Nick Saban is going into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
For some LSU and Louisiana sports fans, his inclusion in the hall's Class of 2020 announced Tuesday is a no-brainer honor, though perhaps grudgingly acknowledged.
For others, it might be the equivalent of bringing the devil down to Georgia and inviting him not to a fiddle-playing contest (Why? He wins every time anyway) but to set up permanent residence in your guest room.
One of Ed Orgeron's most talked about players of the offseason didn't have a catch through the first two games of LSU's 2019 football season, …
If everyone loves a winner as they do Ed Orgeron right now, the current coach of the 3-0 LSU Tigers, they loathe someone who wins against their team every time just as much. It only feels like the Tigers haven’t beaten Saban and the Crimson Tide since the Coolidge administration, but it’s getting close to that. The actual streak stands at eight straight games and counting, dating back to the 2012 BCS National Championship Game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
People around here resent that Saban left LSU and came back not only to college football, not only to the Southeastern Conference, not only to the SEC West, but to Alabama, the very school with the most football tradition in the league. If he had returned to his native state, say, and coached the West Virginia Mountaineers to a couple of national championships by now, no one would give a sausage unless his team beat LSU to win one of those titles.
But he is here, the scarecrow in the cornfield of LSU football success, coaching the team that has become the Tigers’ unreachable star. It shapes up that way again this year. And it would be little surprise to find a pair of 8-0 teams squaring off in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 when LSU and Bama meet at the flash point of their schedules.
I think some folks look back on Saban’s departure with a bit of revisionist history. That he actually left LSU for Alabama without the two-year pit stop with the Miami Dolphins in the middle. Fewer still probably remember that Saban’s Dolphins played the Saints in Tiger Stadium in 2005 because the Superdome was unusable in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Dolphins beat the Saints 21-6, and Saban was greeted like a rock star.
Saban would only last another year at Miami, going 6-10 and passing on an injured Drew Brees to be his quarterback. It was his only losing season as a head coach anywhere. The college game beckoned and Alabama provided a lucrative re-entry point where future success was virtually guaranteed.
Still, it didn’t make the part of him that always regretted leaving LSU feel that remorse any less.
“I hadn’t been (in Miami) a couple of months when I knew it was a mistake,” Saban said to me at the 2007 SEC Spring Meeting in Destin, Florida, mere months after taking the Alabama job. “But by then it was too late.” Les Miles had his old job, and the corner office in the LSU football complex that Saban told then Chancellor Mark Emmert the program needed but never got to occupy before he left.
Plenty of non-starters played when the score margin blew open in LSU's favor in the Tigers' 65-14 win over Northwestern State on Saturday in T…
“We have no ill feelings towards anybody,” Saban said at SEC Media Days that summer. “It was not our intention to create any of this by leaving there. When we left LSU it wasn’t personal. We thought it was professional.
“There was no opportunity for me to go back to LSU. This was a great opportunity that we had at the University of Alabama. We chose it. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t meant to harm anyone at LSU.“
Whether any of this changes how you feel about Saban is personal. But what should be obvious is that he deserves induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (for which this writer is a voter).
A thin LSU defensive line was even thinner during Tuesday's media viewing of practice, with starting nose tackle Tyler Shelvin missing and a r…
Saban not only won a national championship and two SEC titles in his five seasons at LSU, but he changed the culture of the entire program. Arguably the entire athletic department. From his first season, an 8-4 campaign in 2000 that healed some of the wounds inflicted by eight losing seasons the previous 11 years, Saban set LSU on a vibrant course that continues to this day.
LSU has had 19 straight winning seasons entering 2019 and has gone to 19 straight bowl games, both school records. It has won two national titles and played for a third, won four SEC crowns and played for a fifth. All while averaging more than 10 victories a season, winning at a 78 percent clip (208-59, including this year’s start).
Does LSU win over the past 20 years without Saban? Yes, but not as much.
LSU just unveiled a statue Friday of Skip Bertman, who as baseball coach and athletic director is the most influential figure in the school’s history.
What will it be like playing such an early game in a relatively small SEC stadium?
Saban isn’t far behind. One day, LSU should raise statues to its three (to date) national championship winning coaches: Saban, Miles and Paul Dietzel (Miles joined Dietzel in the hall last year). But for now, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement is a fitting and just reward for Saban.
Even if he’s still the man you most love to hate.