Saban ... He’s BACK
Since January of 2007, LSU Tiger fans have Nov. 8, 2008 circled on their calendar.
This coming Saturday Saban returns to Baton Rouge for the first time as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
He returns with the Tide in the top spot in the nation for the first time since the 1992 season when they won college football’s national championship.
Saban and company will find out quickly just how heavy the crown is to wear, but for the present being No. 1 takes a backseat to coming back to Baton Rouge where he worked his football magic for five seasons.
Nothing boils the blood of Tiger fans than the mere mention of his name, but this hatred comes more from fear than from real hatred of the one-time head coach at LSU.
From 2000 to 2004 Saban posted a 48-16 record, winning 75 percent of his games, five bowl game appearances, two Southeast Conference championships and one BCS national championship in 2003 at LSU.
In the final two seasons of Gerry DiNardo as head coach of the Tigers, he had posted a 7-15 win/loss mark.
In any course of work, football, banking, ship building or politics if you leave the place better off than you inherited it you have done your job properly.
Saban did just that when he left LSU to try his hand with the Miami Dolphins after the 2004 season, but in the back of every Tiger fan’s mind was the thought that Saban maybe would return to the college ranks and possibly the Southeast Conference one day.
He did just that after the 2006 NFL season when he accepted the Alabama head coaching job and that has raised the hatred factor for him to unprecedented heights.
Alabama has great football tradition, 12 national championship seasons, 6 Associated Press national titles, 92 All-American football players and 21 Southeast Conference championships, but they were a huge ship with a faulty rudder system for the past six to eight seasons.
Ever since Gene Stallings left the program after the 1996 season Alabama has been a sleepy football giant, who has literally been in deep slumber.
LSU fans and college football observers knew that Saban had the capacity to not only wake up the sleepy giant, but bring them back to national prominence.
It took him all of less than 2 seasons to have the Tide back to the No. 1 spot in college football.
It all starts with a comment Saban made to me back in early 2003 about the most important part of coaching was the ability to recruit and develop football talent to the fullest.
“The good coaches know that you win with just not getting good assistants and recruiting good talent, but also developing that talent to the fullest.
“Many coaches can recruit, but some never seem to be able to fully develop the skills of the players they sign.”
Alabama has not had a first round pick selection for the pros since the 2000 draft when both offensive tackle Chris Samuels and halfback Shaun Alexander were selected in the opening round.
The Tide has been shut out in the opening round of the draft and only 9 players in the past 8 seasons have been selected within the top 100 selections entering the NFL.
In comparison, LSU has had 8 first round choices and 18 picks within the top 100 selections in that same eight-year time frame. Alabama’s state rival, Auburn, has had 6 first round choices and 16 selections within the top 100 choices on draft day in the past 8 years.
While not yet a finished product, in less than two seasons Saban has rebuilt the Alabama program in the same manner he did the LSU Tigers.
The boos you will hear Saturday will not be about Saban leaving LSU for the millions of the NFL, but the fear that Alabama will be just as talented a foe as he was when he was the Tigers’ best friend.
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