Is Nick Saban the Best Coach in College Football History?

    Nick Saban retires as the Alabama football head coach, leaving a lasting legacy behind him. Is he the greatest coach in college football history?

    The term “GOAT” — or “Greatest of All Time” — gets thrown around too often, especially when describing figures in the sports world. However, every once in a while, a figure comes along that may just have an argument for the title. Nick Saban is one of those figures, so the question is this. Is the former Alabama Crimson Tide head coach the best in college football history?

    College Football Network examines the data to see if Saban has a case.

    Is Nick Saban the Best Coach in College Football History?

    Anyone trying to figure out if Saban has a case as the greatest college football coach of all time needs to start with the numbers. Wins, championships, conference titles, and more go into deciding the “GOAT.”

    Nick Saban’s Résumé:

    • Career Record: 292-71-1 (.802)
    • Division Titles: 16 (Including four ties)
    • Conference Titles: 12
    • National Titles: 7

    Saban’s seven national titles are the most all-time, and his 11 SEC titles are the best in SEC history. More impressively, Saban officially has one losing season in his 28 years as a college head coach, but that’s only because five wins were vacated in his first year at Alabama for violations committed by his predecessor.

    If there’s any blemish on Saban’s record, it’s his time at Michigan State. There, he went 34-24-1 — a marked improvement from his predecessors.

    No one can match Saban’s seven national titles, and only Urban Meyer can also claim titles at two schools. Saban’s resume stacks up against the best.

    Why Nick Saban Is the Best Coach in the History of College Football

    College football is a game of many eras, so comparing coaches across those eras is tricky, to say the least. That being said, Saban has the best case of any coach — at any time — to claim the title of GOAT.

    For starters, Saban won far more National Championship games than any other coach. In the early eras of college football, teams often claimed titles based on record alone. Despite having to actually win in the postseason — something earlier coaches didn’t always have to do — Saban won seven titles, the most in history.

    MORE: What’s Next for Nick Saban? Will He Jump to the Broadcast Booth?

    He also lost three title games in the four-team Playoff Era, in situations where coaches in other eras would have claimed titles.

    Saban, at arguably the most competitive time in the conference’s history, went 145-40 in the SEC and won conference titles in half of his seasons while losing three or more games just six times.

    In his final 16 seasons at Alabama, Saban lost 22 games and won 199 games, including six national championships.

    More on that, Saban won in different eras of college football. His teams won four BCS titles and three championships in the four-team playoff era. He didn’t win with a particular scheme that was better or in one particular way, but in whatever way was needed.

    Saban won the first four titles with elite defense and a ball-control offense. His defenses in 2011 and 2012 are among the best opponent-adjusted defenses in the history of the sport.

    Then, in the playoff era, Saban pivoted to an up-tempo, spread system with Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator, winning three titles between 2015 and 2020 and making all but one title game between 2015 and 2021.

    Since 2008, he’s never finished outside of the top 10 in the AP poll — something no other coach can claim for such a long period.

    The only thing anyone can perhaps point out to hurt Saban’s case is his .804 winning percentage (.808 without the vacated wins), which stands 36th in college football history. Of the coaches above him, however, all but five coached primarily at a lower level, and only Urban Meyer coached at more than two stops.

    Saban’s career winning percentage was hurt by his unremarkable, but respectable, stint with a struggling Michigan State program in the 1990s. With LSU and Alabama in the toughest conference in the country at the time, he had a .874 winning percentage (.879 without the vacated wins).

    His legacy and impact on the game are undeniable, and no other “GOAT” had to deal with the changing landscape of the sport as much as he did. With seven national titles in the sport’s most competitive era, Nick Saban is the best coach in college football history.

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