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Alabama Was Tailor Made For Nick Saban

Nick Saban needed Alabama as much as Alabama needed him. (Photo by Jason Getz- USA Today Sports)

Alabama Was Tailor Made For Nick Saban

By: Larry Burton

Most every college coach wants three main things when taking a job: 1. Having a reasonable expectation to have success there. 2. Have the support of the school to invest in quality facilities and assistant coaches. 3. Have fertile recruiting grounds and a school name and reputation that will help attract recruits. Nick Saban was no different when he and his wife Terry made the decision that the NFL wasn’t the right fit for them and he wanted back in college football.

In the college football world, Saban was a big deal, he was the coach who was going to prove his “process” and his coaching abilities were the best in all of college football. While he attained success at LSU, the school there never was the right fit for Saban. Promises of upgraded facilities were just that, promises. And LSU has never been a school with the reputation on par with what Saban needed to match his own.

When Mal Moore came calling, he offered what no other school at that time could offer, a big name school with one of the richest traditions where it the expectation of success was all but guaranteed. 2. Total support and a seemingly open ended checkbook to build the facilities Saban had always dreamed of and a chance to assemble the coaches of his choice. 3. A school that was in the heart of the SEC, the most fertile recruiting grounds known to college football and a legacy that could easily help sway any recruit. But there was something more.

Alabama was a school who’s swaggering fanbase and historical accomplishments both fit in nicely with Saban and his message and style. Though I’ve never been able to substantiate this statement, I’ve heard from multiple sources that Saban was once asked if Alabama’s fanbase was just too rabid, that their expectations were just too unrealistic, and that Saban stated that this was not any different than his own expectations. While some coaches, like Dennis Franchione simply couldn’t take the heat and expectations that came with this job, it was the perfect fit for Saban.

And the timing was perfect for both parties. Alabama, despite it’s gloried past, Alabama was a school now foundering having gone through too many coaches that just couldn’t either handle the job or the heat it brought on to them. They were hungry to get on top again, more than eager to donate the money to build the infrastructure to achieve it and even more willing to pay the biggest name in coaching the biggest salary. Saban was eager for a big stage to mount a big comeback into college football and with all Mal Moore had promised him, he knew there was no bigger stage to be had.

A school with the biggest success in bowl games, national titles and SEC dominance, but now down on their luck, was the perfect place for a man who wanted not just to build it back up, as he had done at LSU, but maintain it a level that few schools have done in the past decade.

It was love at first site for the Alabama fan base. His first taste of that love was a standing room only attendance to his first A Day Game.  On seeing that, Saban knew he was home. He had a place where he grow his legacy and practice his way of football without any restrictions or limitations. And he didn’t just want to win football games, he wanted to win at recruiting, he wanted to win at graduation rates, heck if it was a measurable statistic that others coveted, he wanted to be first at it.

I talked to Mark Ingram after he played in the SEC Golf Tournament with Saban as a partner, they didn’t win. Ingram told me, “If it’s something coach Saban is doing where they keep score, he isn’t happy not winning. He wants to win at everything he does.” Sounds a lot like the Alabama fan base doesn’t it? If it’s worth playing, it’s worth winning.

But on the other side of the coin, Alabama needed a Nick Saban. They were tired of hiring coaches who couldn’t deliver, didn’t have the star power to attract the best recruits. They didn’t want to hire another coach that might win a national championship game, they wanted one that had and may do it again. In other words, they wanted  a winner and they wanted a coach that they felt was as big as the Alabama name.

Some say that Alabama’s fans are just too boastful, too proud and have expectations that are just way too high. So why wouldn’t they want a coach that is the same way? While Alabama and Saban both have their detractors, an old quote from baseball’s legendary “Dizzy” Dean comes to mind, “If you can do what you say, you ain’t braggin’.” And so goes Saban and Alabama. Both wanting to not only reach the heights, but avoid the all too easy path of becoming comfortable with your success and going into decline.

Like Saban, each new class that comes to Alabama doesn’t a new season at Alabama to bask in the glory of days gone by, but to write their own part of that history. And that’s just what the fan base wants too. The only part of all this was just who needed who the most. Saban needed a place like Alabama, Alabama certainly needed Saban. Saban has certainly benefitted from his time at Alabama and Alabama certainly benefitted from his time there too.

In a world where nothing is truly perfect, this is about as perfect situation can get. It was indeed a tailor made fit for Saban, but also for Alabama too.

Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at


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Larry Burton is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and was the most read SEC and Alabama football writer during his time at Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed by all the major bowls and the University of Alabama. Larry provides some of the best insight in the business through his "Larry's Lowdown" segment with TDA.


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