I Don't Envy The Person Taking Over For Nick Saban

With the legendary Alabama coach leaving behind a Hall of Fame resume, will the next coach be able to handle the expectations in Tuscaloosa?

I Don't Envy The Person Taking Over For Nick Saban
Nick Saban at the Rose Bowl semifinal game against Michigan in Pasadena, Calif., this month.Credit...Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

Six National Title Championships.

Nine SEC Championships.

Eight College Football Playoff appearances.

Four Heisman Trophy winners.

That's a tiny sample of what now-retired head coach Nick Saban has achieved in his 17-year stint with Alabama — and some lucky person gets to follow. Did anybody foresee this legendary run happening after Saban's 7-6 arrival in 2007? Perhaps not. The following 2008 season, when the Crimson Tide completed 180% with a 12-2 record, you couldn't tell something special was happening. Soon after, Alabama became the gold standard in college football, recently challenged by schools such as Georgia and Michigan. Saban's coaching style begets excellence from the top recruiter classes that came year after year and the coaches that seemingly found second lives evolving from the Alabama tree.

But all good things come to an end, and the structure of college football has massively changed. Soon, we'll have a 12-team College Football playoff and a new look SEC. The transfer portal and NIL are almost as important as the initial recruiting class themselves, and a new day is coming in Tuscaloosa. There's no doubt there are big shoes to fill for this person (even that might be an understatement). Can Alabama fans whose expectations start and end with championships reside with the fact that a nine-win season could be on the horizon? Would the new coach be able to survive that kind of scrutiny? Names like Clemson's Dabo Sweeney, Washington's Kalen DeBoer, and Ole Miss's Lane Kiffin (wouldn't that be fun?) have been thrown into the mix—even Colorado's Deion Sanders (I don't think that happens for a couple of reasons).

Somebody has to run over the hill, and what's on the other side may not be pretty. Often, it's the next person after the initial fallout to reap the rewards of not taking on the weight of being next up. Saban's name carried a mystique and expectation that Alabama could bet on. Winning is the way, but could a leap year be? Imagine a scenario where Alabama doesn't get to the national title game for a few years. Would the patience for the new coach to integrate their system be there, or will they be chased out of Bryant–Denny Stadium? It's one of the most intriguing storylines of the upcoming 2024 season — and for the lucky winner, it will require a lot of bravery.