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Can Nick Saban Become the Win Total King?

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It’s not as crazy as you may think.

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Winning Press Conference
We go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong...
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

With news breaking this week that Nick Saban had been granted a contract extension through 2028, it cements the notion that he will not be leaving Alabama for any other job. To think that the G.O.A.T. will be around another eight seasons is mind blowing. He is currently 69 years old but he is still going as strong as ever.

Even if he does not coach out the full contract, there is optimism in Tuscaloosa that at the very least, he is good for most of that span. Which bring up an interesting topic of career college football coaching win totals. What once seemed an insurmountable total a decade ago, does not look so daunting with the perpetual Joyless Murderball Machine rolling through the college football landscape year after year.

Below is the current win total according to Wikipedia. Since I am too busy issuing refunds, I don’t have the time or inclination to fact check. So we’re just going to have to go with these numbers. However, a little editing is needed.

Rank Name Years Wins Losses Ties Pct. Teams
1 John Gagliardi 64 489 138 11 0.775 Carroll (MT) (1949–1952), Saint John's (MN) (1953–2012)
2 Joe Paterno 46 409 136 3 0.749 Penn State (1966–2011)
3 Eddie Robinson 55 408 165 15 0.707 Grambling (1941–1942, 1945–1997)
4 Bobby Bowden 44 377 129 4 0.743 Samford (1959–1962), West Virginia (1970–1975), Florida State (1976–2009)
5 Ken Sparks 37 338 99 2 0.772 Carson–Newman (1980–2016)
6 Kevin Donley 41 333 135 1 0.711 Anderson (IN) (1978–1981), Georgetown (KY) (1982–1992), California (PA) (1993–1996), Saint Francis (IN) (1998–present)
7 Larry Kehres 27 332 24 3 0.929 Mount Union (1986–2012)
8 Bear Bryant 38 323 85 17 0.78 Maryland (1945), Kentucky (1946–1953), Texas A&M (1954–1957), Alabama (1958–1982)
9 Pop Warner 49 319 106 32 0.73 Georgia (1895–1896), Iowa State (1895–1899), Cornell (1897–1898, 1904–1906), Carlisle (1899–1903, 1907–1914), Pittsburgh (1915–1923), Stanford (1924–1932), Temple (1933–1938)
10 Roy Kidd 39 314 124 8 0.713 Eastern Kentucky (1964–2002)
10 Amos Alonzo Stagg 57 314 199 35 0.605 Springfield (1890–1891), Chicago (1892–1932), Pacific (CA) (1933–1946)
12 Frosty Westering 40 305 96 7 0.756 Parsons (1962–1963), Lea (1966–1971), Pacific Lutheran (1972–2003)
12 Larry Wilcox 42 305 153 0 0.666 Benedictine (KS) (1979–2020)
14 Tubby Raymond 36 300 119 3 0.714 Delaware (1966–2001)
15 Ron Schipper 36 287 67 3 0.808 Central (IA) (1961–1996)
16 Frank Beamer 35 280 144 4 0.657 Murray State (1981–1986), Virginia Tech (1987–2015)
17 Monte Cater 37 275 117 2 0.701 Lakeland (1981–1986), Shepherd (1987–2017)
18 Bob Ford 45 265 191 1 0.581 St. Lawrence (1965–1968), Albany (1973–2013)
19 Dennis Douds 45 264 204 3 0.564 East Stroudsburg (1974–2018)
20 Roger Harring 31 261 75 7 0.771 Wisconsin–La Crosse (1969–1999)
21 Mack Brown 32 259 132 1 0.662 Appalachian State (1983), Tulane (1985–1987), North Carolina (1988–1997, 2019–present), Texas (1998–2013)
22 Hank Biesiot 38 258 121 1 0.68 Dickinson State (1976–2013)
23 LaVell Edwards 29 257 101 3 0.716 BYU (1972–2000)
23 Frank Girardi 36 257 97 5 0.723 Lycoming (1972–2007)
23 Andy Talley 37 257 155 2 0.623 St. Lawrence (1979–83), Villanova (1985–2016)
26 Al Bagnoli 38 256 127 0 0.668 Union (NY) (1982–1991), Penn (1992–2014), Columbia (2015–present)
26 Nick Saban 25 256 65 1 0.797 Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995–1999), LSU (2000–2004), Alabama

ADJUSTMENTS

Have you ever heard of Stan Wasiak? No? Why not? If you are a baseball fan, you have surely heard of the manager with fourth most career wins. Right? He has more than Bobby Cox or Joe Torre. Oh, I suppose you haven’t heard of him because he was a minor league manager. The point here is, congratulations to John Gagliardi, Eddie Robinson, and whoever Ken Sparks is, but they should not be on this list. Gagliardi especially does not belong as he coached Division III which Thompson HS or Mater Dei could probably beat. It is ridiculous to have these coaches on the same list. Thus, all these lower level wins need to be stricken from any future lists.

