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Even Though Nick is Retiring, Alabama is Still Dreaming Big

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Are you a college football fan? If you are, chances are that you’ve probably heard of Nick Saban. 

On January 10th, 2024, Nick Saban, one of the greatest football coaches of all time, retired as the head coach of the University of Alabama, ending his record-setting career. With one of the most successful college football coaching records in the history of the NCAA, his departure will be felt not only at Alabama but throughout the United States. While Saban’s retirement is sudden, the Crimson Tide is still dreaming big.

Following Alabama’s loss to national champion Michigan in the Rose Bowl, the 72-year-old Saban privately announced his retirement to his players on Wednesday. Sources say that Saban spoke to his players briefly for around 15 minutes, after which Alabama’s athletic director, Greg Byrne, came in to talk to the players and staff. Saban told his players that the time is right for him to retire because, with highly-debated NIL deals, an extended recruiting calendar, and the new transfer portal, college football is quickly changing.

Byrne said, “Simply put, Nick Saban is one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport. He is the consummate coach, mentor, and leader, and his impact is felt far beyond the football field…While his time as our coach may have come to an end, his legacy will live on for forever. What an honor it has been for us to have a front-row seat to one of the best to ever do it.”

Nick Saban served as head coach for the University of Toledo (1990), Michigan State University (1995-96), Louisiana State University (2000-04), the University of Alabama (2007-23), and the Miami Dolphins (2005-06). He never had a losing season, with his worst seasons being at Michigan State in 1996 and ‘98 (he finished .500). 

When he was at Alabama, Saban won 201 games–tied with Vince Dooley (University of Georgia) for the 2nd-most wins at a single school in SEC history. This record is only behind Bear Bryant (232 wins at Alabama in 22 seasons as head coach). Saban received nine conference crowns and six national championships while at the school. Also among his accomplishments is that he has cultivated 49 first-round picks in the NFL draft, the most of any coach in the modern draft era. 

Courtesy of John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

To replace this legendary coach, Alabama hired Kalen Deboer. Deboer began coaching at the University of Sioux Falls as an offensive coordinator from 2000-04. In 2005, he took over the program and won three NAIA National Championships. After that, he was the offensive coordinator for the University of Southern Illinois, Eastern Michigan University, Fresno State University, and the University of Indiana. In 2020, Deboer returned to Fresno as head coach. In 2021, the University of Washington hired him as head coach, where, within his first year of coaching, he set an 11-2 record, three more wins than any first-year coach in school history. Deboer was named Pac-12 coach of the year for his efforts. 

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"We've had some guys leave and we wish them well, but that doesn't change the standard at Alabama or our belief that Coach Deboer is going to lead us where we want to be, winning championships," starting inside linebacker Deontae Lawson said. "We know what we can accomplish and know he's won everywhere he's been. We're going to keep this thing going. It's going to be a wonderful story, and we're ready to embrace it."

So far, the Crimson Tide has had nine players enter the transfer portal since Saban’s retirement announcement. Though these numbers may seem daunting, Alabama acquired quarterback Austin Mack who played at Washington under DeBoer.

Malachi Moore, a fifth-year senior and Alabama's most versatile defensive back said, "You could feel that energy, the positive energy, and also how open he was to listening to our opinions, the players' opinions. We did our own homework as players. The dude has won everywhere. His standard is the same as ours, to be hoisting that trophy up at the end of the year.

He was one win away last year, and that puts a chip on his shoulder. We definitely have one on ours with the way the season ended."

While America waves goodbye to one of the best college football coaches to ever wear a headset, Alabama looks forward to the future. New players and staff members come with a new head coach, opening the door to new possibilities and opportunities. The dream isn't over for Alabama; in fact, it has only begun.

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