SEC Country has obtained several pieces of photographic evidence that may shock you.
The rumors are true: A long time ago — in what may seem like a galaxy far, far away — Nick Saban was a college student at Kent State University.
The Alabama coach played defensive back for the Golden Flashes in the late 1960s and early ’70s. He was on campus for perhaps the most traumatic stateside event of 1970: the murder of four KSU students by the National Guard.
One of the shooting victims was Saban’s classmate Allison Krause. On Monday, Saban said, “To that point in my life, it was one of the most traumatic experiences that I’d ever had to deal with. … It probably had more to do to stop the war in Vietnam than anything that happened, unfortunately for the students.”
In 1972, Saban and future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert helped the Golden Flashes defense hold opponents to 16.33 points per game. Tight end — and future Missouri coach — Gary Pinkel did enough on offense to earn a 6-5-1 record and a trip to the Tangerine Bowl.
With the Alabama-Kent State game nearing kickoff Saturday, we want to share some photos from Saban’s time as a player (provided by the fine folks at Kent State University).
Saban graduated in 1973 and then returned two years later to serve as an assistant coach on Dennis Fitzgerald’s Kent State staff. Also on the staff: Pinkel, a graduate assistant who would go on to become the all-time winningest coach at Toledo and Missouri.
Here are a few photos of Saban during his first year as a Golden Flashes assistant:
Fifteen years later, Saban would land his first head-coaching gig (Toledo). He went 9-2 before accepting an offer from Bill Belichick to become the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator.
In 1995, his major-college coaching career began when he accepted the Michigan State job.
We published an oral history of that first Spartans season, which includes anecdotes about — among other things — Saban’s fondness for chest hair, gold chains and bad jokes. It’s worth your time if you’re still feeling nostalgic.