What about the SEC makes Saban so successful?

Submitted by Blue Blue Blue on September 3rd, 2012 at 12:33 AM

so Nick Saban coached for years at Michigan State with a 34-24 record.  Then he went to LSU and became a god, going 48-16. with a national title.


He jumps to the Dolphins, where he goes 9-7 and then 6-10.......at which point, he jumps back to Alabama, where he goes 55-12 with  2 National Championships.


So Nicky poo is no great shakes, except  when he is SEC.  What gives?


Do you think he couldnt win with equal talent (even MSU has significantly higher standards than any SEC school, so no bringing in truckloads of JUCO stars), but the SEC' s low academic standards allow him to stockpile superior talent?


Lets face it the SEC lets the bullshit fly.   Cam Newton and Fairley each spent about one semester attending classes at Auburn, but were "juniors" when they left after their championship season.




turd ferguson

September 3rd, 2012 at 12:51 AM ^

Obviously, this doesn't hurt, but people overstate how much of his success is attributable to oversigning. He won almost instantaneously at Alabama - and after a rough stretch for them - well before oversigning would be felt profoundly enough to explain the winning. Plus, it's not like he's the only guy in the SEC who does this.

Saban rubs me, like many others, the wrong way, but the guy is without a doubt a really good college coach.


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:12 AM ^

Oversigning is one of the reasons Alabama is head and shoulders above everyone else. Their three-deep is littered with four and five stars--the ones that panned out. Without oversigning, they would still be championship contenders, but they would fall short of their ridiculous current level.

And the argument that other SEC teams do it too doesn't quite work. Yes, Ole Miss oversigns, but they sign a bunch of three stars, so it doesn't mean much. Alabama gets to sign a bunch of four or fives stars with little to no risk since Saban cuts the ones who bust. That talent level plus oversigning equals Bama's complete and utter dominance.


September 3rd, 2012 at 2:45 AM ^

What Ole Miss tends to do is a little different from the forcing guys out at Bama.  They are signing enormous classes knowing full well that a large portion won't qualify academically (public schools in Mississippi are apparently rad).  If they didn't "oversign" they would never be able to fill their class when it comes time to enroll, and they take the free positive publicity of a touted class on Signing Day.

As for the impact on the field, the last 5 classes (the guys who make up this year's team at Bama) saw Saban sign 133 guys.  That number goes down by just one if you backtrack to 2007.  By comparison, the last two five year groupings for Coach Carr when he was here saw us sign 105 and 104 guys respectively.  Some of that was self-inflicted on our part (gave a number of 5th years to guys who weren't starters, which would be sacreligious to Saban), but I imagine Coach Carr would have looked a lot smarter if he could audition more than two dozen guys to play nickle corner in the OSU game in 2006.  Obviously they are bringing in elite talent as well (4 of the 5 latest classes ranked #1 on Rivals), but getting extra guys is a big advantage.  To the extent it is legal/ethical it is smart policy to sign as many guys as possible and hope the non-hackers find their way out the door.  When you are pushing kids out the door in a manner that ends their playing career...


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:16 AM ^

All valid points, but he didn't really say Saban was a bad coach or that oversigning was the sole reason for his success.

I think when it comes to Saban, we should just lay down some known concepts:

1) The guy is a hell of a coach who wins big.
2) He oversigns.
3) He partakes in a LOT of questionable, if maybe-possibly-legal-kinda-sorta, roster management that may or may not be a direct result of oversigning.
4) No one is going to doing anything about #2-3 because of #1.


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:59 AM ^

Sorry, but if #1 is true, how do you explain MSU and the Dolphins?  I believe he is a really good coach, but he definitely has some sort of advantage coaching in the SEC, such as:

bigger pool of talent (b/c of the lower standards as the OP stated)

the fear he can instill in players (that they can be "cut")

money (b/c if I was going to stay in the southeast for school, how could someone not choose Miami?)


September 3rd, 2012 at 8:38 AM ^

If the game I saw on Saturday night didn't tell you all you need to know about Saban's coaching ability, including hirng good coordinators, then nothing ever will.  Getting talent is part of coaching.  Not to bring back the RR issues, but one of his failings as  coach were some of the people he brought on as assistants. Coaching also relies heavily on managerial skills and at this point, I'd say Saban's, based on results, are pretty damned good.

Blue Durham

September 3rd, 2012 at 4:41 PM ^

have had poor NFL stints.  This does not detract from what they accomplished in the college ranks - they are still considered top college coaches.

Steve Spurrier, Pete Carroll, John McKay, John Robinson, Lou Holtz, and Bud Wilkinson to name a few.  There are a few that succeed both places, though (Jimmy Johnson and maybe Barry Switzer).


September 3rd, 2012 at 6:01 PM ^

Well if the discussion has changed to disregarding his pro coaching stint that would definitely change my argument. But since I was replying to a post that made no distinction between them, I assumed his whole body of work was up for critique.

