How Does Alabama’s Loss to Clemson Impact Saban’s Legacy?


By Cliff Peterson-Senior Staff Writer

Despite how good Deshaun Watson is as a quarterback and how equally good Dabo Swinney is as a head coach, it is probably a fair assessment to say that most people outside of Death Valley thought that Alabama would repeat as National Champions and complete the first 15-0 season in college football history. This feat would have cemented Nick Saban’s place atop the list of coaching legends the game has seen, finally allowing him to pass the legendary Bear Bryant. But then a funny thing happened, former walk-on receiver Hunter Renfrow caught a Watson touchdown pass as the clock expired, Alabama lost and the debate was left to rage on regarding Saban’s place in history.


On the one hand, it’s almost absurd that there is even a question about Saban’s legacy after the loss. After all, this is a man who in ten years leading the Crimson Tide has compiled a 119-19 record with four championships (Bear Bryant went 88-14-7 with three titles in his first decade at Alabama.)Throw in his championship while coach at LSU, his 210 career victories and his .774 win percentage (only Bryant and Bo Schembechler have better percentages, unless you throw in coaches who ran up their records at colleges you’ve never heard off ) and it is clear why there are those who feel his legacy is intact and he should be considered the greatest coach of all-time. Add in that his Tiger and Tide teams have won 14 of 16 title games they have played (to include SEC Championships) and there seems to be no debate about Saban’s place atop the coaching mountain.


With the loss to Clemson, however, there are those who feel his legacy took a hit, especially because Alabama came into the came with one of the best defenses in history, that appeared to wilt down the stretch, basically leaving a receiver running free on the goal line on the game’s final play. It’s hard to overlook this viewpoint, despite what the overall numbers tell you because even Saban himself said before the game that, regardless of the outcome, he has not reached Bryant’s level of success and that a big reason why he has been as successful as he has is because of the foundation Bryant laid during his time with Alabama.


Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, what keeps Saban’s legacy strong overall is that he is more than just the numbers. Saban has shown an ability to adapt to today’s game, despite his roots that would instinctively keep him from doing so. Saban has also accomplished all of this in an era where teams play 15 games a year, have to defend spread offenses and dual threat quarterbacks, something even Saban finally broke down this past season and put under center. Additionally, Saban now has a coaching tree, that will most likely continue to grow and allow his influence to be felt on the game long after he retires.


Yes, Saban failed to win a sixth championship this year, but that doesn’t diminish everything else he has accomplished and the lasting mark he is leaving on the game. Don’t forget, Saban isn’t even done yet. He is about to sign the nation’s top recruiting class, again, and will likely have the Tide in line for a few more championships before he hangs it up for good. Meaning any hit his legacy took this year is likely to be recovered from and strengthened before all is said and done.

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