Nick Saban became the 31st head coach of the LSU Tigers on November 30, 1999, after five years as head coach at Michigan State. Saban's first four years at LSU have produced a 39-13 overall mark, which included a school-record 13-1 mark and a No. 1 national ranking in 2003. In addition, Saban was named the Associated Press National Coach of the Year as well as being the recipient for the Bear Bryant Award and the Eddie Robinson Award in 2003.
Saban's 39 wins are the most-ever by an LSU coach in four years and he joins Paul Dietzel as the only two coaches in school history to have multiple 10-win seasons (both have done it twice). Saban, along with Dietzel and Bernie Moore, are also the only coaches in LSU history to win more than one SEC title, with each doing it two times.
The 2003 Tigers stormed their way to the national title with a remarkable defense, one that ranked first in the nation in points per game (11.0) and total defense (252.0 yards per game), while also holding 13 of the 14 opponents to fewer than 20 points. The defense scored a school-record seven touchdowns, including the game-winning points on a Marcus Spears interception return against Oklahoma in the Nokia Sugar Bowl.
While the defense was holding teams at bay, the Tiger offense was spectacular in its own right, scoring a school-record 475 points and averaging 33.9 points per game. The Tiger offense, behind the play of quarterback Matt Mauck, running back Justin Vincent and wide receivers Michael Clayton, Devery Henderson and Skyler Green, set the school standard for passing touchdowns (30), offensive touchdowns (56), completed passes (255) and first downs (298) and total yards (5,857).
Using the approach of taking it one game at a time and focusing on "what is" rather than "what was", the Tigers ran the table the final six weeks of the regular season, dominating opponents on both sides of the ball. After a 19-7 setback to Florida on Oct. 11, the Tigers won their final six games by an average score of 35 to 10. Only Ole Miss came within a touchdown of the Tigers during that 6-game stretch, a run that included a 31-7 win over Auburn, a 27-3 victory over Alabama and a 55-24 victory over Arkansas. LSU stamped its ticket to the BCS National Championship game with a dominating 34-13 win over Georgia in the SEC title game, marking the second conference championship in three years for the Tigers.
The Tigers put an end to its magical season with another dominating defensive effort against a high-powered Oklahoma team in the Sugar Bowl.The Tigers held the Sooners to only 154 yards of offense and just 54 yards rushing in the 21-14 victory in the Sugar Bowl.
To fully appreciate the accomplishments of the 2003 Tigers, you have to go back to the 2000 season, a year in which Saban's impact was felt immediately as he guided a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons to an 8-4 mark and a win over 15th-ranked Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl to rekindle the fire of a proud football tradition in Baton Rouge.
Among the wins in 2000 for the Tigers were overtime victories over Tennessee, Mississippi State and Alabama as well as a road win over Ole Miss. It was those wins, along with the victory over Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl, that gave the Tigers the confidence that they could indeed win big games, while setting the stage for what has been the best four-year stretch in LSU football history.
Saban and the Tigers seemed to ride the momentum set with the 2000 Peach Bowl into 2001 as he led LSU to the school's first outright SEC title since 1986 with a 31-20 win over second-ranked Tennessee in the SEC Championship game. The Tigers closed out their 10-3 campaign in 2001 with a 47-34 thrashing of Big 10 Champion Illinois in the Sugar Bowl.
A year after losing two of the most prolific offensive players in school history in quarterback Rohan Davey and wide receiver Josh Reed, Saban used a tenacious defense coupled with a steady offense to lead the 2002 Tigers to an 8-5 overall mark and the school's second straight appearance in a New Year's Day bowl. LSU scored a school-record 30 or more points in six straight games in 2002, while the Tiger defense held the opposition to less than 275 yards in each of the first six games of the year.
A trademark of Saban-coached teams has been their ability to overcome adversity and still effectively perform on the field. In 2001, the Tigers had to overcome the loss of Davey and running back LaBrandon Toefield in the SEC Championship game, while in 2002 LSU prevailed despite losing starting quarterback Mauck midway through the season.
Beating Tennessee to win the league title in 2001 is one thing, but the fashion in which Saban and the Tigers did so speaks volumes on the impact he has had on his squads. Playing without two of their offensive standouts in Davey and Toefield, not only did the Tigers respond to Saban's challenge to step up, but they were dominant, outscoring the highpowered Vol offense 21-3 in the second half.
