama Nick Saban sixth season Still making history in T-Town
2013 Florida State Jimbo Fisher fourth season Could be looking for an escape route?
2014 Ohio State Urban Meyer third season Just lost a TON of players. MEDIC!
2015 Alabama Nick Saban ninth season Still making history in T-Town

As you can see, most of these coaches have had difficulty getting their second championships, and in many cases they burn out, drop out, or get dumped.

Pete Carroll kinda won two MNCs, but really, the one in 2004 is the only one most outlets give him credit for. Nonetheless, it was later stripped by the NCAA.

Urban Meyer has won three rings but all within the first four seasons at the respective school.

Mack Brown won in his eighth season at Texas but went downhill after losing to the Crimson Tide in the 2009 season and could not get his second championship.

Nick Saban is the only other coach of this century to win a championship past his fourth year at the school, a feat of which he has accomplished three times (2011, 2012, 2015).

Look no further than the other side of the state to see how quickly a coach's brand can go grow stale. Gene Chizik was canned two seasons after hoisting the crystal football. Current Auburn coach Gustav Malzahn is on the hot seat two years after a runner-up showing in 2013.

The fact that Saban has continued to win year-in and year-out with no down years is a remarkable accomplishment. It is a rare era of college football that may never be matched in our lifetimes.