As Nick Saban enters his 16th season at Alabama, he’s not only the dean of the league’s coaches by length of tenure and amount of success, but he’s also the oldest by nearly a decade. Saban, 70, is one of just two septuagenarians in the FBS ranks, which naturally leads to questions about when he’ll retire and what keeps him going.
But as the Crimson Tide took their turn at SEC Media Days on Tuesday, the seven-time national champion offered a sharp dose of clarity about his mindset when it comes to the retirement question. Saban also clapped back at opposing coaches who may be trying to use his age against him in recruiting.
“I love my job. I love it,” Saban said on the SEC Network set. “I love the relationships with the players, I love the competition, the preparation for the games. I just love it. I wish you all would ask all the other coaches who come up here — because they tell the recruits I’m going to retire — ask them how they know I’m going to retire when all I think about is what am I going to do if I retire, because I love what I’m doing now. So how am I going to be happy not coaching?”
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, 61, is the SEC’s next-oldest coach behind Saban. Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, 55, is second behind Saban in terms of tenure as he enters his 10th season in the league. From a national standpoint, North Carolina coach Mack Brown, 70, enters the 2022 season as the oldest FBS head coach with only about two months of seniority on Saban.
However, there is a precedent of legendary coaches continuing on through their 70s. Bobby Bowden was 80 when he retired from Florida State after the 2009 season, while Joe Paterno was 84 when he retired from Penn State in 2011. If Saban’s quippy response Tuesday was any condition, those expecting an imminent retirement may be jumping the gun.