A year later, LSU found itself in a similar situation, losing three starters - Mauck, Toefield and free safety Damien James - in consecutive weeks. LSU overcame that adversity and found itself heading into the final week of the 2002 season with a chance at reaching the SEC Championship game. Only a last-minute comeback by Arkansas kept the Tigers from winning its second consecutive SEC Western Division title and participating in the league's championship game.
Losing players such as Mauck, Davey and Toefield and still finding a way to be successful on the field has been a trademark of Saban-coached teams. Teaching the players to trust and believe in each other is a characteristic that Saban has branded on his squads. The philosophy of "out of yourself and into the team" is something that Saban instills on a daily basis into his squad. He also preaches to his teams to play for 60 minutes, to become a dominant team on every play of every game, and not worry about what the scoreboard reads. The players respond.
That couldn't have been more true than in 2002 when Marcus Randall connected with Devery Henderson on a 75- yard touchdown pass, dubbed the "Bluegrass Miracle", as time expired gave the Tigers an unlikely 33-30 win over Kentucky in one of the wildest finishes to a football game in LSU history.
In 2003, the Tigers came back to beat Ole Miss even though the Rebels intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown on LSU's first offensive play of the game. The Tigers also regrouped and mounted a last-minute touchdown drive to beat Georgia in September, moments after the Bulldogs scored on a 93-yard pass to tie the game at 10-10 late in the fourth quarter. Two moments that again prove that despite the adversity, LSU now has the mentality to overcome the situation and still have success.
Prior to his arrival at LSU for the 2000 season, Saban led his final Spartan team in 1999 to a No. 7 ranking in the nation and became the first Michigan State squad to win 10 games in one season in 34 years.
Saban's 1999 Michigan State team defeated Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State all in the same year for the first time since 1965 and recorded six wins at home for the first time since the 1912 season.
Saban has long been revered in football coaching circles as one of the keen minds of the game, having coached under some of the best football technicians in the country on both the college and professional levels.
He built his reputation as an assistant coach, but as a head coach he has shown the ability to put together a total program, one that produces big numbers on both sides of the football while stressing discipline and responsibility off the field.
"He's a first-rate person and he's a marvelous football coach," said Bill Polian, the president of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, who is considered one of the premier minds in professional football. "He brings all the right values to the position and to the job. He believes in an exciting and up-tempo offense and yet his teams are always terrifically sound and very physical."
Saban's background in football is rich and varied. He coached in the NFL under Bill Belichick at Cleveland and under Jerry Glanville at Houston. He is a prot?g? of George Perles at Michigan State and Earle Bruce at Ohio State. He got his start under venerable Washington coach Don James as a graduate assistant at Kent State.
"No-nonsense" is one description of his style of coaching, but consistent and exacting might be more precise. "Hard work" can be attached to any successful program, but also working smart is a trademark of Saban-coached teams. The keys to Saban's success are founded on aggressive and disciplined leadership and a philosophy of personal responsibility both on the football field and in the classroom.
"Basically, if anybody doesn't want to work hard or be committed to the way he's committed, then they're going to have a problem with him," said Belichick, coach of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. "Now, if they like to work, they won't have any problems at all."
Saban is a communicator who gets the best out of his players, a coach who can guarantee that a player willing to dedicate himself to the program will maximize his talents. "Instead of looking at the overall picture, he gives his players something they can really lash their teeth into, which allows them to play more aggressively," said Dean Pees, the head coach at Kent State who served as a defensive coordinator under Saban. "There are a lot of guys who can draw up defenses in the dirt and draw X's and O's. The question is what little things can you find to help each player play his position? That's one thing Nick is good at."
Saban has a career win-loss record of 82-39-1 for a winning percentage of .676, a total that includes five years as head coach at Michigan State (1995-99), four seasons at LSU and one year at Toledo (1990). He also has extensive experience in the NFL, having coached the secondary of the Houston Oilers for two seasons (1988- 89) and having served as defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns for four seasons (1991-94).
During his five-year tenure as head coach at Michigan State, Saban tutored four first-team All-Americans and 10 NFL draft picks. While at LSU, Saban has produced six first- eam All-Americans and the Tigers have had 18 NFL Draft picks.
The 52-year-old Saban returned to Michigan State following four seasons as the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator from 1991-94. The Browns went from allowing the most points in the NFL prior to Saban's arrival to allowing the fewest points in 1994. His defensive unit allowed a league-low 21 touchdowns and 204 points in 1994, the sixth-fewest points surrendered in NFL history at the time.
