Nick Saban beginning to match success of Alabama legend Bear Bry - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Nick Saban beginning to match success of Alabama legend Bear Bryant

Posted: Updated:
Nick Saban is rapidly gaining on the Bear after leading Alabama to three of the past four BCS titles. (abc3340.com) Nick Saban is rapidly gaining on the Bear after leading Alabama to three of the past four BCS titles. (abc3340.com)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — In Alabama, there is Paul Bryant, and there is everyone else. To even suggest that another football coach could be compared to the Bear is practically sacrilegious.

To fans of the Crimson Tide, he's revered like a family patriarch.

In that way, Nick Saban could probably never match Bryant. But when it comes to producing championship football teams and dominating the sport, Saban is rapidly gaining on the Bear after leading Bama to three of the past four BCS titles in a hyper-competitive, megabucks, huddles-are-optional era.

In the process, he's adding another floor to the house that Bear helped build during a quarter-century in Tuscaloosa.

"There's no question that the '70s were a golden era," said former Tide lineman Fred Sington Jr. "Really and truly, this is probably the brightest era that's been at Alabama football. My father played for coach (Wallace) Wade, I played for coach Bryant, my brother played for coach Bryant. I don't care who you played for, right now this is the epitome of Alabama football."

It took 24 years, eight head coaches and five losing seasons, but the Bear might finally have met his match in Tuscaloosa with Saban's hiring in 2007.

The Tide has won 89.7 percent (61-7) of its games over the past five seasons, with two SEC titles and three national championships. It's shaping up as comparable to Bryant's seven-year run from 1973-79 when Alabama went 76-8 — a 90.4-percent clip — and collected six league and three national titles, including two Associated Press crowns.

Saban hasn't been quite so untouchable in a conference with a seven-year monopoly on the national title, but he's showing no signs of slowing down either.

The Tide is considered the favorite to win a third straight national crown with talent flooding in. Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, who played for Bryant's first national championship team in 1961, calls it an unprecedented run.

"What coach Bryant did was unprecedented at the time, I think," Battle said earlier this summer. "This is a different time. I don't think that competition has ever been greater in the history of college football than it is today. There are a lot of people that are putting a lot of money into football and all sports, as you read about the arms race.

"That hasn't happened in the past as much as it has today."

Saban is just halfway to Bryant's six national titles at Alabama, albeit in only six years. He led LSU to the BCS title — AP crowned Southern California — in 2004. That gives Saban four titles in his last eight seasons in college, broken up by a much less successful two-year NFL stint with the Miami Dolphins.

Notre Dame's Frank Leahy and Southern California's John McKay join him as the only other coaches with four national championships in the poll era, dating back to 1936. Leahy and Nebraska's Tom Osborne also won it all three times in four years.

It seems unlikely the 61-year-old Saban will approach the longevity of Bryant, who retired in 1982 as college football's winningest coach with a 323-85-17 record and died within a month of his final game. He won six national titles and 13 conference crowns at Alabama.

Saban is 154-55-1 in 17 seasons.

He insists Bryant is likely the best coach in college football history and said as the man most responsible for establishing Alabama's tradition his famed predecessor must "be recognized as the person most responsible with contributing to the tradition."

"I think because of the respect for that tradition that a lot of people have on a national basis, the Crimson Tide is one of the most recognizable names in sports," Saban said. "When we started having success again that just heightened the awareness all these people have nationwide in terms of the University of Alabama in tradition of football that was really started back when that Bear Bryant probably elevated to the level it's at now."

Both Saban and Bryant have rebuilt Alabama quickly. It took Saban three seasons to win a national title; Bryant did it in four. They've got statues outside Bryant-Denny Stadium — down Paul W. Bryant Drive from the Paul W. Bryant Museum and Paul W. Bryant Hall.

Both also transcended sports to a degree. Among the framed national magazine covers lining the walls of the football building: Time with Bryant's face beneath "SUPERCOACH"; down the hall, Saban stares back as "Sports' Most Powerful Coach."

The coaches both cut intimidating figures and commanded respect from their players. Sington, who played for Alabama in 1958 and 1959, said he couldn't imagine calling them anything but "Coach Bryant" and "Coach Saban."

