10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Nick Saban at Alabama
Even though we're all distracted with family obligations and Iron Bowl preparations, we felt it was a great time to take a few minutes to reflect on Nick Saban's 10 seasons at Alabama.
As we've seen at schools like Texas and Notre Dame, success isn't always guaranteed. That's what makes Saban's run of ten straight 10-win seasons even more remarkable. Now Alabama is headed into another Iron Bowl with a shot at an undefeated regular season.
Even though we're all enjoying one of the greatest runs in college football, we don't always take enough time to step back and appreciate all that Saban, his coaching staff, and players have accomplished in Tuscaloosa since 2007.
So as Thanksgiving arrives, we asked the staff and others around the office why Alabama fans should be mighty thankful that Nicholas Lou Saban Jr. is their head coach.
It's hard to imagine that we'll ever see a football program have a stretch of success like we're witnessing at The University of Alabama. Saban has won five of the past eight national championships, three of the past five SEC Championships, and has a chance to add one more of each this season. Tide fans have seen more titles in 10 years than the majority of fans will see in a lifetime.
Success Against Rivals
When Saban took over at Alabama for the 2007 season, the Crimson Tide had lost five straight to Auburn, 10 of 12 games to Tennessee, and four straight to LSU.
As Alabama fans get ready to enjoy Thanksgiving, they should all be thankful that this trend has been completely reversed. As of this writing, the Crimson Tide has won:
- 7 out of the last 10 against Auburn
- 8 straight against LSU
- 13 straight against Tennessee
To have one of those streaks would make a coach but dominating every opponent is a Saban specialty.
Nick's Kids Foundation
It's easy to point to the on-field accomplishments, but Saban and his wife, Mrs. Terry, have raised more than $5 million for deserving organizations through Nick's Kids. Having this charity in Alabama has provided our area with many opportunities and resources it wouldn't have otherwise.
This year alone, the foundation distributed more than $475,000 to 150 non-profit organizations.
Helping Grow the University
When Dr. Robert Witt took over as president of UA in 2003, he had an ambitious goal to grow the student body. At that time, there were fewer than 16,000 undergrads. His vision, combined with Saban's success and stature, created a perfect storm. Alabama has grown its enrollment to a record 37,655 in the fall of 2016 while making the application process much more competitive.
Nick Saban's coined the term for the structure and strategy for building a winning program. But don't look at it strictly from a football perspective. It has as much or more application in life as it does in sports. We could learn a thing or two from 'the process'.
Creating a Winning Culture in Tuscaloosa
There are many people that deserve credit for the Crimson Tide's recent athletic success, but no one has created a culture of winning like Saban. Not only has his work ethic and high standards carried over to every program at Alabama, but his football program has generated revenues in the nine figures. That money goes to support the entire athletic department.
Look at the results. Prior to his arrival, only football and gymnastics had won national championships. By 2014, Alabama had claimed eight titles across four sports in just a four year span.
This New York Times story from 2015 details the athletic department's rapid growth thanks to the success of football, which is another result of a powerful football program.
Embracing Tradition while Moving Forward
One of the early "Sabanisms" you might remember upon his arrival dealt with the fact past success is no guarantee of future results. Some mistakenly took that to mean that he didn't care about Alabama's winning tradition, in light of what he inherited. To the contrary, he's actually upheld traditions of the past - and has even added to them.
What he has actually taught us is that you can embrace tradition...without wallowing in it.
An Improved Tuscaloosa
This is another thing that can't be accomplished without multiple people, but there's no denying Saban's success in Tuscaloosa has created a boom in the marketplace. The city is growing, housing is increasing, and businesses are coming to town.
The latest census numbers released earlier this year showed that Tuscaloosa has enjoyed the third-largest growth rate in the state of Alabama since 2010.
It doesn't get talked about enough, but Saban and his football staff have put a big emphasis on academics for their players. From 2004-05, the football team's Academic Progress Rate (APR) improved every year through 2012. Alabama continues to have one of the nation's highest APR scores, and most recently finished second in the SEC.
We already mentioned that Alabama has won 10 or more games every year since 2008. That's more 10-win seasons than the Crimson Tide compiled during the 24 years between Bryant and Saban.
But beyond the wins and losses, Saban has given the program stability that it sorely lacked prior to his arrival. Alabama cycled through four head coaches in four seasons and still had to fight to overcome NCAA sanctions.
Saban is now the dean of coaches in the SEC. Who expected him to reach that milestone when he was hired 11 years ago?