Saban previously served as head coach at the University of Toledo where he guided the Rockets to a 9-2 overall record in 1990, including a share of the Mid-America Conference title at 7-1. The Rockets ranked among the NCAA leaders in both total defense (12th at 284.8 yards) and scoring defense (16th at 16.2 points). In his rookie season as a head coach, Toledo missed posting an undefeated record by a mere five points.
He began his first stint in the NFL with the Houston Oilers as the secondary coach from 1988-89. The Oilers ranked among the AFC leaders in interceptions in both 1988 (tied for second with 22) and 1989 (fourth with 21).
As secondary coach and defensive coordinator, Saban played an integral part in helping Michigan State to three postseason bowl appearances from 1983-87, including a Big Ten championship in 1987 and a 20-17 triumph over Southern California in the 1988 Rose Bowl. The Spartans led the nation in rushing defense in 1987, allowing only 61.2 yards per game, and ranked second in scoring defense, permitting 12.4 points.
His college coaching credits also include stops at the U.S. Naval Academy (1982), Ohio State (1980-81),West Virginia (1978-79), Syracuse (1977) and Kent State (1975-76). While coaching the secondary at Ohio State, he helped produce four NFL draft choices.
He began his coaching career in 1973 as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Kent State. A defensive back for the Golden Flashes from 1970-72, Saban played in the 1972 Tangerine Bowl against Tampa. He also picked up two letters as a shortstop on the Kent State baseball team.
Born October 31, 1951, in Fairmont,W.V., Saban earned his bachelor's degree in business from Kent State in 1973 and his master's in sports administration in 1975. Saban, who is an avid golfer, co-authored "Tiger Turnaround" in 2001, a 128-page book documenting his first two years in Baton Rouge.
He and his wife, the former Terry Constable of Fairmont, W.V., have two children, Nicholas and Kristen.
The Saban File
FULL NAME: Nick Lou Saban
BORN: Oct. 31, 1951
BIRTHPLACE: Fairmont, W. Va.
WIFE: Terry Constable of Fairmont, W. Va.
WEDDING DAY: Dec. 18, 1971
CHILDREN: Nicholas and Kristen
1973-74 Grad. Asst. Coach Kent State
1975-76 Linebackers Coach Kent State
1977 Outside LB Coach Syracuse
1978-79 Secondary Coach West Virginia
1980-81 Secondary Coach Ohio State
1982 Secondary Coach Navy
1983-87 Secondary Coach/ Michigan State Def. Coordinator
1988-89 Secondary Coach Oilers (NFL)
1990 Head Coach Toledo
1991-94 Def. Coordinator Browns (NFL)
1995-99 Head Coach Michigan State
2000- Head Coach LSU
HIGH SCHOOL: Monongah (W.V.) HS, 1969
COLLEGE: Kent State, 1973 (business)
MASTERS: Kent State, 1975 (sports admin.)
Year-by-Year with Nick Saban
YEAR SCHOOL RECORD CONFERENCE VS. TOP 25 TEAMS
1990 Toledo 9-2 7-1 (MAC) 0-0
1995 Michigan State 6-5-1 4-3-1 (Big 10) 1-2
1996 Michigan State 6-6 5-3 (Big 10) 0-3
1997 Michigan State 7-5 4-4 (Big 10) 2-4
1998 Michigan State 6-6 4-4 (Big 10) 2-3
1999 Michigan State 9-2 6-2 (Big 10) 4-2
2000 LSU 8-4 5-3 (SEC) 3-2
2001 LSU 10-3 5-3 (SEC) 4-2
2002 LSU 8-5 5-3 (SEC) 1-3
2003 LSU 13-1 7-1 (SEC) 5-0
TOTALS (10 years) 82-39-1 52-27 22-21
LSU record (4 years) 39-13 22-10 13-7
Michigan St. record (5 years) 34-24-1 23-16-1 9-11
Toledo record (1 year) 9-2 7-1 0-0
Saban vs. All Opponents
Alabama . . . . . . . . . . . . .3-1