"They are the best leaders I've ever been around," Hall of Fame linebacker Lee Roy Jordan said. "They are out there inspecting what they expect the players to do every second. They are challenging the guys every play to try to reach that potential that each player has."

Jordan steers clear of trying to figure out which coach was better.

"I will never get in a debate on that, because I think they're both unbelievable coaches," the former Tide and Dallas Cowboys star said. "I don't think we've got to pick one over the other. I'm extremely proud that we have had both of them at the University of Alabama. They create their own history and the records and the reputations of the players they put out."

  • Auburn University SportsMore>>

  • Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Thursday, July 24 2014 3:33 PM EDT2014-07-24 19:33:03 GMT
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.More >>
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.
    More >>
  • CB Chris Westry commits to Auburn

    CB Chris Westry commits to Auburn

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:22 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:22:20 GMT
    Auburn added some size to the future of it's defensive backfield.Cornerback Chris Westry of Oakleaf High School in Florida committed to be part of the Tigers recruiting class of 2015. The 6-foot-4, 180 pound Westry is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports.Oakleaf High School announced the commitment on it's twitter page,2015 DB Chris Westry has committed to Auburn #WarEagle --Oakleaf Football ?, July 24 Westry is the 18th commitment for Auburn's 2015 signing class.More >>
    Auburn added some size to the future of it's defensive backfield.Cornerback Chris Westry of Oakleaf High School in Florida committed to be part of the Tigers recruiting class of 2015. The 6-foot-4, 180 pound Westry is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports.Oakleaf High School announced the commitment on it's twitter page,2015 DB Chris Westry has committed to Auburn #WarEagle --Oakleaf Football ?, July 24 Westry is the 18th commitment for Auburn's 2015 signing class.More >>
  • Josh Donaldson nominated for MLB Heart and Hustle Award

    Josh Donaldson nominated for MLB Heart and Hustle Award

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:37 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:37:43 GMT
    Josh Donaldson earned the Oakland A's Heart and Hustle Award. It's the second consecutive season Donaldson was chosen for the honor.More >>
    Josh Donaldson earned the Oakland A's Heart and Hustle Award. It's the second consecutive season Donaldson was chosen for the honor.More >>
  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • Children flee Pinson home as man breaks in Monday morning

    Children flee Pinson home as man breaks in Monday morning

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 12:44 PM EDT2014-07-29 16:44:31 GMT
    Around 11:30 Monday morning deputies responded to a report of a burglary in progress at a home in the 5200block of Highland Trace Circle in Pinson. A 14 year old girl and her 9 year old brother were home alone when a manthey did not know began breaking in to their house. They called their mother and she contacted the Sheriff's Office.The children ran from the home to a neighbor's residence.Deputies arrived to see 50 year old William Robert Thomas of Birmingham climbing out of a window. Upon s...More >>
    Around 11:30 Monday morning deputies responded to a report of a burglary in progress at a home in the 5200block of Highland Trace Circle in Pinson. A 14 year old girl and her 9 year old brother were home alone when a manthey did not know began breaking in to their house. They called their mother and she contacted the Sheriff's Office.The children ran from the home to a neighbor's residence.Deputies arrived to see 50 year old William Robert Thomas of Birmingham climbing out of a window. Upon s...More >>
  • Woman who was set on fire by boyfriend dies, detectives seeking capital murder charges

    Woman who was set on fire by boyfriend dies, detectives seeking capital murder charges

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 11:22 AM EDT2014-07-29 15:22:44 GMT
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says 49 year old Deborah Diane Prater died early Tuesday morning. She's been hospitalized since Sunday with extensive burns. Her ex-boyfriend is accused of setting her on fire and may now face capital murder charges.More >>
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says 49 year old Deborah Diane Prater died early Tuesday morning. She's been hospitalized since Sunday with extensive burns. Her ex-boyfriend is accused of setting her on fire and may now face capital murder charges.More >>
  • Homewood City Council denies hotel an extension to continue operating

    Homewood City Council denies hotel an extension to continue operating

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 9:11 AM EDT2014-07-29 13:11:45 GMT
    A Homewood hotel plagued by problems must close by the end of the week. City leaders considered an extension for America's Best Value Inn and Suites, but denied the request.More >>
    A Homewood hotel plagued by problems must close by the end of the week. City leaders considered an extension for America's Best Value Inn and Suites, but denied the request.More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...