Welcome to the new era of Alabama football! It’s an unprecedented time in Alabama football history and someday historians will talk about Bama’s championship run in reverent tones. The ridiculous amount of success that Nick Saban is enjoying at Alabama will be honored more than the Gipper’s days at Notre Dame. Bud Wilkinson, Tom Osborne, Bobby Dodd, and even Bear Bryant will have to see their glory days pushed to the side as Saban’s Tide assaults the college football record books. Don’t look now but Alabama is positioned to win a fourth championship in five years – an unthinkable feat in today’s college football era!
So, yeah, that’s what you think of when you think of Saban’s successes at Alabama – on the football field success. I mean, the Tide is nearly unstoppable. But, off the field Saban is unquestionably having more success than any coach in America and that is the kind of thing that Saban is most proud of. Winning on the field lasts a day. Winning in the classroom lasts a lifetime. And, winning in the classroom has become as much of Saban’s calling card as his championships.
A few weeks ago, Alabama’s football team was once again honored with the NCAA Division I Public Recognition award which salutes the schools in the top 10 percent of the APR schools. When looking at APR scores as they relate to the BCS rankings, Alabama was second only to Stanford in overall success on and off the football field. Think about that. Alabama and Stanford in the same sentence.
Alabama was the only SEC school to win the Public Recognition award and Bama and Duke were the only Division I schools in the entire country to earn the award in both football and basketball. Wow. Alabama and Duke…and Stanford – meet the academic elite of Division I sports!
What does this have to do with Saban? In 2004-05, Alabama’s APR score was 916 – a number that is considered to be low. This past season the Tide scored a 978, up 8 points from last year! How did he do this? In 2008-9 the Crimson Tide football team had 22 players on the SEC honor roll. In 2010-11, that number swelled to 38. Last year, Bama’s placed 29 players on the honor roll ranking only behind Georgia (38) and Vandy (36).
It’s no coincidence that Saban’s players are having such success in the classroom, either.
Saban has always focused on getting the most from his players, both on the field and in the classroom and I believe it’s one of the main reasons he came back to college football. Saban values an education and takes tremendous pride in helping young men be as good as they can be when their football careers are over. During his time at LSU, Saban had 84 Academic all-SEC honorees, including 25 from his 2003 national championship squad. Saban demanded an academic commitment from his players but he also demanded it from Louisiana State University. Saban spearheaded the fund-raising ($15 million) needed for LSU to build a new academic center for all of their Tiger student athletes and the University quickly built it.
While schools cannot pay their athletes, many say the greatest gift these players can receive is an education that will benefit them a lifetime. Saying that is not just lip service to Coach Saban.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “We pride ourselves on having a great program where we do a good job of personal development with our players. The thing that’s most important about what our players do while they’re at the University of Alabama is graduate from school and develop a career off the field. To see that we’re one of the however many teams in the country that have one of the highest APRs, I think that speaks volumes for the commitment that we have to academics and the standard of excellence to help our players have the best opportunity to graduate.”
So, while you enjoy Alabama’s historic march thru college football history keep in mind that the kids working hard on Saturdays are also busting it Monday thru Friday, as well. It’s never been a better time to be an Alabama fan….or a Bama athlete.