TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It only took 10 years, but it was still a lot longer than most people expected him to stick around.
When University of Alabama coach Nick Saban showed up at SEC Media Days in 2016, he was no longer just considered the head coach with the most experience as he had led another league program before taking over the Crimson Tide in 2007, but had assumed the title of conference dean.
With Les Miles having been dismissed at LSU, every other SEC program had hired a new coach during the Saban era.
Most had already hired at least two since his introductory press conference, when Saban boldly stated: "We want to be a champion in everything that we do."
It sparked an unprecedented run that has exceeded everyone's wildest expectations, and continues because of one essential and indisputable fact: Saban hasn't left.
Previously, he had never stayed in one place for more than five seasons since leaving home to attend Kent State. At one point even Saban considered himself as a coach who was best at building up programs.
So there were always rumors swirling at Alabama. That Saban would never be happy. That he'd bring the Crimson Tide back to prominence and then bolt. That he'd go back to the NFL. That he was getting close to retiring.
The speculation always changed, but was never accurate.
Outside of the coach, his wife Terry, and their agent, no one knows how many opportunities have come Saban's way over this past decade. With time on his side and unparalleled success, he could have chosen any destination he wanted.
Yet he's still the head coach of the Crimson Tide. Ask him and he'll tell you he loves coaching, loves working with kids, still loves the process.
"If I had to do it over, I'd have just tried to stay in one place and establish a great program, not have all these goals and aspirations of things that eventually, you know, you weren't happy doing," Saban said in 2014 when denying rumors that he nearly departed for Texas.
"I'm very happy at Alabama. Miss Terry is very happy at Alabama. We certainly enjoy the challenges that we have there, the friends that we have established here. This is where we just choose to, you know, end our career someday."
Someday Saban will step away. He'll have done so after creating the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen, with unmatched success in ways that go way beyond a scoreboard or football field.
Even going back to his first A-Day Game, when 92,000-plus fans showed up at Bryant-Denny Stadium and some had to be turned away after capacity had been exceeded, nothing has ordinary about the Saban era it Tuscaloosa.
“It shows what kind of passion and support we have at the University of Alabama,” Saban said after that first A-Day. “It certainly makes me feel great about being here as the coach. I just hope we can continue to channel all that energy in a positive way so we can get to where we want to go and continue to build this program into something special.”
SEC Coaching Changes During Saban Era (2007-)
Arkansas: Houston Nutt (1998-2007), Reggie Herring (interim 2007), Bobby Petrino (2008-11), John L. Smith (2012), Bret Bielema (2013-17), Paul Rhoads (interim 2017), Chad Morris (2017-19), Sam Pittman (2020).
Auburn: Tommy Tuberville (1999-2008), Gene Chizik (2009-12), Gus Malzahn (2013-current).
Florida: Urban Meyer (2005-10), Will Muschamp (2011-14), D.J. Durkin (interim 2014), Jim McElwain (2015-17), Randy Shannon (interim 2017), Dan Mullen 2018-current).
Georgia: Mark Richt (2010-15), Kirby Smart (2016-current).
Kentucky: Rich Brooks (2003-09), Joker Phillips (2010-12), Mark Stoops (2013-current).
LSU: Les Miles (2005-16), Ed Orgeron (2016-current).
Ole Miss: Ed Orgeron (2005-07), Houston Nutt (2008-11), Hugh Freeze (2012-16), Matt Luke (2017-19), Lane Kiffin (2020).
Mississippi State: Sylvester Croom (2004-08), Dna Mullen (2009-17), Greg Knox (interim 2017), Joe Moorehead (2017-18).
Missouri: Gary Pinkel (2001-15), Barry Odom (2016-19), Eliah Drinkwitz (2020).
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier (2005-15), Shawn Elliott (interim 2015), Will Muschamp (2016-current).
Tennessee: Phillip Fulmer (1992-2008), Lane Kiffin (2009), Derek Dooley (2010-12), Jim Chaney (interim 2012), Butch Jones (2013-17), Brady Hoke (2017), Jeremy Pruitt (2018-current).
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin (2012-17), Jeff Banks (interim 2017), Jimbo Fisher (2018-current).
Vanderbilt: Bobby Johnson (2002-09), Robbie Caldwell (2010), James Franklin (2011-13), Derek Mason (2014-current).
This is the third story in a series that will appear before New Year's Day, counting down the top 10 Alabama football moments of the 2010-19 decade. Some information from the book "Decade of Dominance" was used.