In a fraternity of alpha males, they are the alpha-est.
Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, whose teams meet Thursday in the first Allstate Sugar Bowl to also serve as a College Football Playoff semifinal, have risen to the top of their profession — which is coaching college football, in case you didn’t know — with a single-minded devotion whose overriding requirement is that everyone in their sphere be of the same mindset.
Then, check out Saban during his hour-long media day appearance on Tuesday:
“It’s not always being overtly intense or trying to intimidate people. It’s more about them having a vision for what they want to accomplish and selling them on the process of what they need to do to accomplish it.
“And if everybody has a similar vision, it’s certainly easier to get everybody to buy into what they need to do and the dedication and determination to stick with that on a day to day basis.”
Then, guess who said this:
“He taught me the value of having everybody affiliated with the program aligned — saying the same thing, preaching the same message, the culture being totally and completely aligned from assistants to trainers to strength coaches to academics to you-name-if.
“If they have their hands on our players, the culture is aligned and everyone is saying the same message.”
A Saban acolyte? No, that’s Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who was recently named the head coach at Houston, speaking of Meyer.
Herman is the 13th Meyer assistant to become a head coach at a Division I school, a remarkable accomplishment being that this is only Meyer’s 13th year as a head coach.
Saban’s legacy is somewhat smaller — seven in 19 years, but it includes Jimbo Fisher, his offensive coordinator at LSU whose Florida State Seminoles are facing Oregon in Thursday’s other semifinal in the Rose Bowl.
So, it’s safe to say their philosophies are spreading.
With good reason.
For Saban and Meyer, getting everyone on board has established a standard of success reminiscent of two of their predecessors — Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant.
When their teams met in the 1978 Sugar Bowl, Hayes and Bryant had won a combined nine national championships (five for Hayes at Ohio State, four for Bryant at Alabama, although he would win two more before retiring following the 1982 season and dying four weeks later).
Saban (four titles, one at LSU and three at Alabama) and Meyer (two titles at Florida) could surpass those totals and at least one will have a shot at it in the Jan. 12 CFP title game, although Saban is 63 (just a year younger than Hayes and Bryant in ’78) and Meyer, 50, had to spend the 2011 season away from coaching because of stress-related problems.
And even if they don’t, they’re the only current active coaches with multiple championships who just happen to be at two of the handful of schools with the resources and fan support to give them a legitimate chance for another almost every season.
It’s a club they’re not exactly inviting others to join either.
On Tuesday, while Meyer was speaking during the Buckeyes’ media day period in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Jim Harbaugh was being introduced as the new coach at Michigan, a headline-stealing coincidence if there ever was one.
But Saban and Meyer made only perfunctory congratulatory statements.
“I know he’ll do a really good job there,” — Saban.
“I don’t know Jim, but anytime you add a quality coach to the Big Ten, obviously it’s good for college football and the Big Ten.” — Meyer.
Thus beginneth another 10-year war between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, although one website’s headline on the hiring said, “In Harbaugh, Michigan hopes to find another Saban.”
Ouch! Shouldn’t Michigan fans just hope that their guy becomes another Meyer first?
That won’t be easy.
Meyer’s 140-26 record is the best among all active FBS coaches with at least 10 years of experience. His “worst” record is 8-4.
In three seasons at Ohio State he’s 36-3, including a 24-0 mark in Big Ten regular-season games.
Saban’s record is 177-58-1. 91-16 at Alabama.
But he can claim culture change at LSU before restoring Alabama’s glory. If not for the freakish 109-yard missed field goal return in last season’s Auburn game, the Tide could be contending for its fourth title in the last five years.
Saban has raised the standard of success in the SEC (Just ask LSU fans how great the last few seasons have been) to a level that has everyone else in the league starting in second place.
Similarly, Meyer brought culture change to the staid Big Ten, introducing an emphasis on speed and a competiveness in recruiting that has disrupted what had been a gentlemen’s agreement not to pilfer each other’s commitments.
“Coach Meyer is a very intense guy,” said senior linebacker Curtis Grant, who began his career at Ohio State when the highly-successful but professorial Jim Tressel was the coach.
“And the way he recruits has created tremendous competition inside each (position) room each day.
“The guys he’s signed are coming in eager to play and ready to play. That gets you ready for game day.”
Meyer’s laser intensity did drive him from coaching for a year.
But he said it has made him more appreciative of what he does.
“It’s about the ‘Why,’ ” he said. “The ‘Why’ of how you get into coaching.
“You don’t want lose focus, but you also don’t want to get so hard-drive that you forget the ‘Why.’ There’s a human element involved.”
And in an image-shattering development, Saban actually seems to have mellowed as he approaches senior citizenship, talking less about what happens on the field mattering and more about what happens off it.
“I think as head coach, probably the greatest thing that’s changed is just an overall understanding of human behavior and how people react off it,” Saban said.
Not that they don’t want to win Thursday with every fiber of their being.
Twice before, they’ve met in similar circumstances — in the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championship games that were de facto BCS semifinals.
Meyer’s Gators took the first, and Saban’s Tide the second, with both winners going on to win the national championship.
“It’s a very competitive environment right now in all leagues,” Meyer said. “And this playoff is just a perfect example.
“I can’t imagine the interest level being any greater in any sport than college football. So there’s no doubt this is big for us, for Alabama and for college football.”
Get it on, alpha dogs.