GARY COSBY JR.: Nick Saban's reach goes far beyond national championships

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Nick Saban
    Nick Saban
    American football coach

The University of Alabama just lost its third national championship game under Nick Saban. Let that sink in for just a moment. Alabama, in the Saban era, has lost more championship games than any other college football team has won during Saban’s tenure at Alabama.

I obviously failed to mention the six, yes six, national championships won under his direction at UA.

It is nothing new to commend Nick Saban for the amazing job he has done at the University of Alabama. Is there any school in the nation that wouldn’t trade their Rhodes Scholars to have Saban as their head football coach?

Just the national championship appearances would be enough for most schools, but it has been about ever so much more than national championships. First, and this one shines to me like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy coast, Saban has run as clean a program as anyone could possibly run, especially in this age where money is absolutely everywhere.

How do you give a guy enough credit for winning the right way? There certainly isn’t anything I can write that would do such a monumental accomplishment justice. How many programs, many of them hustling to catch up with Bama, have fallen under suspicion of NCAA infractions?

Such an accomplishment cannot go unnoticed or unheralded. It’s not like no one is looking. The entire league would love to see Bama stumble, but Saban has done such an incredible job that no one has found anything of substance to hold against him even with opponents looking through a microscope at the program.

I think we can all see how Saban has become the king of second chances, be those in need a coach or a player. The joke is when a coach is fired somewhere he immediately becomes a candidate for the Saban coaching rehab program. While the comments are tongue-in-cheek, the idea is real enough. Coaches, and even some players, ousted from other programs have found a second chance in the Alabama program.

A critic might say such largesse is offered only because of the program’s success, but many successful programs have existed before and has anyone seen anything like this? There have certainly been good and benevolent coaches, but I can’t remember anything on the scale of what goes on in Tuscaloosa.

I have heard people say that getting to the top is hard but staying on top is even more difficult. How Saban has done this should be the subject of the ultimate “how to” book for coaches, corporate executives, anyone really.

The Saban impact goes well beyond the football field and well beyond the head coach. After the championship game loss to Georgia, I made a photo of Ms. Terry standing outside the locker room, applauding and cheering the players as they came from the field. And she usually leads the Nick’s Kids Foundation efforts in community outreach, taking football off the field and making it truly relevant to the entire community.

Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban kisses his wife, Terry, before the 2022 CFP college football national championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban kisses his wife, Terry, before the 2022 CFP college football national championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

So many benefit directly from their presence here it almost goes beyond the ability of an opinion column to quantify it. The Sabans’ influence on the Tuscaloosa community has been absolutely profound and will last beyond the span of their lives.

If you doubt this, simply look at the 18 houses built for Habitat for Humanity, representing each of the national championships the school lays claim to. I know that number infuriates Alabama opponents, but don’t bring that up to a homeowner who has a house because of those championships. I hope they win one every year for no other reason than that someone gets a new house, an accomplishment that changes not only the life of the homeowner but helps create generational change for the entire family.

Coach Saban’s leadership and willingness to stand with his team, particularly his Black athletes, during the racial unrest of 2020 shows his commitment not only to the young men he coaches but also to the issues that matter in their lives. How many coaches in the Deep South, or anywhere else for that matter, led their team in a march and then spoke first in the assembly against racial injustice.

Coach Nick Saban leads the University of Alabama football team and other student athletes Monday, August 31, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as they march to Foster Auditorium, the site of the famous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, to voice their support for social justice. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]
Coach Nick Saban leads the University of Alabama football team and other student athletes Monday, August 31, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as they march to Foster Auditorium, the site of the famous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, to voice their support for social justice. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

And let’s not forget the racial history of the University of Alabama. This is the school where whites made it impossible for Autherine Lucy to attend classes when she became the first Black student to enroll at Alabama. This is the school where George Wallace attempted to block admission of Vivian Malone and James Hood. So not only was Saban leading his team against today’s racism, but he was helping change a precedent that has long been the historical image of the University of Alabama.

The Crimson Tide came up short in this season’s national championship, but that does not change the amazing legacy the Saban’s have created both inside and outside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Gary Cosby Jr. is photo editor of The Tuscaloosa News. Readers can email him at gary.cosby@tuscaloosanews.com.

Gary Cosby Jr.
Gary Cosby Jr.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: GARY COSBY JR.: Saban's reach goes far beyond national championships

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting