Working for Nick Saban ain’t easy.
“He is a tough, demanding boss,” said a former assistant under Saban. “But I will say this. I learned more from him in just one year that I would have learned in five years at another place. He made me a lot better coach.”
Something Saban’s former assistants have learned the hard way: While WORKING for him is tough, BEATING him as a former assistant is damn near impossible.
You can look it up.
Saturday’s game between Texas A&M and Alabama in Tuscaloosa (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) will mark the 13th time that Saban has faced one of his former assistants. He is 12-0 in those previous games.
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“You have to admire what he has done and the consistency with which he has done it,” said Kirby Smart, who was with Saban for a decade before becoming the head coach at Georgia in 2016.
Smart almost became the first former Saban assistant to break through against his old boss but his Georgia team lost to Alabama 26-23 in overtime in the College Football Playoff national championship game last January.
Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M gets the next shot on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU for five seasons (2000-2004) and stayed in Baton Rouge when Saban left for the Miami Dolphins. Fisher left LSU after the 2006 season to become offensive coordinator at Florida State and became head coach of the Seminoles in 2010.
Fisher won a national championship at Florida State in 2013 (beating Auburn at the buzzer). He faced Saban for the first time as a head coach in the 2017 Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, losing 24-7. After the season, he took a 10-year, $75 million offer to leave Florida State and become the head coach at Texas A&M.
On Sept. 8 Fisher’s Aggies took No. 2 Clemson to the wire before losing 28-26. Saban said it is clear that Texas A&M is getting better in a hurry under Fisher.
“Everybody who takes over a program is working hard to establish the principles and values of that organization,” Saban said Monday. “Jimbo has obviously done a great job with that.”
Both men grew up in West Virginia but really didn’t know each other until Saban, who had just become head coach at LSU, hired Fisher away from Cincinnati in 2000. Fisher jumped at the offer.
“I knew he (Saban) was going to be successful,” Fisher told The Houston Chronicle. “And I was hoping to be head coach.”
So, can Fisher be the first former Saban assistant to break through as a head coach?
The boys in Vegas don’t think so as they have installed Alabama as a 27-point favorite over the Aggies.
And keep this in mind: With both Saban and Fisher being in the SEC West, they’ll meet annually. But three other former Saban assistants—Smart (Georgia), Will Muschamp (South Carolina), and Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee) are in the SEC East. Tennessee plays Alabama every season. So as long as Saban is the head coach at Alabama—and he shows no signs of slowing down—we’re going to see a bunch of these Teacher vs. Pupil games.
Here is a breakdown of how former assistants have fared against Nick Saban:
Mark Dantonio…..Michigan St…….0-2
Jimbo Fisher……….Florida St………..0-1