Ala.-Birmingham . . . . .0-1
Arkansas . . . . . . . . . . . .2-2
Arkansas State . . . . . .1-0
Auburn . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2-2
Ball State . . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Boston College . . . . . . .1-0
Bowling Green . . . . . . .1-0
Central Michigan . . . . .1-1
Colorado State . . . . . . .0-1
Eastern Michigan . . . .3-0
Florida . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-3
Georgia . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2-0
Georgia Tech . . . . . . . . .1-0
Houston . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Illinois . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-0
Indiana . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4-0
Iowa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-2
Kent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Kentucky . . . . . . . . . . . .3-0
LSU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0-1
Louisiana-Lafayette . .1-0
Louisiana-Monroe . . .1-0
Louisiana Tech . . . . . . .1-0
Louisville . . . . . . . . . . . .1-1
Memphis . . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Miami (Ohio) . . . . . . . .2-0
Michigan . . . . . . . . . . . .2-3
Middle Tennessee . . . .1-0
Minnesota . . . . . . . . . . .3-1
Mississippi State . . . . .4-0
Navy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0-1
Nebraska . . . . . . . . . . . .0-2
Northern Illinois . . . . .1-0
Northwestern . . . . . . . .2-1
Notre Dame . . . . . . . . . .3-0
Ohio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Ohio State . . . . . . . . . . .2-1
Oklahoma . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Ole Miss . . . . . . . . . . . . .3-1
Oregon . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-1
Penn State . . . . . . . . . .2-3
Purdue . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-3-1
South Carolina . . . . . . .2-0
Stanford . . . . . . . . . . . . .0-1
Tennessee . . . . . . . . . . .2-1
The Citadel . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Texas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0-1
Tulane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Utah State . . . . . . . . . . .1-0
Virginia Tech . . . . . . . . .0-1
Washington . . . . . . . . . .0-1
Western Carolina . . . .1-0
Western Illinois . . . . . .1-0
Western Michigan . . . .2-0
Wisconsin . . . . . . . . . . .1-2
Nick Saban Year-By-Year Results
1990 - TOLEDO
RECORD: 9-2 (7-1 MAC, T-1ST)
Sept. 8 at Miami (Ohio) W 20-14
Sept. 15 Northern Illinois W 23-14
Sept. 22 at Ball State W 28-16
Sept.29 at Ohio W 27-20
Oct. 6 Eastern Michigan W 37-23
Oct.13 Bowling Green W 19-13
Oct. 20 at Central Michigan L 13-12
Oct. 27 Kent W 28-14
Nov. 3 at Western Michigan W 37-9
Nov. 10 Navy L 14-10
Nov. 17 Arkansas State W 43-28
1995 - MICHIGAN STATE
RECORD: 6-5-1 (4-3-1 BIG TEN, 5TH)
Sept. 9 #2 Nebraska L 50-10
Sept. 16 at Louisville W 30-7
Sept. 23 at Purdue T 35-35
Sept. 30 Boston College W 25-21
Oct. 7 Iowa L 21-7
Oct. 14 at Illinois W 27-21
Oct. 21 Minnesota W 34-31
Oct. 28 at Wisconsin L 45-14
Nov. 4 #7 Michigan W 28-25
Nov. 11 at Indiana W 31-13
Nov. 25 #14 Penn State L 24-20
INDEPENDENCE BOWL - SHREVEPORT, LA.
Dec. 29 LSU L 45-26
1996 - MICHIGAN STATE
RECORD: 6-6 (5-3 BIG TEN, T-5TH)
Aug. 31 Purdue W 52-14
Sept. 7 at #1Nebraska L 55-14
Sept. 21 Louisville L 30-20
Sept. 28 Eastern Michigan W 47-0
Oct. 5 at Iowa L 37-30
