On January 3rd, 2007, Nick Saban made a decision that not only altered the Dolphins short term future, but more importantly, his decision to go back to college and powerhouse Alabama probably changed that game forever.
First, when Saban agreed to leave another SEC high profile program in LSU, and come to South Florida, it was largely believed he would be an NFL coach for good. After all he had been the defensive coordinator for some guy named Bill Belichick, when they were both in Cleveland in the 1990’s. And with Belichick’s ultra success in New England in the early 2000’s, it only seemed natural that Saban would follow the same path to big success.
Saban, was lured by then owner Wayne Huizenga, and the fact that especially on defense, with veteran star players like Jason Taylor and Zack Thomas, it would be natural transition to make the Fins a Super Bowl contender, again.
In fairness, after early struggles, he did win his last six games to go 9-7 in his first season in Miami just missing the AFC Wildcard. It was his second year where the Dolphins struggled from the outset, were obviously going to miss the playoffs at 4-5 games below .500 heading into December ,and the coaching carousel in college was simultaneously heating up.
That’s when Saban decided to ask Huizenga to “walk” on his NFL contract, leave the Dolphins and go back to college. It was well known in the South Florida and SEC media that Saban’s wife Terry was not pleased with life in Miami and the differences of the NFL vs. essentially being “King and Queen” of an SEC small southern town. Don’t ever underestimate that fact in Saban’s thinking.
However, the biggest factor was Alabama, THE Alabama, the Alabama that was floundering for the better part of a decade, and had fired Mike Shula that December. And when the Tide turned their sights on Saban, everything fell into place for both.
You now know that since that December of 2006, and Saban’s hiring the next month, Bama has been “championship relevant” headed to the final two weeks of the season and their bowl (or now playoff game) in nine of his 11 years. Let that sink in for a second.
He is THE standard in college coaching now, in terms of recruiting, preparation, execution and results and with Monday night’s thrilling 26-23 OT win over Georgia, that’s five National Championships in nine seasons.
No one can argue the success. No one can argue that they are dynasty in Tuscaloosa, because of what Nick Saban has built and sustained. Look at all of his “disciples,” who continue to get head coaching jobs (including Georgia’s Kirby Smart from Monday). Everyone wants of piece of what Saban and Alabama have.
And certainly, no one can argue, that Saban’s decision to give up on the Dolphins and the NFL changed the game of college football for good.
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