In his day, no one dominated college football like Bear Bryant. He altered the game. Around him, his opponents had to change in order to compensate and compete with him.
He motivated young men to accomplish more than they thought they could. He strove for nothing short of excellence. He won championships.
He created a superior product in a state that the country had forgotten, and his very presence created a storm of attention no matter where he went.
So are we still talking about Bear Bryant, or is it Nick Saban?
The similarities between the two leaders are pretty astounding. Though Coach Saban still has some hills to climb to surpass Bryant, it’s clear that the path is fairly level. Alabama is a place where you can dominate, and there’s nothing Nick Saban enjoys more than dominating.
Now Coach Saban is beginning to take on the appearance of Bryant in another way: Disciples turning into successful coaches. In a recent article, Marc Weiszer illustrates the number of coaches who have learned from Saban and moved on to areas of influence.
Bryant’s mark also included former players moving on to become great head coaches; as Saban’s career continues to develop this too will come. But there’s no doubt the mark he’s left on others has been a commitment to excellence.
Names like Muschamp, Fisher and Dooley will influence college football for years to come. Grantham and Smart will do the same a little later.
Possibly the best news for Bama fans came from the coach himself:
“It’s always a difficult decision to leave any place, and it is a decision I am never going to make again,” Saban said when asked about coaches moving from one job to another. “I am where I am. If they get a football team at Lake Burton, I might go there. Otherwise, I am where I am.”
Coach Saban’s influence on his University, his team, his coaches and his rivals will be felt for years to come. And with that tenure will be his impact on more names you’ll recognize for years to come as well.