The debate over the greatest college football coach of all time generally comes down to two Alabama legends: Paul “Bear” Bryant or Nick Saban. Paul Finebaum thinks this one is now very difficult to argue.
Nick Saban took home his sixth title with the Crimson Tide on Monday night, with a 52-24 win over Ohio State. If anything, this year was probably one of the most difficult to run through without a hiccup, given the presence of COVID-19. Alabama managed to avoid major issues, with maybe the most significant being Saban’s absence from the Iron Bowl when he contracted the virus himself.
Alabama won that game 42-13, one of 11 games this year, including both College Football Playoff games, that the Crimson Tide won by at least three scores. Only Ole Miss (63-48) and Florida (52-46 in the SEC Championship) managed to stay within two scores of the team. Alabama was an absolute juggernaut this year.
Overall, Saban now has seven titles, including the first, which he won as head coach at LSU. He turned that program into a true national power as well, and elevated Michigan State before it. If there was still a Saban vs. Bryant debate, Saban thinks last night puts it to rest.
The championship puts Saban one past Bryant. After the game, he said he hadn’t thought about the significance of the seventh championship, insisting that he was just focused on his players.
Mac Jones wasn’t as modest, saying “of course” Saban is officially the greatest of all time after the game. Paul Finebaum, who had the chance to cover late-career Bear Bryant, agrees.
“It removes any doubt,” Finebaum said on this morning’s Get Up. “Paul Bryant was one of the most legendary figures in all of sports history, but he won six titles over a 25-year period. He also won it in a subjective world where you depended on wire service polls…”
Finebaum cited the 1973 title, which was awarded before the bowl games, as was the case decades ago. No. 1 Alabama would face No. 2 Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, and lose 24-23, but because bowl games did not play into the polls that determined national champions, Bryant still claimed that as one of his six titles. Saban, meanwhile, coaches in a more objective world.
He also said that Bryant’s grandson, Marc Tyson—whose son Paul is a quarterback at Alabama right now—told him that he has Saban as the No. 1 coach of all time. If the change is good enough for Bear Bryant’s family, I don’t know that there’s much debate remaining here.