Perhaps no college football program in the country has higher standards than those of the Alabama Crimson Tide and coach Nick Saban.
The standard is winning a national championship. And for the last two years, the Tide have no met that standard.
Those relative struggles, coupled with the ascendance of SEC rival Georgia, appear to have the 71-year-old Saban a little hot under the collar.
He expressed some of that frustration recently when discussing the SEC’s plan to move from an 8-game to a 9-game conference schedule.
Saban has long been supportive of the move.
Nick Saban on 9 SEC league games: “I’ve always been for playing more conference games, eliminating some of these games that fans, players, supporters are not really interested in. What is best model? That’s the issue. Are other conferences going to play more conference games?"
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) May 31, 2022
But it came with a catch. As part of the schedule change, each SEC team will now face three permanent opponents. The other six opponents will rotate on a year-to-year basis.
Nick Saban Calls Out SEC Over Alabama’s Permanent Rivalry Games
Alabama’s proposed permanent opponents are rivals Auburn, LSU and Tennessee, three of the conference’s premier programs.
That didn’t sit well with Saban.
“I’ve always been an advocate for playing more [conference] games. But if you play more games, I think you have to get the three fixed [opponents] right. They’re giving us Tennessee, Auburn and LSU. I don’t know how they come to that [decision],” he told Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellinger.
Saban’s main gripe appears to be with the methodology for determining fixed opponents. The conference used a 10-year success metric to attempt to balance the schedules. But he argues that programs like Tennessee have changed significantly in recent years.
“They said they did a 10-year whatever,” the coach says. “Well, some of those years, Tennessee wasn’t as good as they’ve been in the previous 10 years, but now they are as good as they used to be before those 10 years.
“We got three teams and two of them are in the top 10 and the other is in the top 10 a lot,” Saban adds. “Look historically over a 25-year history, and the three best teams in the East are Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. You look historically at 25 years, Alabama, LSU and Auburn are the three best teams in the West. So we’re playing them all.” – via Sports Illustrated
Saban’s gripes are valid. Though with the College Football Playoff set to expand from four teams to 12 in 2024-25, it may not matter.
The Crimson Tide will be favored to make the playoff in most every year. And with a more sturdy schedule, it could now add key victories to help seeding.
But it’s easy to see why he may have preferred they play Auburn, Vanderbilt and Missouri.