Thanks to Alabama’s run to yet another national championship this past season, an old debate has once again been stirred up: Nick Saban or Bear Bryant.
Suffice to say, both head coaches, one a Hall of Famer and the other soon to be one, carry as impressive a résumé as there is in the profession.
Saban has been a head coach at the collegiate level for 25 seasons, from Toledo to Michigan State to LSU and now at ‘Bama. In that span, he’s won 191 games, seven conference championships (one MAC, six SEC) and, most importantly/impressively, five national titles.
In a coaching career that spanned 37 years, including 25 seasons in Tuscaloosa, Bryant won a record six national championships and 14 SEC titles. His 323 wins were a record upon his retirement, and are now third in FBS history behind Penn State’s Joe Paterno (409) and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (377).
The latter head coach certainly knows a thing or two about running a successful football program, and did it during both Bryant’s reign and Saban’s. During a radio interview, Bowden was asked which run has been more impressive, Bryant’s or Saban’s. And, in the end, the FSU legend went with new school over old.
“That’s a pretty good question,” Bowden said by way of al.com. “I’d say probably what Nick Saban is doing (is more impressive) because football is more balanced now. I think when coach Bryant came to Alabama in 1958, I think it was unlimited recruiting. You could sign all the kids you wanted, and he’s gonna get most of them.
“There was an old saying back in those days, ‘He’s gonna get his and he’s gonna get yours.'”
The biggest argument for Saban is what Bowden hinted around, that the current Tide head coach’s run has come with an 85-man limit on scholarships while the likes of Bryant had unlimited scholarships to hoard players and stash them on his roster. Then there is one-third of Bryant’s titled being shared, as well as two other championship seasons actually ending with a bowl loss, something that could never happen under the old BCS system or the current College Football Playoff.
And all of that’s without mentioning the fact that Saban won titles at two different schools.
While what Bryant did at Alabama is certainly legendary and deserves to be remembered that way, Bowden’s right: what Saban has accomplished is indeed more impressive than the Bear. And, really, it’s not even that close.