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.