The Art of War In College Football According to Nick Saban"> The Art of War In College Football According to Nick Saban - Touchdown Alabama Football - Alabama Football
Enjoy Premium Content!
Breaking News. No Network. Only Alabama Football.
Subscribe Today
Alabama Football News

The Art of War In College Football According to Nick Saban

Read the Saban version of the “Art of War” and see how great minds think alike. (Initially posted Aug.10th, accidentally deleted)

The Art of War in College Football According to Nick Saban

By: Larry Burton

1. Choose who you go to war with at your side

This isn’t a walk on or volunteer army, they were hand selected by Nick Saban. Each was selected not because a key attribute, but they had more key attributes than anyone else he could enlist. They had raw talent, heart, smart, speed and size.

Should they not walk the straight and narrow, they are culled from the mass and given their walking papers.

Sun Tzu, the author of the “Art of War” thought that a general must not only know how to command an army, but how to assemble one as well. This is one of the few things that both have total agreement on without having to amend its meaning.

The following are the things that show some other similarities between these two great field generals.

2. Prepare the mind, habits and bodies for war

A Saban’s drill sergeant for preparing the bodies and part of the mind is Scott Cochran. While he’s building muscle and mass Cochran also works on the mind, telling them that fatigue and soreness is their friend and that working through it now means they can work through it later on the field of battle against the enemies of the Crimson Tide.

Then Saban and his officer coaching corps goes about drilling the soldiers until doing it the right way becomes habitual. Every movement of the foot, every placement of the arm, every head on the swivel every eye on the right target, time after time until it’s as natural as breathing.

Their mind is sharpened, to see things in great detail that are quite small and seemingly insignificant to most human eyes even before the ball is snapped, then trained to react with the proper movement to counteract the enemies plans with precision.

Lastly, the soldiers react by habit to all situations. They react the same to each play whether they are far ahead or behind, facing the toughest of foes or the weakest of enemies. Who they’re facing does not dictate their actions, situations don’t dictate their actions, the habits they’ve learned dictates their actions. They heed the call of the play, see the lines of the enemy and the placement of their soldiers, read the small details and react out of instinct in precise movements that are as habitual as blinking an eye to defeat the enemy.

Saban agrees with Tzu when he said, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” But Saban modifies it by saying “The victories you win the stadiums in the fall were already won in the weight rooms, drills and work in the late winter, spring and summer.”

3. Mold individuals into a cohesive unit

When you hand pick individuals blessed with greatness, you run the risk of an uncohesive unit. In Saban’s art of war, that doesn’t work. For a unit to achieve anything close to perfection and that is the goal of what Saban seeks, each member must not only do his own job well, but work with the team.

They must understand not only the depth of their own abilities, but the capabilities and nuances of their teammates too. They must learn how the strengths and weaknesses of those in their ranks and how their own actions and movements enhance the total effect of the unit as a whole.

A famous quote from Tzu said, “If his forces are united, separate them.” But Saban’s view is more like, “A team truly united can not be separated or defeated.”

4. Be accountable for your actions

You do your team no good if you’re not in the fight by their side. One must keep not only fit and healthy in body, but apply themselves to the rules that are set forth to keep yourself in good standing among your fellow soldiers.

But also they must understand that being accountable is also something you do for others. Accountability means that you also claim accountability for your brothers. Not only do you keep yourself on the straight and narrow, you encourage and actively participate in keeping others around you on that same path.

Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.” Saban thinks that if you know yourself, your enemy and your brothers you need not doubt victory today, but if you keep yourself and your brothers away from the temptations of the earth that could harm your or your brother’s standing, then you will know victory for the whole season.

5. Believe in your training, believe in your brothers and believe in victory

In dark hours don’t despair, don’t doubt your brothers and never fear defeat is imminent. You were trained that times like this will bend lesser men and that in a battle of wills, yours will not be bent.

Continue to fight as you have been trained to do, share your confidence with your brothers and know that victory is still within your grasp if you follow your training, believe in your brothers and in victory.

Tzu, said,“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley. Saban ammends that to say “If you believe in yourself, your brothers will believe in you. If you believe your brothers can deliver a victory, even in despairing times, they will believe that you can help them fight for that victory also.”

6. Don’t just concentrate on winning the war, but win every battle first.

Realize that you don’t win a war by simply having a superior army, you win a war by winning many series of small battles. The goal is to win every battle, regardless of whether they be large of small victories. Use the same effort on first-and-10 as you would on fourth-and-1 to go. Fight every battle as if it were the most pivotal moment in the war.

Saban agrees with Tzu when he said, “Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?” But modifies it by asking, “When you give your total effort on every play is there anything you can’t accomplish?”

7. Never give an opponent any quarter, any rest, any hope

Show the enemy from the very first volley what you are made of and continue to give that same effort time after time. Be relentless, never stop taking the fight to the enemy, never give an inch on defense and grind every last foot out of every opportunity on offense.

Frustrate your opponent with such superior training, conditioning, reflexes, power and precision that you simply taken the enemy and make his ass quit!

“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.” Tzu said. The Art of War is amended by Saban as “Nothing makes your opponents ass want to quit more than thinking what you’re doing to him is effortless. He has no idea it’s from all the effort you put in before he ever saw you.”

This is the art of war in college football according to Saban and while you may argue the points, you can’t argue the results. Saban would tell you he loves the smell of fresh cut grass and chalk dust and sweat in the morning. Now there’s a true warrior who understands the real art of war and it’s true that two of history’s greatest field generals think alike.

Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at

Facebook Comments

To Top