Why is Nick Saban retiring? Alabama legend to end iconic coaching career after 7 national titles

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Nick Saban is done. 

The seven-time national championship coach, best known for his 17 seasons with Alabama, has decided to retire. While it was rumored the college football legend would step away from the game soon, many suspected he would try to capture another title before stepping away.

Saban led the Tide to an SEC championship and a CFP playoff game in 2023, but fell to the eventual champion Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Alabama finished the season 12-2.

Hours after the first report of his retirement by ESPN’s Chris Low, Saban released a statement via the school, saying he and his wife Terry had “enjoyed every minute” of their time there. 

“The University of Alabama has been a very special place to Terry and me,” Saban said in the release. “We have enjoyed every minute of our 17 years being the head coach at Alabama as well as becoming a part of the Tuscaloosa community.

“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. The goal was always to help players create more value for their future, be the best player they could be and be more successful in life because they were part of the program. Hopefully, we have done that, and we will always consider Alabama our home.”

BENDER: Who wins, who loses with Nick Saban’s retirement? Breaking down the Bama bombshell

Saban recorded a 206-29 record while in Tuscaloosa as well as six national championships. His latest came in 2020, while his first was in 2003 with LSU.

After playing for Kent State, he began his head coaching career at Toledo in 1990. He jumped to the NFL to become the Browns’ defensive coordinator before heading back to college with Michigan State from 1995-99. After five years at LSU, including his first title in 2003, he headed to the Dolphins for two seasons before returning to the SEC for good.

He holds the most national championships in college football coaching history, surpassing fellow Tide legend Bear Bryant.

Why is Nick Saban retiring?

Saban began coaching in 1973 as a graduate assistant with Kent State, where he played three seasons. He spent the next 51 years coaching three NFL teams and 10 college teams, Alabama being the most notable on the list. 

While his final season fell short in an overtime loss, Saban didn’t need another win to define his success or etch his name in history. His 17 seasons in Tuscaloosa did that for him. 

In his final press conference, Saban said, “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…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.”

In the final three seasons of Saban’s career, Alabama had two losses every year, resulting in questions about the program’s future and dynasty.

While Saban’s decision seemed to take the college football world off guard, an interview he did days earlier touched on the current atmosphere of college football.

Saban’s wife Terry posted a statement on the Facebook page for the Nick’s Kids Foundation, calling it “an incredible run these last 17 years at the University of Alabama.”

How old is Nick Saban?

Saban is 72 years old.

He played three seasons of college football, never making it to the pros. He took up coaching nearly immediately at his alma mater and he stayed at Kent State for four years. 

His first head coaching job didn’t come until he was 39 years old. Though experienced, it took Saban a while to find success. Toledo went 9-2 in his lone season, but when he went to Michigan State five years later, he couldn’t get over the hump. He brought the then-failing Spartans to three straight bowl games before missing out on one in his fourth year. 

Things clicked during his final season in East Lansing. Michigan State went 9-2 before Saban accepted a job in Baton Rouge after the regular season. He had only one non-winning season throughout the remainder of his college career at LSU and Alabama.

MORE: Five names to watch as Alabama looks to replace Nick Saban

Most wins in college football history

Saban’s 297 career wins ranks him the fifth winningest coach in college football history.

While North Carolina’s Mack Brown (who is about two months older than Saban) is creeping up on him with 282 career wins, no one is coming close to Saban’s national championship record. He has the most of any college football coach ever with seven titles, six of which came at Alabama.

Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney have two a piece while Brown has one. They are the only active college football coaches to have won a national championship.

MORE: Nick Saban coaching record: Reflecting on his college football career

Nick Saban championships

The Alabama great is the only coach to win national championships at two different programs since the Associated Press Poll was established in 1936.

Year Matchup Score
2003 LSU vs. Oklahoma 21-14
2009 Alabama vs. Texas 37-21
2011 Alabama vs. LSU 21-0
2012 Alabama vs. Notre Dame 42-14
2015 Alabama vs. Clemson 45-40
2017 Alabama vs. Georgia 26-23 (OT)
2020 Alabama vs. Ohio State 52-24

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