Saban had been with the Crimson Tide for 17 seasons, and won six national championships for the school in the time he was there. If you followed the sport of college football, you probably just assumed the 72-year-old Saban would coach and dominate until he simply couldn’t do it anymore, and surprisingly, that moment came a little earlier than most of us thought it would.
Social media was certainly buzzing when the news broke yesterday, and the longtime Alabama head coach finally put out a statement about his decision a couple of hours after the news initially broke:
“The University of Alabama has been a very special place to Terry and me. We have enjoyed every minute of our 17 years being the head coach at Alabama as well as becoming a part of the Tuscaloosa community. It is not just about how many games we won and lost, but it’s about the legacy and how we went about it.
We always tried to do it the right way. The goal was always to help players create more value for their future, be the best player they could be and be more successful in life because they were part of the program. Hopefully, we have done that, and we will always consider Alabama our home.”
And earlier today, Nick Saban sat down with ESPN’s Rece Davis to speak more about his decision to walk away from the sport, and more importantly the football empire he built down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Davis asked why the 7-time national championship winner felt like now was the right time to retire, and Saban emotionally revealed that his age had a big part in his decision:
“Well, I don’t think there’s any good time, especially when you’re a coach. Because once your a coach, you think you’re going to be a coach forever. But I actually thought that in hiring coaches (and) recruiting players, my age started to become a little bit of an issue. People wanted assurances that I would be here for three years, five years, whatever and that got harder and harder for me to be honest about.”
You could tell that the subject matter was hard for Saban to get through. He was seemingly fighting back tears as he talked to Rece Davis about the end of his run as the Crimson Tide’s head coach.
After taking a moment to gather himself and plan out his thoughts about this last season, which ended in a loss to Michigan in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff, Saban continued:
“To be honest, this last season was grueling. It was a real grind for us to come from where we started to where we got to. It took a little more out of me than usual, and when people mention the health issue, it was really just the grind of ‘can you do this the way you want to do it, can you do it the way you’ve always done it?’
If I couldn’t make a commitment to do that in the future, the way I think I have to do it, (then) I thought this was maybe the right time based on those two sets of circumstances that…like I said, there’s never a good time, but I thought this was maybe the right time.”
Saban went on to ensure Davis and anyone watching that he and his wife were in good health, and that health concerns had nothing to do with his decision to retire. The greatest college football coach to ever do it simply felt like he could no longer give it his all, and couldn’t do things how he was used to doing them.
As he said in the interview multiple times, there’s never a right time to walk away, but this moment felt like it was good a time as any to end a historic run that may never be seen again in the sport of college football.