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National championship-winning football coach Nick Saban was born October 31, 1951, in Fairmont.

Saban grew up near Marion County Idamay, living in a house located behind a filling station run by his parents. Saban’s parents also owned and operated a restaurant/ice cream shop in the area. From his parents, Saban inherited a strong work ethic, often helping out at the family businesses. From his father, Nick Sr., Saban also inherited his interest in football. The elder Saban was active in the community’s Pop Warner football league; Nick Saban Memorial Field in Idamay is named for him.

Saban attended Monongah High School, where he served as class vice-president and yearbook editor, and lettered in baseball, basketball, and football. In 1968, as quarterback, Saban led the Monongah High School football team to a state championship victory over Paden City High. He graduated from Monongah High School in 1969.

Though Saban had grown up a Mountaineers fan, West Virginia University did not offer him a scholarship to play due to his small stature. He chose to attend Ohio’s Kent State, where he played football and moved from quarterback to defensive back. Saban was at Kent State on May 4, 1970, when four students were killed by National Guard troops. Though not a firsthand witness to the event, Saban had been a classmate of one of the victims. Saban married his wife Terry (also a West Virginia native) in 1971.

Following undergraduate school, Saban remained at Kent State as a graduate assistant, and then as a full-time assistant football coach. He went on to be an assistant coach at such schools as Syracuse University, the U.S. Naval Academy, Ohio State, and Michigan State. He briefly returned to West Virginia in 1978, serving two years as a defensive backs coach for the Mountaineers.

In 1990, Saban served as head coach at the University of Toledo. From 1991 to 1994, Saban served as defensive coordinator under head coach Bill Belichick for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. He returned to collegiate sports in 1995 as head coach at Michigan State University. From 2000 to 2004, he was head coach at Louisiana State University (LSU), leading LSU to a national championship victory in 2003.

In 2005, Saban returned to the NFL as head coach of the Miami Dolphins but grew frustrated with the professional game. During his two-year coaching career at Miami, he posted an unremarkable 15-17 record. In 2007, Saban was named head coach of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, whereupon he and his wife Terry relocated to Tuscaloosa. Ironically, Saban was offered the Alabama job because fellow West Virginia native Rich Rodriguez had turned it down to remain head football coach at West Virginia University.

The University of Alabama, despite its storied football history, had been in a tailspin for years. Saban quickly changed the culture and made Alabama a perennial powerhouse. During his 17-year tenure, Saban led Alabama to six national championships, in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2019. He captured nine Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships at Alabama, in addition to the two he won as head coach at LSU. He was voted the Associated Press coach of the year only twice: in 2003 with LSU and in 2008 with Alabama. He announced his retirement on January 10, 2024, shortly after losing to Michigan in a close national championship semifinal game. His career college head coaching record was 297-71-1, an .806 winning percentage over 28 seasons. His seven total national championships are a record for any college head coach, one ahead of former Alabama coach Bear Bryant.

Saban and his wife, Terry, established the Nick’s Kids Foundation in 1998 to promote educational causes. To date, the foundation has distributed more than $11 million to various organizations, funding classrooms, children’s centers, playgrounds, and Habitat for Humanity houses.

This Article was written by Jeffrey Webb

Last Revised on January 11, 2024


Sources

Monte Burke. Saban: The Making of a Coach. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Nick Saban and Brian Curtis. How Good Do You Want to Be? A Champion’s Tips on How to Lead and Succeed. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005.

Alex Scarborough. “How a 1968 high school title explains Nick Saban's legendary career.”. ESPN, November 14, 2018.

Cite This Article

Webb, Jeffrey "Nick Saban." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 11 January 2024. Web. 20 July 2024.

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