Nick Saban health update: Alabama legend opens up about retirement, juggling coaching grind at age 72

Personal health has always been something Nick Saban took seriously. Nick Saban Sr., the Alabama legend’s father, died unexpectedly from a heart attack at 46; Saban Jr. was just 22 years old at the time.

In 2020, the year of the COVID pandemic, Saban’s heart monitoring saved the life of someone who would later beat him in his final year of coaching – Texas coach and former Alabama assistant Steve Sarkisian. Before that season began, Saban required his staff to get their hearts checked prior to the season. The doctors found Sarkisian’s conditions just in time, as it was known as the “widowmaker” in the medical world.

Sarkisian was diagnosed with an aneurysm caused by a leaking valve. And he only had two valves as opposed to three. That season, Sarkisian had life-saving surgery. Recovery included relearning how to walk and talk, but the future Longhorns coach passed in flying colors. He helped Alabama capture a national title, what turned out to be Saban’s last.

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This season, which included a loss to Texas en route to a CFP playoff appearance, Saban’s lagging health was among the factors that let him know it was time to call it quit.

Nick Saban health

At 72 years old, Saban was one of the oldest active football coaches, second to Mack Brown by only two months. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that with the way he ran the Alabama program, age would eventually slow him down.

“Last season was difficult for me from just a health standpoint, not necessarily having anything major wrong, but just being able to sustain and do things the way I want to do them, the way I’ve always done them,” he told ESPN. “It just got a little bit harder. So you have to decide, ‘OK, this is sort of inevitable when you get to my age.’”

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While Saban seemed unbeatable when it came to getting sick, he missed the 2020 Iron Bowl due to COVID-19, which required him to isolate for 10 days. Alabama beat Auburn 42-13 at home.

He emphasized the toll this past year took on him, as it was particularly rough season from start to finish.

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Before the 2022 season, Saban signed an eight-year contract extension that would make him the highest-paid college football coach. However, he noted it would be unfair to players and the program to continue coaching with his foot only halfway in the door.

“Which I would have been happy to try to do, but I just didn’t feel like I could do that and didn’t want to get into a year-to-year deal that doesn’t help anybody and doesn’t help you continue to build and be at the standard that I want to be at and want this program to be at,” he said.

Saban and his wife, Miss Terry, won’t be going far. They’re dedicated to maintaining their presence in Tuscaloosa in any way.

“This is a place that will never be too far away from Miss Terry’s and my hearts.”

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