ATLANTA — Everyone else can have the debate, but Nick Saban believes another legendary Alabama football coach is the greatest of all time.
Saban claimed his sixth national championship with a thrilling 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia on Monday night, tying him with Paul “Bear” Bryant. Given limitations on scholarships and other factors in the modern game, many believe Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time. Saban still has his money on the Bear.
“I think Coach Bryant is probably the best coach of all time because of the longevity of his tenure as a coach and the way he changed,” Saban said. “I mean, he won championships running the wishbone. He won them with Joe Namath dropping back throwing when people never, ever did it. I just think that, for his time, he impacted the game and had more success than anybody ever could.”
In Saban’s defense, he has won despite changes that have occurred in college football since his first national title at Alabama in 2009.
Over the course of 25 years at Alabama, Bryant led the Crimson Tide to six national championships and 13 league titles. Bryant’s 323 wins were the most in college football history upon his retirement in 1982.
Saban has six national titles and seven SEC championships. Winning seven more league titles to pass Bryant would be tough, but Saban has Alabama set up to control the SEC for years.
Still, given all of his success in rebuilding Alabama from the ground up in 2007 to the consistent national power it is today, Saban won’t take the majority of the credit.
“I don’t want to minimize the significance of what we have been able to accomplish at Alabama. I think the key word there is we,” Saban said. “I think when you look back on these championships, the first thing that comes to mind for me is all the people who contributed to them, and that starts with coaches, it starts with administrators, it starts with athletic directors, Mal Moore, Bill Battle, Greg Byrne, our guy right now, Dr. Witt, our president, who had the vision of having this kind of program, the university community who supports us, and most importantly, all the players.
“We won all these things because we had really, really good players who all bought in to the principles and values of the organization, the hard work and the perseverance that it takes to do this. They’re the people who should be getting the credit for winning the championships.”
It’s OK for Saban to remain modest, but there’s no denying Saban’s impact on the current landscape of college football looms as large as the Bear’s did.