Rece Davis made some comments on ESPN GameDay on Saturday about how Shug Jordan won one SEC title and Auburn named the stadium after him. I have to confess, my knowledge of the history of that school’s program is quite lacking. Upon looking it up, lo and behold, it is true.
Jordan coached football for 25 seasons at Auburn and earned a grand total of one SEC title. That 1957 season, the AP voters voted the 10-0 Tigers as National Champs despite the team being on probation and not playing in a bowl game (Side note: the Tide was saddled with lame duck Ears Whitworth that season). The Coaches Poll and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) gave their votes to one-loss Ohio State due to their Rose Bowl win over Oregon.
Jordan’s teams went to 12 bowl games in his 25 seasons, compiling a post-season record of 5-7. For that mediocrity, one SEC title and a split national championship while on probation, Auburn named the stadium and a stretch of highway after him. (“Hare” of Jordan-Hare Stadium was a forgettable administrator who wasn’t even a school president.)
But this is not about Auburn. This is about Nick Saban - Winner of five outright National Championships, 13-5 in postseason, and winner of 151 games as coach of the Crimson Tide. How does the University of Alabama go about honoring the G.O.A.T.? If you are not up on current lingo, G.O.A.T. stands for Greatest Of All Time. It’s a term that callously gets thrown around a bit these days but in the case of Alabama’s head coach, it is accurate. So renaming a stadium might not be enough.
A statue has already been erected in Saban’s honor, but his accomplishments merit something bigger.
As you know, the Crimson Tide plays in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bryant is of course the legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Around campus you can also find the Bryant Hall dorm, Bryant Conference Center, Paul W. Bryant Drive, and the Paul W. Bryant Museum. Since Saban has been overfilling the museum with trophies, it seems a no-brainer to add his name to that attraction.
Denny was long-time school president George H. Denny who guided the school through World War I and the Great Depression. Although his tenure ended in 1936, he was most important figure in building the University into what it is today. He was also a big football fan and was integral in building the program into an early national power. He brought in both Wallace Wade and Frank Thomas to lead the football teams. Both of those men won National Championships and have statues next to Saban, Gene Stallings, and Bryant. Wade was responsible for the famous Rose Bowl win that brought the Tide into national prominence. Alabama may have never played in that game if not for the lobbying of Denny.
Point being, replacing Denny’s name with Saban’s on the stadium would be a great disservice to possibly the most important person in the history of the University of Alabama. In addition, the name “Bryant–Denny Stadium” already has branding value. Changing the name would devalue the marketing of the U of A. Adding a third name is just clunky. Bryant-Denny-Saban Stadium doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
They could name the field after him as Florida recently did in Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Auburn did the same with Pat Dye Field at Jordan–Hare Stadium about 10-12 years ago. Did you even know that? That move just seems so small and almost like an afterthought. Nobody is going to refer to the place by that name. “Hey, let’s go to Nick Saban Field and watch Alabama trounce Auburn again.”
The Athletic Complex is already named after the late Mal Moore. The Indoor Facility is named for former Tide coach and AD Hank Crisp. There is not much left to rename.
Perhaps University Blvd could be renamed Nick Saban Blvd. I just think there needs to be something bigger, more grand of a statement that should be made.
In all honesty, I am not sure if any of this honoring stuff matters to Saban aside of what it can do for recruiting. Outside of going by the University of Saban, the Crimson Sabans, or Sabanloosa, do you have any suggestions?