Editor's note: Bryant. Vaught. Jordan. Dooley. Neyland. These are just a handful of the coaches (among many others) who have come to define the Southeastern Conference due to their dynamic personalities and remarkable success on the field. But who are the top coaches roaming the sidelines of SEC schools today? Ryan Black gives his take, counting down from 14-1. Today, the series concludes as Ryan Black reveals the coach at the top of his list.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Record: *170-57-1 overall in 18 seasons at college level (9-2 in one year at Toledo in 1990; 34-24-1 in five years at Michigan State from 1995-99; 48-16 in five years at LSU from 2000-04; 79-15 in seven years at Alabama from 2007-13; Went 11-2 overall last year and 7-1 in SEC play) *NCAA adjusted record to 165-57-1, vacating five victories from 2007 season*
National championships: 4 (2003 at LSU; 2009, 2011 and 2012 at Alabama)
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SEC championships: 4 (2001 and 2003 at LSU; 2009 and 2013 at Alabama)
SEC division titles: 6 (Western Division champion at LSU from 2001-03; Western Division champion at Alabama in 2008-09 and 2012)
Four national titles.
You could stop right there and that would be enough evidence to put Saban at the top of this list. To put it in perspective, his four titles are twice as many as the combined total of the SEC's 13 other coaches. And to further the point, the four rings put him in elite company. Since the Associated Press started crowning a champion beginning in 1936, only three other coaches have won four or more national championships: Bear Bryant (six), Frank Leahy (four) and John McKay (four). As if simply winning big on the field wasn't enough, Saban has dominated on the recruiting trail. Pretty much any recruit the Crimson Tide wants, it gets. So that's the cycle: Win double-digit games nearly every season and then finish with a top five (usually better) recruiting class when national signing day rolls around.
Here's the rub, though: Saban has been so successful since taking the job in 2007 that the expectations are almost unreachable. Alabama — rightly or wrongly — is of the belief that it should be competing for the national title every season, without fail. Is a "championship or bust" mentality fair? In reality, absolutely not. But those who are unbiased observers, or those who can't stand Saban and Alabama, would likely say otherwise, pointing to the five-star prospects that dot the roster in abundance as well as the mammoth money the school shells out for its coach. (Saban recently agreed to a contract extension that will pay him $6.9 million per season. And that's before any performance bonuses come into play.)
The contract extension takes Saban through the 2021-22 season, ending on Jan. 31, 2022. Whether he sees the contract through, retires before it ends or heads back to the NFL is uncertain at this point. What isn't in doubt is Saban's place as the preeminent coach in the SEC.