Alabama football coach Nick Saban demands the kind of excellence that could benefit the entire state.
It would surprise no one if Alabama’s newest football coaching legend has already dismissed Monday’s BCS national championship title as old news.
We can imagine Nick Saban back in the football laboratory concocting the contents of next year’s team, slightly annoyed by the noisy celebration outside his door.
His obsessive quest for excellence serves as inspiration for a state that doesn’t often fare well on the national and international stage when it comes to education, health, economic well-being and overall reputation.
The results of Saban’s efforts are a point of growing pride. So, perhaps, the coach can forgive much of the rest of the state as it celebrates a little longer.
Remarkably, Alabama and Auburn have won the last four BCS National Championship Games. Saban-coached Crimson Tide teams have claimed three of those titles.
The Alabama championship teams of 2009 and 2011 relied heavily on their smothering defenses to snuff out opponents. 2012 was a bit different.
Despite losing a stable of talented starters from the 2011 squad, Saban managed to mold a group that included inexperienced youngsters into a mostly solid defense. He also coached a balanced offensive attack that may have been one of Alabama’s best in recent history. When opposing teams tried to plug the running game, they often got burned by the passing game, and vice versa.
Monday night’s 42-14 victory over No. 1 Notre Dame looked almost too easy. By halftime, most hope had vanished for Irish fans and, perhaps, ESPN executives. When asked how his team could rebound in the second half, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly quipped that maybe Alabama wouldn’t return from the locker room.
After 15 claimed national championships at Alabama, adding a new title has become a ritual akin to changing the sticker on a car tag every year.
But the perception that a national championship — or a single victory — comes easy is not accurate. Excellence never comes easy.
It requires study, planning, talent, willingness to listen and learn, dedication, tireless work, skill and cooperation. It requires going after what you want and working with what you have.
Saban has built a system around those concepts and inspired his players to embrace them.
It is a model that other leaders would do well to adopt if they want to make Alabama No. 1 in more than football.