I guess I'll admit I have a bit of homerism by default, so I feel that saying Saban is a great coach is an admission that Coach Hoke and his staff are not on the same level. And if we are saying that Coach Hoke and his staff are close or better than Saban and his staff, then we obviously need to add some reason for the huge disparity for the game's performance. While we don't have enough data to make a fair comparison between staffs, I will give Coach Hoke and his staff the benefit of the doubt and say the difference in Saturday's game was due to the level of talent which is due to an unfair playing field (which I believe was one of the main reasons Harbaugh left for the pros).

snarling wolverine

September 3rd, 2012 at 6:12 PM ^

There could be a more basic explanation: we simply didn't recruit all that well the past few years, particularly on the OL and DL, and we paid the price for it going up against a team that has.  Hoke is recruiting extremely well and our overall talent level is only going to increase.  We're just not at a national-title level at the moment.




UM Fan in Nashville

September 3rd, 2012 at 11:08 AM ^

I talked with a buddy of mine that had a short career in the NFL about Saban's lack of success with the Dolphins.   His explanation is that there is a LOT more going on behind the scenes than anyone really thinks.   It's extremely political and the players essentially run the show.   Saban presented himself as being better than all of the Dolphin players as he was the "captain of the ship," but that didn't go over well with a bunch of those guys.   Especially his stunt he pulled in practice while one of his lineman was having a seizure (i think it was a seizure) and he just walked on by without any help or care.     

NFL coaches are very similar to NBA coaches, it's about managing the players and their egos, not as much about the X's and O's.   If you get hired to be an NFL coach you have the strategy chops, it's just up to how well you deal with the players and get their buy in.   

- just for clairification, what separates good coaches from legendary coaches is their ability to get buy in from the players and have an Amazing knack for in game X's and O's and adjustments.   This will never change.   


September 3rd, 2012 at 2:57 AM ^

Bama was on probation and suffered scholarship reductions at the beginning of Mike Shula's tenure that doomed the end of his time at Bama.  Those sanctions were lifted beginning with the 2004 class.  Over the next two years Shula signed 61! players.  In 2006 he added the #11 class in the country.  Saban came in with plenty of rounds in the chamber, played a bunch of young guys in 2007, added a top-10 class, and in year two they were off and running.


September 3rd, 2012 at 12:39 AM ^

Its not the admission standards. Everyone besides Northwestern, Stanford, and the Ivy leagues have the same admission standards, which is the NCAA clearinghouse. Its the fact that he is in a hotbed of talent and has a program that is willing to spend money for football. 


September 3rd, 2012 at 12:47 AM ^

to say that Louisville and Hawaii are in the same boat, that argument doesn't really hold water (and technically, from what I remember Dorsey didn't apply, I believe he was just told he wouldn't be getting in after RR met with the admissions people).

He supposedly had a very fishy high school transcript that nobody wanted any part of.


September 3rd, 2012 at 9:23 AM ^

check out JUCO in Mississippi....phenominal number of talented athletes who can't get past the ACT/SAT who muddle a couple of years in Mississippi Jucos and end up in top tier SEC programs after they get through the system. Cam Newton being the most notable in recent years...it happens more than you'd think.


September 3rd, 2012 at 12:46 AM ^

He's an excellent college coach, probably the best in college right now.  He was great at MSU, but MSU isn't ever going to recruit like LSU or Alabama.  Those schools recruit for themselves.  It's not like he went to Vandy and won championships.  As for the brief NFL tenure, who knows what would have happened if he'd stayed at Miami, but given the train wreck they've been since (save one good year), I'd imagine that it's clearly more of a problem than just Saban couldn't cut it in the NFL.  

turd ferguson

September 3rd, 2012 at 12:57 AM ^

Saban did well at MSU by their standards, so I'm not sure it's fair to say that he would only succeed in the SEC. He might be one of those guys whose styles works better in college than the NFL, though. NFL players tend not to like the tough guy coach thing.

EDIT:  Also, even if you don't think he did well at MSU, there's still a sample size problem.  He's had two big SEC jobs and two big non-SEC jobs.  That's hardly enough to draw a conclusion like this.


September 3rd, 2012 at 12:47 AM ^

I think the academic standards thing really isn't relevant. Unless I'm mistaken, everyone goes through the NCAA clearinghouse. I'd be willing to bet everyone on our team doesn't have a 4.0 and a 30 on the ACT

I think he obviously has vastly better talent compared to his opposition when he's been at Bama and LSU and at this point all he has to do is babysit and Alabama's just about guaranteed to win 9+ games each year


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:06 AM ^

I think this is probably the closest to the truth at this point in time.

Success breeds success.  Right now every elite talent in the south wants to be part of Alabama's success.  The best of the best know their chances of getting exposure and a high NFL draft slot are better at Alabama than at any other school right now.

Let's also not fool ourselves into thinking Saban is just lucky.  He's known for fanatic attention to detail.  His players are focused and business-like.  They are particularly good at doing what their particular position calls for them to do.

Just telling it like it really is.

