Alabama Football News

Nick Saban speaks glowingly of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant upon surpassing him in national championship wins

Nick Saban smiles after winning 2020 CFP National Title
Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

If anyone was going to do it, it would be Nick Saban and the family of Paul W. “Bear” Bryant is happy with it.

For decades, Alabama football was known for a houndstooth hat, a bear-growling voice and six national championships.

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Since the AP Poll era started in 1936, Coach Bryant was the greatest college football coach in the history of the sport. He was cherished by fans and feared by opponents. His coaching tenure for the Crimson Tide spanned 25 years (1958-82) and his dominance was felt with each step.

The traditional fans of Alabama never thought Bryant’s record would fall; however, the magnitude of the moment hit Saban on Monday night in Miami (Fla.) as his eyes flooded with tears on national television.

At 69 years old, Saban captured his seventh national championship.

In earning a 52-24 win over Ohio State at Hard Rock Stadium, he stands alone as the greatest college football coach and has served as the “Coach Bryant” of this generation. Although he fully understands the accomplishment, Saban has been one to credit those who paved the way for him. He constantly drew comparisons to Bryant and after winning the 2020 College Football Playoff national title, Saban paid the utmost respect to the legend. He said no one truly compares to Bryant in what he did for Alabama.

*Coach Saban talks about Paul Bryant at 8:08 mark

“In the era that he coached in, he won in a lot of different ways,” Saban said of Bryant. “He won throwing it, he won running a wishbone, he won running conventional offensive formations. His legacy lasted over a long, long period of time. Coach Bryant is in a class of his own with what he was able to accomplish, what his record is, the longevity that he had and the tradition he established.”

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Saban said it was Bryant’s tradition that allowed for him and his staff to have success.

“He’s the one that made Alabama and the tradition at Alabama a place where lots of players wanted to come and we have been able to built on that with great support,” Saban said. “His family has always supported us in a tremendous way that has helped us have the success we have had … but the tradition he established, that is a big part of that.”

Like Bryant, Saban has had to evolve as he’s gotten older.

The young Saban was all about defense and ball control. As he sees how much the game has changed, he has opened up to becoming more creative on offense and understands that one does not have to be elite on defense to win a championship.

With earning a national title during a global pandemic, it seems as though Saban is not planning on slowing down.

He will definitely enjoy the achievement, but then he’ll return to try and repeat as a champion.

Somewhere the spirit of Coach Bryant is rejoicing. His record is gone, but Alabama would not have it any other way than Saban.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith

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