On that note, so too should any wins by other coaches who have wins at any school below Division I/FBS level.

  1. Frank Beamer had a wonderful career. Kudos. But 42 wins came at Murray State. Erase.
  2. Mack Brown started his career at Appalachian State in 1983 and went 6-5. Up until 2013, the Mountaineers were Division I-AA/FCS. Delete.
  3. Bobby Bowden was 31-6 at Howard (now known as Samford). Expunge.

As to Pop Warner who coached at Cornell and the now defunct Carlisle during the turn of the century, those two programs played at the highest level back then. So, his number stays intact.

The next alterations come from the NCAA who forced vacated wins on a school and coach’s record.

  1. Nick Saban had five victories taken away from him for the 2007 season over an incident which he had no knowledge about when it occurred. Nor did he willingly utilize players in games that he knew could be ineligbile. If Joe Paterno can turn a blind eye to years of an assistant molesting boys in the Penn State’s stadium locker room and not lose any of his wins, then surely Nick Saban should not be punished for his players OH MY GOD! selling textbooks PEARLS CLUTCHED! to other AUDIBLE GASP students. Add five wins back to Nick’s pile.
  2. Bobby Bowden was forced to vacate 12 wins over an academic scandal which bared eerie similarities to the one that UNC more recently had and skated out of. We are no hypocrites here at RBR. If you won on the field, it counts in our books. (Get it? Books?) Plus 12 for Bowden.
Rank Name Years Wins Losses Ties Pct. Math New Win Total
1 John Gagliardi 64 489 138 11 0.775 0
2 Joe Paterno 46 409 136 3 0.749 409
3 Eddie Robinson 55 408 165 15 0.707 0
4 Bobby Bowden 44 377 129 4 0.743 +12-31= 358
5 Ken Sparks 37 338 99 2 0.772 0
6 Kevin Donley 41 333 135 1 0.711 0
7 Larry Kehres 27 332 24 3 0.929 0
8 Bear Bryant 38 323 85 17 0.78 323
9 Pop Warner 49 319 106 32 0.73 319
10 Roy Kidd 39 314 124 8 0.713 0
10 Amos Alonzo Stagg 57 314 199 35 0.605 0
12 Frosty Westering 40 305 96 7 0.756 0
12 Larry Wilcox 42 305 153 0 0.666 0
14 Tubby Raymond 36 300 119 3 0.714 0
15 Ron Schipper 36 287 67 3 0.808 0
16 Frank Beamer 35 280 144 4 0.657 -42= 238
17 Monte Cater 37 275 117 2 0.701 0
18 Bob Ford 45 265 191 1 0.581 0
19 Dennis Douds 45 264 204 3 0.564 0
20 Roger Harring 31 261 75 7 0.771 0
21 Mack Brown 32 259 132 1 0.662 -6= 253
22 Hank Biesiot 38 258 121 1 0.68 0
23 LaVell Edwards 29 257 101 3 0.716 257
23 Frank Girardi 36 257 97 5 0.723 0
23 Andy Talley 37 257 155 2 0.623 0
26 Al Bagnoli 38 256 127 0 0.668 0
26 Nick Saban 25 256 65 1 0.797 +5= 261

All that said, what kind of timetable might it take for Saban to catch those ahead of him? It is hard to anticipate how long the Tide coach will actually stay at the helm. Many people point, at the very least, to the 2026 season in which Alabama travels to Saban’s home state of West Virginia to play the Mountaineers. But who knows? It could be another 10 or 12 years.

Below is an updated list with how many games he is behind others.

Rank Name Years Wins Losses Ties Back
1 Joe Paterno 46 409 136 3 148
2 Bobby Bowden 44 358 129 4 96
3 Bear Bryant 38 323 85 17 62
4 Pop Warner 49 319 106 32 58
5 Nick Saban 25 261 65 1 -
6 LaVell Edwards 29 257 101 3 -4
7 Tom Osborne 25 255 49 3 -6
8 Mack Brown 32 253 132 1 -8
9 Frank Beamer 35 238 144 4 -23

Not counting Year 1 at the Capstone, Saban has averaged 12.5 wins per season. Using that number over the next six seasons would amount to 12.5 x 6 = 75 wins.

2021 season 12.5 wins
2022 season 25 wins
2023 season 37.5 wins
2024 season 50 wins
2025 season 62.5 wins
2026 season 75 wins

That could potentially catapult the Alabama coach into third place in just five seasons, passing ahem one Paul W. “Bear” Bryant in the process. If he sticks around to the end of his current contract, he could get 100 wins and stand alone in second place.

2027 season 87.5 wins
2028 season 100 wins

To catch Coach Pa might be a daunting task. That would take 12.5 wins per season over the next twelve. That would be the year 2032 with an 81 year old Saban. Go ahead and doubt him. See where that gets you.

2029 season 112.5 wins
2030 season 125 wins
2031 season 137.5 wins
2032 season 150 wins