Anyone who follows college football knows that select teams dominate the sport and have been doing so for some time. One team cannot be left out of that conversation, and their recent success in past years is proof. Alabama’s staggering victories and impressive performances have caught the attention of recruiters, fans and sports analysts. Since it’s inception in 1992, Alabama has won 7 SEC Championship Games tying the record for most wins in that conference with the University of Florida (1992, 1999, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). The four times Alabama has won the SEC Championship game, they have also claimed the national title (in the span of eight years, they have claimed four national titles). They check all the boxes; dominating their conferences, surviving the playoffs and coming home with the national championship trophy.
One core concept of building a legacy of success into a program is having a consistent record of undefeated seasons. Since 2000, 7 CFB teams have won the national championship with undefeated seasons. Coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide joined that club in 2009 when they claimed the title of national champions with a season record of 14-0. An interesting anecdote to add is that was Saban’s first championship as head coach of Alabama. Winning your first national championship with a record of that caliber is impressive. Every national championship that Alabama won after 2009 ended their season with only one loss. Seasons that end with records with one or no losses gives analysts and fans confidence knowing that they can depend on them to win again and again.
Nick Saban may go down in the history books as one of the greatest college football coaches ever, but that road in the past decade was not easily traveled. He came from the Miami Dolphins coaching job battered and bruised from the pressure that falls on an NFL coach. It also does not help when a coach exits a team, culture and fan base on bad terms. Nick Saban prematurely opted out of his Dolphins contract to take a head coaching job at Alabama; ironically, the last college program he coached was Lousiana State University football which is in the same conference. Saban was deemed a “job-jumper” when he left LSU and was portrayed as a traitor when he left Miami. During his first year at Alabama (2007), the football program only accomplished a measly 7 wins and 6 losses on the season, but was capped with a bowl game win. The next year they had momentum swing their way to a perfect 12-0 season only to be smothered by Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in the SEC championship game.
The 2009 season is where the lore, legend and legacy began to unravel for Nick Saban. He completed a perfect campaign winning the BCS Championship over the Texas Longhorns. In 2010, they lost by one point to Auburn in the SEC Championship, 28-27. In 2011, Alabama won the BCS Championship over his former employer LSU by 21-0. 2012 resulted in a BCS Championship over Notre Dame, final score 42-14. 2013 ended up as a loss in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma with 45-31. 2014 was the first year for the College Football Playoff (CFP) system and Alabama was number one overall as they were ranked against the other three teams. Alabama suffered a loss in the Sugar Bowl again to the eventual CFP Champions, Ohio State University. 2015 resulted in a CFP Championship for Saban and the Tide over Clemson, 45-40. The 2016 campaign was capped off by a thrilling loss to Clemson 35-31 in the final CFP Championship game. Nick Saban’s time at LSU is worth mentioning although he was head coach for five years there; under Saban’s tenure LSU won two SEC Championships and one BCS Championship in 2004.
Sports pundits like to associate and compare Saban with NFL legendary coach Bill Belichick. An interesting fact that is mostly unknown is that Nick Saban is from the Belichick coaching tree. Belichick hired him to be the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1994. This explains why Saban has had success wherever he has gone; Bill Belichick irrefutably may be one of the greatest NFL head coaches of all time. From that point of their time together, Belichick has coached four winning Super Bowls and Nick Saban has coached five winning College Football Championships. They both have carried the glamorous “Dynasty Team” title in their respective coaching realms of NCAA D1 football and the NFL. It is easy to see why their names can be intertwined as their success has brought similar legendary statuses.
Not only has Alabama had success in the realm of college football, but also in the professional league. Two notable names, Derrick Henry and Eddie Lacy, both Alabama star running backs, paved their path of success in the NFL. Lacy was picked in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Green Bay Packers and started off his rookie year with a bang. He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of The Year, Second Team All-Pro and was picked for the Pro Bowl his first year. The Tennessee Titans drafted Henry in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, and he hasn’t looked back since. The former Heisman Trophy winner rushed for 490 yards this season and has ran for five touchdowns. Just goes to show that whether a Alabama alumni plays for the Crimson Tide or makes it to the big leagues, they will most undoubtedly exceed expectations.
However, When national championships are on the line, there is more than the trophies at stake. Notoriety, school pride and the exclusivity of being one the few teams that have won back to back national championships are also prized aspects. For perspective, in the past 50 years, only 3 universities have claimed the national championship trophy for two consecutive seasons. Nebraska, Alabama and Southern California have all accomplished this feat. Out of the five times that back to back victories have occurred, Alabama and Nebraska were the only universities to have done this. The most recent occurrence was when Alabama won in 2011 and 2012. However, Alabama could have joined an even more exclusive club of having 3 seasons where they won back to back titles. The latest opportunity was the recent 2016 CFP Championship game where they lost to Clemson. They could’ve done so again in 2014 but they lost to Ohio State in the CFP Sugar Bowl. These big time losses can do a number on a team and coach’s confidence heading into the next season. This shouldn’t worry fans though. Alabama remains one of the top dogs in college football regardless of any setback. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will expectedly impress and dominate the college football world for years to come.