Nick Saban's coaching reign has come to an end. His dominance over college football, however, will forever linger in the lore of the sport.
Saban, who won seven national championships — more than any other major college football coach — and turned Alabama back into a national powerhouse with six of those titles in just 17 seasons, is retiring, according to multiple outlets.
The 72-year-old Saban restored a Crimson Tide program once ruled by Paul "Bear" Bryant to the top of college football after taking over in 2007. His decision to step away was reported Wednesday, first by ESPN and then by other outlets, ending a career that has produced numerous titles and helped launch or relaunch the head coaching careers of Georgia's Kirby Smith, Texas' Steve Sarkisian and Mississippi's Lane Kiffin.
He finished just shy of the top in his final season, leading the Tide from a shaky start to a Southeastern Conference championship and back into the College Football Playoff before falling in overtime to Michigan in a semifinal game at the Rose Bowl.
Saban led the Tide to nine Southeastern Conference championships and won his first national title at Alabama with a 14-0 season in 2009. Titles came again in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2020. He also won the SEC with LSU in 2001 and 2003.
Colorado coach Deion Sanders, who has appeared with Saban in a series of commercials, had a strong reaction to both the Alabama coach's retirement and the state of college football.
"WOW! College Football just lost the GOAT to retirement," Sanders posted on X. "WOW! I knew it would happen 1 day soon but not this soon. The game has change so much that it chased the GOAT away. College football let's hold up our mirrors and say HONESTLY what u see."
WOW! College Football just lost the GOAT to retirement. WOW! I knew it would happen 1 day soon but not this soon. The game has change so much that it chased the GOAT away. College football let's hold up our mirrors and say HONESTLY what u see. #CoachPrime @CUBuffsFootball— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) January 10, 2024
Saban made a two-year foray into the NFL with the Miami Dolphins before returning to college football to revive one of college football's most storied programs, which hadn't won a national title in 15 years. Saban is 297-71-1 as a college head coach, with stops at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU, where he also won a national title. But Alabama is where he cemented his status as one of college football's greatest coaches.
Saban coached Alabama's first four Heisman Trophy winners and churned out numerous NFL players, going 206-29, a winning clip of 87.7%. His teams produced 44 first-round draft picks, including last year's No. 1 quarterback Bryce Young.
During that span, he also adapted to the changing times of up-tempo offenses, churning out high-scoring teams after winning with some of the nation's best defenses, along with the new NIL and transfer rules.
He led Toledo to a Mid-American Conference championship in 1990, his lone season as that program's head coach. Saban worked as Bill Belichick's defensive coordinator with the NFL's Cleveland Browns for four seasons before becoming the first Michigan State coach to lead his first three teams to bowl games and then taking LSU to the 2003 national title.
His latest team dealt with plenty of adversity early on, including a loss to Texas, but rebounded with the emergence of quarterback Jalen Milroe to upset then-No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game.
Saban didn't sound like a coach looking to give up the job any time soon after the game. But it wasn't a bad way to go, even without the title.
"This is one of the most amazing seasons in Alabama football history in terms of where this team came from, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to do, winning the SEC championship, and really, really proud of this group," he said.
"I just wish that I could have done more as a coach to help them be successful and help them finish, and all we can do now is learn from the lessons that sometimes failings bring to us."
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football