Alabama routs Notre Dame for yet another BCS title under Nick Saban

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Nick Saban was telling stories the other day in a way he rarely does publicly, the kind of stories that might offer a glimpse into just how he's come to dominate college football in a way that no other person is dominating a sport in America.

Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide won a third BCS title in four years here Monday, absolutely demolishing Notre Dame 42-14 in a game that – if you can believe it – wasn't as close as that lopsided score.

It was the latest example of Saban's ability to meld group after group into seemingly indomitable units, another 60-minute showcase of blunt-force trauma.

This time it was AJ McCarron (20 of 28 for 264 yards and four TDs) throwing it around, but it could've been Greg McElroy. This time it was Eddie Lacy (140 yards, one TD) spinning and slamming over the Irish, but it could've been Trent Richardson or Mark Ingram before him. This time it was Amari Cooper (six catches for 105 yards and two TDs) getting loose in the secondary, but it could've been Julio Jones. This time it was HaHa Clinton-Dix and C.J. Mosley anchoring the defense but it could've been Dont'a Hightower or Marcell Dareus.

The faces change, the seasons spin, but Nick Saban keeps lifting crystal footballs. This, counting a 2003 title at LSU, was his fourth.

You could say it began back in little Monongah, W.Va., at Saban's father's Gulf service station.

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"Big Nick" is what his dad was known as, and Big Nick believed there was a way of doing things and a way of treating people that was both proper and precise. Anything less than full effort, anything less than total perfect, anything less than complete respect simply wasn't tolerated. Saban started working there at age 11.

"There was a standard of excellence, a perfection," Saban said.

That included the day, Saban said, that a homeless man was hanging around the station. He came often because Big Nick would give him coffee and a donut. A discussion of one of Saban's games broke out.

"The guy was giving me a hard time and I sort of sassed him," Saban recalled. "I was 17 years old."

And Big Nick wouldn't tolerate it.

Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy ran for 140 yards and one TD against Notre Dame. (USA Today Sports)
Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy ran for 140 yards and one TD against Notre Dame. (USA Today Sports)

"I got the strap right on the spot," Saban said. "It was the right thing. I needed to learn a lesson. I was disrespectful to an older person, regardless of the situation."

This is the black-and-white world in which Saban operates the Crimson Tide. He can't whip a belt across people anymore, but he can do the equivalent verbally.

There is one way to do things, the right way. As long as everyone does it, then the results will work out in the end. So Saban demands and demands and demands, nothing less from everyone associated with his team, from assistant coaches to support staff to, of course, his players.

This isn't a new management concept. It's just that few people in America do it any better than Nick Saban.

As his success keeps churning, he continues to attract the top recruits, assistant coaches and staff members who not only believe in such leadership, but also crave the challenge of meeting Saban's exacting standards.

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And they enjoy winning and winning, of course.

This here is a machine, a true Crimson Tide that can sweep up everything, bigger and bigger each year.

Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper celebrates his touchdown catch. (USA Today Sports)
Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper celebrates his touchdown catch. (USA Today Sports)

Monday was perhaps Saban's most perfect show of force, a complete and utter domination of the previously top-ranked, undefeated Fighting Irish. Alabama mauled the Irish at the line, outraced them in open field, out-thought them in the coaching box and essentially did whatever it wanted.

It's not just that Alabama again stood on top of the college football world. It's that their opponent didn't even pose a threat.

Dating back to a 2010 BCS triumph over Texas and extending through last year's 21-0 win over LSU, there was a time in this contest that 'Bama had run off 69 unanswered points and held opponents scoreless for nearly 107 minutes across three title games.

Oh, and based on graduations, two-deeps and another likely No. 1 recruiting class there is no reason to think the Tide can't be back for more next season. Or who knows how many seasons after that.

There is a sentiment that Saban might again look to the NFL and attempt another shot at winning at the sport's highest level. He spent years as an NFL assistant, but went just 15-17 in two seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Perhaps there's unfinished business. But perhaps that's misunderstanding Saban.

[Related: Eddie Lacy's spin move is a must-see moment at BCS championship]

To say he seeks a new challenge is to ignore the fact that he finds every single day – every task of every day, in fact – as a challenge because each moment offers an opportunity for something to go wrong, for that standard of excellence to not be met.

Big Nick didn't take pride in the perfect service of a few cars – tank full, oil checked, windshield spotless – but in doing it again and again, year after year. It never got old.

It is within that seeming misery that the joy lies, not in the end result when Saban forces a smile as he hoists another crystal football.

And that's the frightening part for college football. Big Nick's son isn't slowing up anytime soon. The Tide just keeps rising.

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