Beyond the BCS Championship Game: Why Alabama will be here for a long time

Monday night Alabama will play for its 2nd BCS National Championship in head coach Nick Saban’s short tenure at Alabama…and its 2nd in three years. But as you prepare to behold the majesty of the Crimson Tide competing at the game’s highest level, for the highest accolade…again…don’t miss one thing.

Like at some places, what you will see Monday night is not an anomaly at the University of Alabama. It isn’t the result of one good year and one dominate player in a year where everything fell magically into place for Bama to compete for the crystal.

What is happening in Tuscaloosa is the new norm. It’s the good old days, revisited. It’s what my dad used to describe being a Bama fan was like in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Nick Saban has taken a storied football program that had fallen on hard times into realms that even the most delusional Auburn fan could never imagine for their program…and that’s saying alot.

And there is comfort in looking into the future.

1.) Nick Saban is happy at Alabama, and will finish his career here. Grant Guffin, one of the creators of the Saban film “Gamechanger” shared with me on more than one occasion that Nick Saban finally feels like he has gotten it right. Leaving LSU was a mistake; he wasn’t an NFL coach. And he’s never stayed anywhere long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He has historically been a builder, not a reaper.

If he coaches one minute past Monday night’s National Championship game, he will have stayed at Alabama longer than his previous coaching stints: Toledo (1 year), Michigan State (5 years), LSU (5 years) and the Dolphins (2 years).

What Guffin conveyed were the feelings that Nick Saban didn’t want to be another Bobby Bowden, coaching into his late seventies. But that his next move would be to Lake Burton. The man is only 60 years old, a mere babe in his profession. Listen to his voice, look at the vigor in his step, see the gleam in his eye. Nick Saban isn’t closed to being finished.

There is a joy Nick Saban gets from investing in young men that few understand. And there is a joy Mrs. Terry gets from recruiting and investing in foundations that build hope for kids and in a community devestated by loss that most will never get to enjoy. Regardless of how much you fear it won’t be so…or will be so if you wear orange…Nick and Terry Saban are home.

2.) The recruiting hits keep on coming. Thursday night Landon Collins, the number one overall safety in America announced he was leaving his home state and native New Orleans to spurn LSU for Nick Saban and Tuscaloosa. Cyrus Jones did the same, making commitments at the Under Armour high school All-American game.

Landon Collins, what a man-child looks like.

In the same game, Amari Cooper dropped jaws all across America with his pass catching, speed and 92-yard punt return, seeming to glide coast-to-coast. In past years these three unreal propsects would be enough. But then throw in TJ Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Reggie Ragland, Geno Smith, Dakota Ball, Deion Belue, Eddie Williams…and these are just the beginning of this 2012 class.

This class will probably be ranked #1 overall by most recruiting services…making it the fifth in a row ranked in the top five, and the third reaching #1 by most services’ standards.

There are studs everywhere you look in Tuscaloosa, but this 2012 class will be thought of in the same regard as that 2008 class that brought Julio Jones, Mark Barron, Don’ta Hightower, Mark Ingram, and the foundation that has put Alabama where it is today.

3.) Alabama is again a force that affects change in college football. There is so much Alabama fatigue coast-to-coast over Alabama again being in the BCS National Championship game, despite not winning their conference or division. Attribute a lot of this to SEC fatigue, but change will come to the BCS system in part because Alabama has a proven formula to push the other 117 teams out of the picture to take on that final member of Division 1 college football.

Nick Saban’s defenses are so complex that they really aren’t fair. It’s been said on many occasions…too many to count…that Nick Saban’s defenses are NFL scheme defenses. It takes a special team to stare down what Alabama puts on the field and come away with points…of any kind.

So in order for a team from the Pac-12 or Big Ten, or ACC, or Big East, or Big Twelve…to have a turn in the big dance, they have to find another way there than thru the BCS system. This all-SEC showdown may continue if things don’t change, and that’s what officials from these other conferences fear most.

4.) What Alabama is doing this year, and in 2009, and for the most part of 2008, is not a flash in the pan. Those years that sometimes fall into the laps of complete boobs in the coaching profession sometimes get those coaches extensions that are hard to explain. Alabama doesn’t go 14-0 or 12-1 one year then 7-5 the next. Not under Nick Saban.

The man who so many jeered had never had two back-to-back 10-win seasons in a row is poised to shelve his fourth in a row. He’s just 16 wins shy of Gene Stallings’ mark of 70 in seven years. Saban could have that before the end of September 2013, well before his seventh season has ended.

But this is a man that measures success in one fashion: Excellence. Championships. Being the best. And wins or 10-win seasons…or one flash-in-the-pan year with a top JUCO transfer…isn’t enough. Nick Saban will kick your derriere year after year because it’s what drives him.

He doesn’t come up with a cheesy phrase for a cultish fanbase to rally around. He doesn’t continually wear jackets with the BCS Championship logo to practice in order to remind everyone around him what he did.

Excellence is what he is, not what he happened to back into. And he has built a foundation at Alabama that has so much momementum it would take something Iwo Jima-like to stop it now.

So regardless of what happens Monday night, the University of Alabama is a beast that is squatting right where it wants to, and it ain’t moving for anybody any time soon. Coach Bryant redefined college football in his day. Ironically, so many years later, Coach Nick Saban is doing the same.

And right when you think he has done all he can do, he opens up a new bag of tricks and completely blows your mind. He is relentless. He is immovable. He is hard to figure out or describe.

But he is here. And he is here to stay. And thus, so is the University of Alabama in games like you’ll see Monday night. A game I predict the Tide will win 24-13.

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