Wrapping up Tale of the Coaching Tape

Wrapping up Tale of the Coaching Tape

GOAT Watch: The Nick Saban Legacy Tracker

With his sixth national title at Alabama, and seventh overall, Nick Saban hasn't just secured greatest of all time status in college football, but he's pulling away from the field
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In 2019, BamaCentral compiled the award-winning series "Tale of the Coaching Tape," which as part of the 150th anniversary celebration compared Nick Saban’s numbers with 25 of the best coaches the sport has ever known.

What we found, to the surprise of no one, was that there really was no comparison. In terms of accomplishments, Saban clearly stands out in college football history. 

Since then, Alabama has won another national title, more recruiting titles and continued to dominate the NFL draft in unparalleled fashion. 

It dawned on us that not only do the numbers need to be updated, but required the equivalent of a tracker regarding Saban's accomplishments. 

He's still raising the bar. 

So welcome to the Saban GOAT (greatest of all-time) watch, where we'll keep compiling and updating his numbers and accomplishments. 

It begins with ... 

• National championships: Saban stands alone with seven, while Paul W. Bryant has six (and was involved in more split titles).

For his career, Saban is averaging a national championship every 3.57 season he’s been a head coach (Toledo and Michigan State included). The next best averages in history are Frank Leahy and Knute Rockne tied at one every 4.3 seasons, and John McKay at 5.3.

• Wins: Saban has a long way to go if he wants to try and catch Joe Paterno with 409, but he's in the top 10 at the Division I level, and heading into the 2021 season just four wins shy of seventh (Mack Brown with 259).  

Moreover, he’s the only coach during the modern era of college football to be averaging 10 wins a season.

• Recruiting: There’s no one near Saban in terms of recruiting rankings, which are still a relatively new phenomenon. Still, it might be a long, long time before anyone else can claim to win seven straight recruiting titles, or 11 out of 14. 

Dynasty: With six titles between 2009 and 2020, Alabama is still in the midst of the greatest dynasty the sport has ever season. 

All-Americans: In 2017, Saban blew past Paterno for the most consensus All-Americans in history, and he's only been adding to it since. 

First-round draft picks: With six in 2021, which tied the record for most in a single NFL draft, Saban was up to 44 overall, and that didn't include players he recruited and helped develop at Michigan State and LSU who went on to be first-round picks more than a year after the coach moved on. Next on the all-time list are Paterno (33) and Bobby Bowden (32). 

Players in the NFL: When the NFL held its 2020 kickoff weekend, which is the only time it does an official roster breakdown because they’re otherwise always in flux, Alabama had 53 former players who were active. The key word there is active, because the previous year it was 56, and some players opted to sit out the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, it still led all schools. 

Wins against teams ranked No. 1: Saban has the most in history with seven. No one else has more than four. That statistic is ever more remarkable when you factor in all the weeks Alabama has been ranked No. 1. Speaking of which ... 

Fixture at No. 1: Saban has coached the most games as the Associated Press poll’s No. 1 team, 87.

Top 5: Saban has the most all-time wins against top-5 teams with 26, and the best winning percentage all-time (.650). Following Saban on the all-time victory list are Bobby Bowden (18/.378 winning percentage), Barry Switzer (15/.516), Woody Hayes (15/.516), Steve Spurrier (15/.429) and Lou Holtz (15/.419).

Top 25: With the 2020 national title, Saban notched career win No. 90 against a ranked opponent, and No. 67 with the Crimson Tide. Joe Paterno is second on the all-time list (86), followed by Bobby Bowden (82) and Paul “Bear” Bryant (66).

Wins against unranked opponents: The streak is up to 98 straight victories, the longest in Bowl Subdivision history. The previous record was 72 games, shared by Miami (Fla.) (1984-95) and Florida (1989- 2000). 

The Legacy Continues to Grow





Consensus national titles 


Top 5 finishes


Top 25 finishes


Overall record


Winning percentage


Losing seasons


CFP/Bowl record


CFP/Bowl percentage


Conference titles


Conference record


Consensus All-Americans 


First-round draft picks  


Record against ranked teams


Winning percentage against ranked teams


Record against top 10 teams 


Winning percentage against top 10 teams


Ratio: National title seasons

One every 3.57 seasons

Ratio: Consensus All-Americans

1.88 every season 

Ratio: First round draft picks 

1.76 every season 

Average wins vs. ranked teams 

3.6 each season 

Wins over top 10 teams per year  

1.8 per season 

Revenge: Saban has endured 23 losses at Alabama. During the 21 times the Crimson Tide had an opportunity to face the team again its gone 19-2 in the rematches. The only two times the Crimson Tide has fallen in back-to-back games against the same opponent is LSU (2010-2011) and Ole Miss (2014-2015).

Non-conference domination: Saban is 93-20 (.823) career mark against non-conference opponents, including 62-7 (.899) record at Alabama.

Big Ten edge: Saban has coached 50 games against a Big Ten opponent and is 32-17-1 (.650). That record includes a 23-15-1 mark at Michigan State, a 1-1 record at LSU and an 8-1 record at Alabama.

• The stat that will likely never be matched, Part I: The Crimson Tide has been No. 1 at some point of every season since 2008. The previous longest streak was seven years by Miami (1986-92).

The stat that will likely never be matched, Part II: Since the 2008 season, Alabama has played in 163 of 166 regular season games that have had national championship implications. The three exceptions were all in 2010.

Saban is 23-0 against his former assistant coaches 

This is during the Nick Saban era at Alabama (since 2007):

Saban vs. Mark Dantonio (2-0)
2011: Alabama 49, Michigan State 7
2015: Alabama 38, Michigan State 0
Total: 87-7

Saban vs. Derek Dooley (3-0)
2010: Alabama 41, Tennessee 10
2011: Alabama 37, Tennessee 6
2012: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13
Total: 122-29

Saban vs. Jimbo Fisher (4-0) 
2017: Alabama 24, Florida State 7
2018: Alabama 45, Texas A&M 23
2019: Alabama 47, Texas A&M 28
2020: Alabama 52, Texas A&M 24
Total: 144-75

Saban vs. Lane Kiffin (1-0)
2020: Alabama 63, Ole Miss 48
Total: 63-48

Saban vs. Jim McElwain (3-0)
2013: Alabama 31, Colorado State 6
2015: Alabama 29, Florida 15
2016: Alabama 54, Florida 16
Total: 114-37

Saban vs. Will Muschamp (3-0)
2011: Alabama 38, Florida 10
2014: Alabama 42, Florida 21
2019: Alabama 47, South Carolina 23
Total: 127-54

Saban vs. Billy Napier (1-0)
2018: Alabama 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 14
Total: 56-14

Saban vs. Jeremy Pruitt (3-0)
2018: Alabama 58, Tennessee 21
2019: Alabama 35, Tennessee 13
2020: Alabama 48, Tennessee 17
Total: 141-51

Saban vs. Kirby Smart (3-0)
2018: Alabama 26, Georgia 23
2018: Alabama 35, Georgia 28
2020: Alabama 41, Georgia 24
Total: 102-75

Overall record: 23-0

Total points: 980-397

Average score: 43.6-17.3

The Saban legacy tracker will remain a fixture on The Saban Files, and be regularly updated. 

In 2019, BamaCentral compiled the award-winning series "Tale of the Coaching Tape," which as part of the 150th anniversary celebration compared Nick Saban’s numbers with 25 of the best coaches the sport has ever known.

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