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Alabama coach Saban retiring after winning seven national titles

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn
NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn

Nick Saban, the stern coach who won seven national championships and turned Alabama back into a national powerhouse that included six of those titles in just 17 seasons, is retiring.

The 72-year-old Saban restored a Crimson Tide program once ruled by Paul “Bear” Bryant to the top of college football after taking over in 2007. His decision to step away was reported Wednesday, first by ESPN and then by other outlets.

Saban led the Crimson Tide from a shaky start this season to a Southeastern Conference championship and back into the College Football Playoff before falling to Michigan in a semifinal game at the Rose Bowl.

Saban led the Tide to nine Southeastern Conference championships and won his first national title at Alabama with a 14-0 season in 2009. Titles came again in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2020. Alabama was always a contender but had fallen short of the title since then.

Saban is famed for his sideline scowl and fiery demeanor -- and for winning. Saban has won more national titles than any other major college coach.

He made a two-year foray into the NFL with the Miami Dolphins before returning to college football to revive one of college football’s most storied programs, which hadn’t won a national title in 15 years. Saban is 297-71-1 as a college head coach, with stops at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU, where he also won a national title. But Alabama is where he cemented his status as one of college football’s greatest coaches.

His latest team dealt with plenty of adversity early on, including a loss to Texas, but rebounded with the emergence of quarterback Jalen Milroe to upset then-No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

Saban didn’t sound like a coach looking to give up the job any time soon after the game. But it wasn’t a bad way to go, even without the title.

“This is one of the most amazing seasons in Alabama football history in terms of where this team came from, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to do, winning the SEC Championship, and really, really proud of this group,” he said.

“I just wish that I could have done more as a coach to help them be successful and help them finish, and all we can do now is learn from the lessons that sometimes failings bring to us.”