HOOVER, Ala. — With a monotone voice and a blank stare into the throng of media gathered at SEC Media Days, Alabama head coach Nick Saban rattled through answers on the transfer portal and the current state of his program.
Only one question raised the eyebrow of the six-time national champion coach.
“Nick, there’s been a lot made about your staff turnover, the amount of coaches that turn over on your staff. Are you difficult to work for?” one media member asked.
The Saban coaching tree currently has 10 active FBS head coaches. Of those 10, four coach in the SEC. Saban has produced 23 head coaches at various levels of college football and the NFL.
Not one of those apprentices have beaten the master.
Saban holds a 16-0 record over his protégés, including a 7-0 record against those actively leading programs in the SEC. In those 16 games, Saban’s teams have outscored opponents 650-220.
“We all know Alabama established itself as a great program,” Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Nick is a great coach. What’s it going to take? 60 minutes of great football. You have to line up and play.”
Fisher, who holds an 0-2 record against Saban, served under him at LSU, alongside South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.
Muschamp, who also is 0-2 against his former boss, also couldn’t catch a break against Saban on the pickup basketball court back in those Baton Rouge days, Fisher claimed.
“It was Nick and myself and then whoever, we got whoever with us, played against those guys,” Fisher said. “Will was a good athlete. He really was. But we were undefeated.”
Muschamp said Saban is the greatest coach in college football history, a superlative typically reserved for his Crimson Tide predecessor, Bear Bryant.
“The consistency that he has maintained at Alabama is pretty phenomenal,” he said. “In this league, it’s very difficult. But you got to go beat Alabama. You can’t hope and wish something’s going to happen. You got to go beat them.”
The Gamecocks will have a go at Alabama on Sept. 14 this season, Muschamp’s first rematch against Saban since a 42-21 Florida loss to the Crimson Tide in 2014.
Smart was Saban’s most recent victim in a 35-28 Georgia loss to Alabama in the 2018 SEC title game. He also is 0-2 record against Saban.
“We know Alabama has been very powerful in this conference for a long time,” Smart said. “We respect the job they do. I got a lot of respect for Coach Saban and his program. I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him.”
Finally, Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt is 0-1 against Saban since taking the reins at Tennessee.
Saban collected the other nine wins against Derek Dooley, Jim McElwain, Mark Dantonio and Billy Napier at various stops in their careers.
So, will someone finally surmount the unachievable peak and down Saban’s Tide? Smart believes it will still take more time.
“Am I confident somebody’s going to beat him?” he said. “It depends how long he coaches. It depends on how many opportunities they get. Inevitably, with enough opportunities, anything can happen. I got a lot of respect for the job he does. I got a lot of respect for the program. The success he’s gotten has been earned. Make no mistake about that. He’s earned it. There’s not one thing he asked assistant coaches to do that he doesn’t do himself.”
Wednesday, after a brief pause to think, Saban gave his verdict on if he’s a difficult boss.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “You have to ask some of the people that work for me. Always interesting that, you know, they may say that, but then when they get a job and they go do it, they do it exactly like we did it. So, I don’t know.”