How Will Alabama Fare After the “Superman” Saban Era?
By: Larry Burton
The Saban era is in full bloom and for opposing teams, the scary thing is that it may not have peaked yet. There is no doubt that the fortunes of Alabama football will continue for years to come, or at least as Nick Saban paces the sidelines, yelling, wildly gesturing and more importantly winning games with the Crimson Tide. Just this week, Saban is hammering out a contract extension that will keep him at Alabama beyone 2020 or until past his 69th birthday.
With Saban continuing to bring in number one recruiting classes, the cupboard is going to be full for many years, that along with the Saban “Process” will mean the Tide faithful can continue to be included in national championship talk until he leaves.
And then what?
Will the fan base and administration insist on one of “Saban’s boys” to lead the program? That plan didn’t work all that great for Alabama the last time they replaced a legend, but you can count of it happening once again. One thing that’s for sure is that Kirby Smart won’t wait eight more years until bolting for a head coaching position.
I was asked once as a guest on a radio football show and at a Red Elephant Club meeting where Saban was present, who I’d like to see be the next head coach if Nick Saban were to be hit by a bus tomorrow. Without hesitation I said, “James Franklin at Vanderbilt”.
I was told that I gave that answer a little too quickly and it seemed like replacing Saban is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
Nick Saban is 62 and this past month he was asked again about his time frame to retirement and gave that reporter the same answer he gave me two years ago, “As long as I’m having fun doing what I do and and the team is winning, I’ll be here.”
But the question remains, how will Alabama fare after the Saban era?
Schools are lucky to have one great dynasty, some are lucky enough to have had lightning strike them twice with dynasties that lasted to point where they were the dominant team for a decade and won multiple championships. No team has had three.
Can Alabama be the one?
If anyone can, Alabama can. They have the name, the resources, the commitment for continued excellence in facilities from the alumni and boosters and a fanatic fan base. The are in the middle of a area that is among the most fertile recruiting grounds in the nation and they have legions of young men who have always desired to play in a Crimson Tide uniform.
Plus, Saban will leave with the cupboards full, he’ll leave a disciplined team used to hard work and most of all, he’ll leave a team that’s not only used to winning, but one that expects to win.
Whoever takes over will have most of pieces of the puzzle in place to win yet another championship.
The situation will be better than when Bryant retired. He had suffered some not to stellar recruiting classes and some mediocre finishes. But Bryant’s were prophetic then as now when asked about Alabama’s future without him as head coach. “They won championships before I got here and they’ll win championships after I leave.” he said. “This is a great school with a great tradition that’s bigger than me or anyone who will come after me. This is Alabama and they’ll always be a winner.” he finished.
And who can argue with that.
Superman may wear Nick Saban pajamas, but Nick Saban wears Alabama PJ’s. Saban once told a group of Alabama boosters, “Alabama is the perfect place to succeed. They have so much to offer, from a great education, to wonderful facilities, the nation’s most ardent followers and boosters like you to make sure that Alabama is second to none when it comes to providing the best resources to keep this school on top. If a coach can’t succeed here, let’s face it, he’s doing something wrong.”
Coach Bryant was right, Alabama is bigger than he and Wallace Wade, bigger than Nick Saban and the men that follow him.
Something tells me they’ll be alright. Something tells me that one day they’ll be another enter the debate of “Greatest Coach At Alabama of All Time”.
And just like in the movies, Superman will return and just like in the movies, he’ll be played by a different person this time. To Alabama fans, they’ll learn that it is more important to have Superman on the sidelines, than to worry who Superman is being played by and like Sonny and Cher used to sing, “And the beat goes on.”
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 him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter