FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — By the time you read this, Nick Saban will already be working on how to beat your team next year.
The most-driven man in the most-driven profession in sports allowed himself 24 hours. Twenty-four hours to celebrate the surgical precision with which his Alabama team applied the wrecking ball to Notre Dame’s awoken echoes of glory in a 42-14 yawner of a BCS National Championship Game.
Someone asked Saban why he looked so serious mere moments after the Crimson Tide became the first team to repeat as champions in the BCS era, and just the third to win three of four national titles in any era.
“Whether I look it or not, I’m happy as hell,” Saban replied with a deadpan look.
Eventually, he broke into a smile or two. But behind the smile was a brain already plotting how to build and motivate toward what once seemed impossible:
A third straight national title. In this, the modern era of college football, when parity is as pervasive as uncomfortable non sequiturs from Brent Musberger.
Saban began the plotting for this year’s championship mere hours after the Tide smothered LSU like gravy on rice in last year’s national championship game in New Orleans.
“The Process,” like a shark, never stops moving forward.
“Two days after we beat LSU last year, we set a goal to be a team to accomplish something of significance,” Saban said.
Wow. Two whole days.
This was probably Saban’s least dominant championship team. But it was far superior to Notre Dame, which was no match for Alabama’s bullying physicality and blinding speed — or the preparation from its coach.
Love him, loathe him, but Saban is one of the best ever to coach the college game. Yes, he failed here in South Florida in two brief seasons with the Miami Dolphins, but he got the NFL out of his system. His dictatorial style is much better suited to the college game, and has made him one of four coaches ever to win four national titles in the wire service poll era (since 1936). The others: Bama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant, Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy and USC’s John McKay.
Maybe Saban is better, better even — dare we say it? — than the sainted Bryant, who won a record six titles. Bryant never had to deal with 85 scholarships, players going early to the NFL, or an SEC stacked with six other ranked teams.
Bryant also never had to beat Saban.
Wishful thinking runs deep through Bryant’s old conference that Saban will go back to the NFL or slide over to Texas for millions of its boosters’ oil money because Mack Brown’s national rankings aren’t matching his recruiting rankings.
Every indication here is Saban is staying put. At 61, the NFL itch is scratched. And Texas, according Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls who was here covering the BCS, isn’t about to help Mack pack. Not this year, anyway.
So prepare for more of Saban, and for Alabama starting next season at No. 1.