Michigan is doing the right things to get back into that kind of discussion.  Not there yet, but they're doing the right things.


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:52 AM ^

Saban isn't lucky, but he certainly isn't some mad genius or super-human teacher/tactician.  From 1987 to 2000, Florida State never lost more than 2 games and never finished lower than #4 in the AP Poll.  They won 9 straight bowl games to start that run (making a total of 11 straight bowl wins).  The first loss came in the de-facto national title game against a Florida team they'd already beaten in the regular season.  The next year they won the Sugar Bowl, the next they lost in the national title game while playing with a backup QB, and the next they won the national title with an undefeated season.

I don't think anybody is going to do anything like that ever again in college football, yet to hear most people talk Bobby Bowden is a muttering nincompoop akin to Foghorn Leghorn.  The truth is obviously somewhere in the middle but it is always the guys wearing the helmets who win the games.  Coaches tinker, teach, and help and can maybe get you an extra win every year, but they don't make a team good, bad, or mediocre except through recruiting.


September 3rd, 2012 at 7:20 AM ^

Well said. Couldn't agree more, and you can feel the process of momentum building here at Michigan right now. The same way Saban has built his aura, Hoke is building ours. Building through hard work, learning under fire, makes you confident. Give it a couple of years, Michigan will have earned the chance to be on the field with the top teams (Bama, USC) and will keep it close, and eventually win those games again. We are coming out of a down cycle right now, but on the way up, and the sky is the limit.


September 3rd, 2012 at 12:50 AM ^

The perception is that he will get you drafted high if you are an elite talent gets the recruits.  Saban is a good coach, but couldn't get talent at MSU.  I thought he said something like that himself, but i don't have a link.  I remember it from somewhere.

It's been said many times on the board that there aren't any differences between the admission requirements of the SEC and the B1G.  S

It seems that there is some bull poo going on there but there is no solid evidence for the claims.  I think it has been shown throughout the recent history of college football that if there is something going on it will eventually be the downfall of the program(SMU, Miami, ect).  It is in human nature to allow hubris and group think to blind people to consequenses.  Just root for the good guys and don't let the SECism get to you.  Michigan is moving in the right direction.

One Inch Woody…

September 3rd, 2012 at 12:54 AM ^

It's not the SEC. It's just not, not at all.

It's BAMA in particular.

No team can compare to Bama. No team in the nation is as good as they are. The rest of the SEC will get murdered by them, unless they get their act together REAL fast. Arkansas will be their only real threat, and that's really only because their quarterback might complete I dunno, 52% of his passes with only 2 picks. 

S. Carolina and Vanderbilt looked like chump-change compared to these guys. And S. Car was ranked #9! They don't even deserve to be in the top 25. Michigan State looked sophomoric even while facing a Boise State offense without Doug Martin or Kellen Moore. 

But in response.. I think it's mainly the reputation he's built up. Who knows? Maybe if Colt McCoy didn't get hurt in 2010 (?), Bama wouldn't be anywhere near where it is now... Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas don't really look to be that much better than any other team in the country.


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:12 AM ^

That's why the Alabama game at Arkansas is going to prove very interesting.

If Alabama goes in and dismantles Arkansas, then the conversation about who's the best team in the land changes instantly.  It will also help remove a bit of the stain of Michigan's showing.

I'm anticipating Alabama will go into Arkansas and take care of them pretty handily.  I think it's going to set up as another showdown between Alabama and LSU, and this time Alabama wins the season game and the SEC.  There's nobody in the SEC east that's even in this conversation.

I'm not being an Alabama homey ... it's just what I saw on Saturday night was an astonishingly good football team. 


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:16 AM ^

Saban is a master organizer and micromanager. He would make an excellent CEO. He does all of the little things well, like setting up shop at Dr. Phillips and upgrading their facilities, telling recruits to change high schools so that they'll be taken care of academically, offering recruits a one-time only scholarship (Shaq Wiggins), grayshirting, medical redshirting more players than the rest of the powerconferences combined, revoking scholarships at the last minute (at least three reported cases), offering recruit's girlfriends jobs (even if they aren't qualified), and more...

"Justin Taylor is a running back from North Atlanta High School that committed to Alabama in February. His commitment made him the seventh player to commit to Alabama for this recruiting class. Except Alabama doesn’t see it that way. To Saban and Alabama, Taylor is the 26th player committed, and that’s just one too many. So what do they want him to do? Sit a year. Not redshirt, not grayshirt, not go to a junior college, but literally sit. Stay home in Georgia and work a job, and then in January, they’ll have a spot for him with next year’s class."



While Saban is undoubtedly an excellent coach, he makes use of every gap in the rules and seems to have no values other than the win column. It's working, so more coaches are bound to imitate him unless the NCAA does something (yeah, right). 

Wolverine Devotee

September 3rd, 2012 at 1:16 AM ^

Fuck alabama, fuck the SEC, fuck everyone else who isn't Maize and Blue. Now is the time where the team needs us fans the most to stand together and make opposing teams screw up by making the stadium loud.