Alabama’s Nick Saban retires after 7 national titles, most in major college football history

Jan 10, 2024, 4:33 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2024, 5:18 am

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 2...

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 27-24 in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 02, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Nick Saban’s coaching reign has come to an end. His dominance over college football, however, will forever linger in lore.

Saban, who won seven national championships — more than any major college football coach — and turned Alabama back into a national powerhouse that shattered an Associated Press poll record for most consecutive seasons at No. 1, announced his retirement Wednesday.

“The University of Alabama has been a very special place to Terry and me,” Saban said in a statement. “It is not just about how many games we won and lost, but it’s about the legacy and how we went about it. We always tried to do it the right way.”

Saban, 72, restored a Crimson Tide program once ruled by Paul “Bear” Bryant to the top of college football after taking over in 2007. As he stacked his wins, Saban’s celebrity status reached royalty levels in the state of Alabama.

For a time, he was the sport’s overlord and there was little that could be done to stop him.

Saban won six of his titles during his 17 seasons at Alabama. He won his first with LSU in 2003. His Tide teams were ranked No. 1 in the AP poll in a remarkable 15 straight seasons, breaking the old record of seven held by Miami.

Saban’s wife, Terry, posted about their “incredible run” at Alabama on the Facebook page for Nick’s Kids Foundation.

“We hope that the Saban legacy will be about helping others and making a positive difference in people’s lives as well as the winning tradition on the field,” Terry Saban wrote.

Saban’s tutelage helped launch the head coaching careers of Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Texas’ Steve Sarkisian and Mississippi’s Lane Kiffin, among others.

He finished just shy of the top in his final season, leading the Tide from a shaky start to a Southeastern Conference championship and back into the College Football Playoff before falling in overtime to Michigan in a semifinal game at the Rose Bowl.

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne called him “one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport.”

Saban led the Tide to nine SEC championships and won his first national title at Alabama with a 14-0 season in 2009. Titles came again in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2020. He also won the SEC with LSU in 2001 and 2003.

After a 7-6 debut in 2007, Saban won at least 10 games in his final 16 seasons.

It wasn’t until the rise of Dabo Swinney’s Clemson teams in the late 2010s and later Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs that any school could be considered a consistent threat to the Tide.

Saban has stepped away as the fabric of college football undergoes dramatic change. Colorado’s Deion Sanders, a coach who has sought to capitalize on the intervention of players profiting financially from their play on the field, said on social media “College Football just lost the GOAT.”

“WOW! I knew it would happen 1 day soon but not this soon,” he wrote. “The game has change so much that it chased the GOAT away. College football let’s hold up our mirrors and say HONESTLY what u see.”

Terry Saban addressed the changes to college football in her post, referencing her husband’s famed “process.”

“The rules for the game of football may change, but the ‘process’ will never go out of style: hard work, discipline, the relentless pursuit of a worthy goal, not cutting corners, and doing things the right way for the sake of constant personal improvement, not for the scoreboard,” she wrote.

Saban made a two-year foray into the NFL with the Miami Dolphins before returning to college to revive one of the nation’s most storied programs, which hadn’t won a national title in 15 years. Saban is 297-71-1 as a college head coach, with stops at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU. But Alabama is where he cemented his status as one of college football’s greatest coaches.

He coached Alabama’s first four Heisman Trophy winners and numerous NFL players, going 206-29, a winning clip of 87.7%. His teams produced 44 first-round draft picks, including last year’s No. 1 quarterback Bryce Young.

During that span, he also adapted to the changing times of up-tempo offenses, churning out high-scoring teams after winning with some of the nation’s best defenses, along with the new NIL and transfer rules.

He led Toledo to a Mid-American Conference championship in 1990, his lone season as that program’s coach. Saban worked as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns for four seasons before becoming the first Michigan State coach to lead his first three teams to bowl games.

“I think he’s the greatest coach in the history of football,” Michigan State basketball coach and longtime Saban friend Tom Izzo said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “There are a lot of great coaches, but what he’s done and the consistency that he did it — in an era where so many people and things are coming at you — is remarkable.”

Saban’s latest team dealt with plenty of adversity early, including a loss to Texas, but rebounded with the emergence of quarterback Jalen Milroe to upset then-No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Saban didn’t sound like a coach looking to give up the job any time soon after the game. But it wasn’t a bad way to go, even without the title.

“This is one of the most amazing seasons in Alabama football history in terms of where this team came from, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to do, winning the SEC championship, and really, really proud of this group,” he said. “I just wish that I could have done more as a coach to help them be successful and help them finish, and all we can do now is learn from the lessons that sometimes failings bring to us.”

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey feels Saban isn’t done entirely with college football.

“Knowing Nick? He’s not walking away from the game. He’s walking away from a role,” Sankey said.


AP Sports Writers Larry Lage and Ralph Russo contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

College Sports

Security footage of the 18-year-old allegedly yelling racial profanities from a car while passing t...

Lindsay Aerts

‘His intent was to be funny’ Idaho prosecutor says in decision not to charge in U of U Women’s Basketball case

The Coeur D'Alene City Deputy Attorney said the 18-year-old accused of yelling racial slurs at the University of Utah Women's basketball team never meant any physical harm over his comments.

21 days ago

Head coach Lynne Roberts of the Utah Utes....

Josh Furlong,

Prosecutors won’t charge man who yelled racial epithets at Utah basketball team

Coeur d'Alene prosecutors have declined to charge an 18-year-old high school student who confessed to yelling racial epithets at the University of Utah women's basketball team.

23 days ago


Mitch Harper

BYU Set To Hire Phoenix Suns Assistant Kevin Young As Head Coach

BYU hires Phoenix Suns Associate Head Coach Kevin Young as its next head coach.

1 month ago

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes dribbles around Paige Bueckers #5 of the UConn Huskies in th...

Associated Press

Iowa-UConn women’s Final Four semifinal most-watched hoops game in ESPN history; 14.2M avg. viewers

Iowa’s 71-69 victory over UConn at the women’s Final Four on Friday night averaged 14.2 million viewers on ESPN, making it the most-viewed women’s basketball game on record and the largest audience for an ESPN basketball broadcast.

2 months ago

The man who witnessed the alleged racist insults that were directed towards the University of Utah ...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Body camera footage released from report of racist attacks against U of U team in Idaho

New body cam video is giving insight into alleged racist harassment that targeted U of U basketball players while in Idaho for an NCAA tournament.

2 months ago

Head coach Lynne Roberts of the Utah Utes....

Michelle Bodkin and Madison Miller, KSL Sports

Coeur d’Alene officials express regret, sorrow after U of U WBB experienced ‘racial hate crimes’

On Tuesday morning, city officials held a news conference to offer apologies to the University of Utah women’s basketball team and provide updates on the investigation.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Alabama’s Nick Saban retires after 7 national titles, most in major college football history