Water is wet, the national debt is high, and Nick Saban is the best coach in college football.
Some things just ARE. To debate them goes beyond futility and is simply folly.
What brings this to mind in the college football season equinox is that Athlon Sports just released its annual ranking of coaches. In a revelation as shocking as Pete Rose's gambling confession, Saban topped two of Athlon's lists: No. 1 in the SEC and in the nation.
It didn't take compiling a list to validate Saban's standing among his peers. Three national championships in his past seven college seasons pretty much eliminates any debate.
Still, we have five months before the season kicks off, so we might as well dissect it. Besides, what else is there to do, other than lament about the Braves anemic offense?
But first, in order to entertain any intelligent argument, we need to understand just what role the head coach serves. Ultimately, a head coach is judged on wins and losses. But wins and losses are merely the byproduct of everything that goes into being a great coach.
There are many good coaches but few great ones. A great coach can win anywhere. To be sure, some schools have more limitations than others. Bear Bryant won at Maryland and Kentucky, at a time when football was merely an appetizer to basketball season. He won bigger at Texas A&M and might have changed the course of history in Texas football had he stayed. Instead, he returned to Alabama, his alma mater, and changed the course of history in the SEC.
In the SEC, there was Bryant, then there was everybody else.
About 20 years ago, I was chatting with Pat Dye at a golf tournament when the topic turned to Bryant. Conventional wisdom at the time held that no coach could dominate a conference the way Bryant dominated the SEC with tighter scholarship limitations and intense media and public scrutiny. I asked Dye how Bryant would do.
"Oh," Dye said, "he'd whoop 'em all like a bunch of school chillen."
Saban is the only great coach in the SEC today, and maybe the only great coach in all of college football today. Yeah, he can be moody, petty and gratuitously curt when dealing with the media. But here's the undeniably truth. In the SEC, there's Saban, then there's everybody else.
The debate is in sorting out "everybody else." Granted, this arbitrary list means about as much as a Tiger Woods apology. Still, it's interesting among local fans because Athlon has Georgia's Mark Richt at No. 4 in the SEC and 17th nationally. It has Auburn's Gene Chizik at No. 9 in the SEC and unranked nationally.
Whether Chizik warrants such a low placement is questionable. But what it does is reinforce the notion -- recently proposed in this space, to the disdain of many Auburn fans -- that as Chizik enters his fourth season at Auburn and has a national championship on his resume, we still don't know what to make of him.
Still, the same could be said of Mississippi State's Dan Mullen (fifth), Missouri's Gary Pinkel (seventh) and Vanderbilt's James Franklin (eighth).
So taking Mississippi State and Vanderbilt to bowl games ranks ahead of winning a national championship?
The only coaches behind Chizik are those who are even more unproven: Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Florida's Will Muschamp, Tennessee's Derek Dooley, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Kentucky's Joker Phillips.
Athlon had Arkansas's Bobby Petrino second, just ahead of South Carolina's Steve Spurrier. In their defense, this lofty rating came before HarleyGate, which could lead to Petrino's dismissal. Even so, Petrino's character is questionable, and therefore so is his ability to lead long term.
My order at the top would be: 1) Saban; 2) Spurrier; 3) Richt; 4) Pinkel.
After that, it's a grab bag. Mullen has received a ton of credit for making Mississippi State competitive. But let's see what he does over the next few years with his own players. I'll take Chizik over the rest of the bunch.
Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org