Where Do Saban And Spurrier Rank Within SEC History?
By Dan Harralson
Since 1990, the SEC has had two of its best head coaches roaming the sidelines.
When Steve Spurrier came back to his alma mater in 1990, he not only took over the reigns of Florida's football program, but he took over the conference.
A run of six SEC championships from 1991-2000 was quite remarkable considering Florida had never won one previously. Spurrier also played for the conference championship in 1992 and 1999.
When the Ole Ball Coach felt he had maxed out his Florida tenure, he went to the NFL. Spurrier's relationship, or lack there of, with athletics director Jeremy Foley was a big factor in his to the nations capital.
The two-year Washington Redskins experiment did not workout and Spurrier sat out the 2004 season – the final season for his replacement Ron Zook at Florida. Florida came open when Spurrier was available, but since the Spurrier, Foley dynamic was still icy, Spurrier provided life to another SEC program in South Carolina.
When Spurrier took over the Gamecock program in 2005, Nick Saban was in a similar situation in his first year with the Miami Dolphins.
Like Spurrier, Saban lasted only two seasons in the NFL before coming back to the conference where he became an icon. Both have won, while creating winners in bad situations at all four SEC stops. Saban created a monster in LSU — a football program that had seen plenty of mediocricity in its' past. Alabama was coming off, and still feeling the pain, of nearly receiving the death penalty. Saban was the perfect remedy to revive the Crimson Tide program with his unparraled recruiting.
Three BCS national championships and two SEC championships at Alabama later, Saban has cemented his legacy further within the Southeastern Conference.
But the glaring note is three national championships and only two conference titles for Saban at Alabama. While Spurrier has risen South Carolina out of mediocrity, the 'Ole Ball Coach does not feel Saban has won enough within the conference in seven seasons at Alabama.
"How many SECs has he won there in eight years?" Spurrier told The State reporter Josh Kendall last month in Columbia, S.C. "He's won two. He's won three nationals but he's only won two SECs in eight years. Now if you had the No. 1 recruiting class every year and so forth, I don't know if he has maxed out potentially as well as he could."
Spurrier has six SEC titles under his belt, which he is tied with Vince Dooley and Johnny Vaught. All are only behind Bear Bryant's 14 conference crowns.
General Neyland won five and Saban sits at four, but what seperates Bryant, Saban and, potentially, Spurrier is the accomplishment of winning the conference at two different schools.
Spurrier is 69, Saban will be 63 on Halloween. Spurrier may be facing the realization of knowing how important it is to win at least one more SEC championship before retiring.
The Ole Ball Coach has become the 'Old Ball Coach, but Spurrier has built a championship program in Columbia – and he knows he can win the conference before his retirement. He also knows he can beat Saban in Atlanta after posting a 5-2 career mark against him.
Spurrier will retire before Saban, and one would think Saban will coach until at least 2020. Three more SEC championships are realistic with Saban's track record, and that will put Saban at seven total – enough to be tied with Spurrier if he can get at least one at South Carolina.
To answer Spurrier's statement about Saban underachieving, Saban has not underachieved at Alabama and Spurrier has not underachieved at South Carolina.
If Spurrier would have had the luxury of the BCS system or a playoff from 1991-1997 at Florida, Spurrier probably would have backed into a national championship game like Saban is accustomed to doing, and probably would have multiple national championships.
This is why Saban and Spurrier are 2A and 2B, right behind Bear Bryant in SEC history.