When Alabama visits Texas A&M Saturday, it will mark the 18th time Nick Saban has faced a former assistant. In this game, it’s Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher.
Saban has never lost to a former assistant coach, and like the previous 17 meetings, this is expected to be the same result: a dominating victory by Saban against a previous assistant.
This is Fisher’s third shot at Saban, and with a Texas A&M loss — Alabama is a 17-point favorite — Fisher will join three other former Saban assistants who’ve achieved the “hat trick” with an 0-3 mark against their old boss.
Here are the eight former Saban assistants and their records against their former head coach.
0-3 Against Saban:
Derek Dooley (Tennessee)
Jim McElwain (Colorado State, Florida)
Will Muschamp (Florida, South Carolina)
0-2 Against Saban:
Mark Dantonio (Michigan State)
Jimbo Fisher (Florida State, Texas A&M)
Kirby Smart (Georgia)
0-1 Against Saban:
Billy Napier (Louisiana)
Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee)
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Saban’s former assistants haven’t had
much any success against him because most coaches have not. Entering Saturday, Saban has won 79 percent of his games as a college coach at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU and Alabama with a record of 242-63-1.
Only 14 coaches have multiple victories against Saban, topped by Tommy Tuberville’s four wins in seven games. The former Auburn coach, who also coached at Ole Miss, Cincinnati and Texas Tech, was 3-2 against Saban during his LSU tenure and 1-1 vs. Saban’s Crimson Tide.
“It’s real complicated how to beat Nick Saban,” revealed Tuberville. “You have to have better players.”
Tuberville, who is currently running in the 2020 Republican primary for the United States Senate in Alabama, had nothing but praise for Saban’s legendary work ethic.
“I’ve never seen anyone in my life that is as focused as Nick,” said Tuberville. “It’s hard to keep that up. In my lifetime of 40 years of coaching, I have never seen anyone as focused and detailed as him.
“You would think because he’s been in it for a long time that at some point he’d lose a little of his drive, but that has not happened.”
Tuberville tops the list of the 14 coaches who have multiple victories against Saban. They are:
4 Wins Against Saban:
3 Wins Against Saban:
Lloyd Carr, Les Miles, Joe Paterno, Steve Spurrier & Joe Tiller
2 Wins Against Saban
Barry Alvarez, Hugh Freeze, Hayden Fry, Gus Malzahn, Urban Meyer, Houston Nutt, Tom Osborne & Mark Richt
During Saban’s entire 24-year college head coaching career, he’s only lost to 41 coaches.
Of those 41, nine are currently active — and that number was seven just a year ago until Les Miles and Mack Brown returned to the sidelines this season.
The nine active coaches with their number of victories against Saban: Les Miles (3), Hugh Freeze (2), Gus Malzahn (2), Dabo Swinney (2), Mack Brown (1), David Cutcliffe (1), Kirk Ferentz (1), Kevin Sumlin (1) and Kyle Whittingham (1).
If Swinney, who is 2-2 vs. Saban (including 2-1 in national title games), and his Tigers were to play and beat Alabama this postseason, he would become only the ninth coach to defeat a Saban-led team in consecutive seasons.
The eight coaches to beat Saban in consecutive seasons:
Against Saban at Michigan State:
Tom Osborne (Nebraska): 1995-96
Hayden Fry (Iowa): 1995-96
Joe Paterno (Penn State): 1995-96
Lloyd Carr (Michigan): 1996, ’97, ’98
Joe Tiller (Purdue): 1997, ’98, ’99
Against Saban at LSU:
Steve Spurrier (Florida): 2000-01
Against Saban at Alabama:
Les Miles (LSU): 2010-11
Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss): 2014-15
While it might take awhile for anyone to match Tuberville’s four victories against Saban, Tuberville believes that Saban deserves the credit for Alabama’s incredible consistency.
“When I was at Auburn (from 1999-2008), Alabama went through five coaches,” Tuberville said. “It’s different with Nick there. What I’m most amazed about Nick’s success is when you continually lose (assistant) coaches to other jobs, it’s normally going to hurt your recruiting. Those are your top salesmen.
“Take any business and lose half of your top salesmen every year and that’s going to catch up to you. But not Nick. He keeps replacing them and just keeps winning. That’s a credit to him.”