Oct. 12 Illinois W 42-14
Oct. 19 at Minnesota W 27-9
Oct. 26 Wisconsin W 30-13
Nov. 2 at #9 Michigan L 45-29
Nov. 9 Indiana W 38-15
Nov. 23 at #7 Penn State L 32-29
SUN BOWL - EL PASO, TEXAS
Dec. 31 Stanford L 38-0
1997 - MICHIGAN STATE
RECORD: 7-5 (4-4 BIG TEN, T-6TH)
#25 Sept. 6 Western Michigan W 42-10
#21 Sept. 13 Memphis W 51-21
#17 Sept. 20 at Notre Dame W 23-7
#12 Oct. 4 Minnesota W 31-10
#11 Oct. 11 at Indiana W 38-6
#12 Oct. 18 at Northwestern L 19-17
#15 Oct. 25 #5 Michigan L 23-7
#21 Nov. 1 #9 Ohio State L 37-13
Nov. 8 at #23 Purdue L 22-21
Nov. 22 at Illinois W 27-17
Nov. 29 #4 Penn State W 49-14
ALOHA BOWL - HONOLULU, HAWAII
#25 Dec. 25 #21 Washington L 51-23
1998 - MICHIGAN STATE
RECORD: 6-6 (4-4 BIG TEN, 6TH)
#23 Aug. 29 #15 Colorado State L 23-16
Sept. 5 at #24 Oregon L 48-14
Sept. 12 #23 Notre Dame W 45-23
Sept. 26 at Michigan L 29-17
Oct. 3 Central Michigan W 38-7
Oct. 10 Indiana W 38-31 (2OT)
Oct. 24 at Minnesota L 19-18
Oct. 31 Northwestern W 29-5
Nov. 7 at #1 Ohio State W 28-24
Nov. 14 Purdue L 25-24
Nov. 21 Illinois W 41-9
Nov. 28 at #23 Penn State L 28-51
1999 - MICHIGAN STATE
RECORD: 10-2 (6-2 BIG TEN, T-2ND)
Sept. 2 Oregon W 27-20
Sept. 11 Eastern Michigan W 51-7
Sept. 18 at #24 Notre Dame W 23-13
#19 Sept. 25 at Illinois W 27-10
#14 Oct. 2 Iowa W 49-3
#11 Oct. 9 #3 Michigan W 34-31
#5 Oct. 16 at #20 Purdue L 52-28
#11 Oct. 23 at #17 Wisconsin L 40-10
#19 Nov. 6 #20 Ohio State W 23-7
#17 Nov. 13 at Northwestern W 34-0
#15 Nov. 20 #13 Penn State W 35-28
2000 - LSU
RECORD: 8-4 (5-3 SEC, 2ND-WEST)
Sept. 2 Western Carolina W 58-0
Sept. 9 Houston W 28-13
Sept. 16 at #24Auburn L 34-17
Sept. 23 UAB L 13-10
Sept. 30 #11 Tennessee W 38-31 (OT)
Oct. 7 at #12 Florida L 41-9
Oct. 14 Kentucky W 34-0
Oct. 21 #13 Mississippi State W 45-38 (OT)
Nov. 4 Alabama W 30-28
Nov. 11 at Ole Miss W 20-9
#24 Nov. 24 at Arkansas L 14-3
PEACH BOWL - ATLANTA, GA.
Dec. 29 #15 Georgia Tech W 28-14
2001 - LSU
RECORD: 10-3 (SEC: 5-3 , 1ST WEST, SEC CHAMPION)
#14 Sept. 1 Tulane W 48-17
#13 Sept. 8 Utah State W 31-14
#14 Sept. 29 at #7 Tennessee L 18-26
#18 Oct. 6 #2 Florida L 15-44
Oct. 13 at Kentucky W 29-25
Oct. 20 at Mississippi State W 42-0
Oct. 27 Ole Miss L 24-35
Nov. 3 at Alabama W 35-21
Nov. 10 Middle Tennessee W 30-14
Nov. 23 #24 Arkansas W 41-38
#22 Dec. 1 #25 Auburn W 27-14
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - ATLANTA, GA.
#21 Dec. 8 #2 Tennessee W 31-20
SUGAR BOWL - NEW ORLEANS, LA.
#12 Jan. 1 #7 Illinois W 47-34
2002 - LSU
RECORD: 8-5 (SEC: 5-3 , 1ST WEST)
#14 Sept. 1 at #16 Virginia Tech L 8-26
#24 Sept. 8 The Citadel W 35-10
#25 Sept. 15 Miami (Ohio) W 33-7
#22 Sept. 28 Mississippi State W 31-13
#21 Oct. 5 ULouisiana-Lafayette W 48-0
#18 Oct. 12 at #16 Florida W 36-7
#14 Oct. 19 South Carolina W 38-14
#10 Oct. 26 at Auburn L 7-31
#16 Nov. 9 at Kentucky W 33-30
#14 Nov. 16 #10 Alabama L 0-31
#21 Nov. 23 Ole Miss W 14-13
#17 Nov. 29 at Arkansas L 20-21
COTTON BOWL - DALLAS, TEXAS
#25 Jan. 1 #9 Texas L 20-35
2003 - LSU ? NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
RECORD: 13-1 (SEC: 7-1 , 1ST WEST, SEC CHAMPIONS)
#14 Aug. 30 Louisiana-Monroe W 49-7
#13 Sept. 6 at Arizona W 59-13
#12 Sept. 13 Western Illinois W 35-7
#11 Sept. 20 #7 Georgia W 17-10
#7 Sept. 27 at Mississippi State W 41-6
#6 Oct. 11 Florida L 19-7
#10 Oct. 18 at South Carolina W 33-7
#9 Oct. 25 #17 Auburn W 31-7
#7 Nov. 1 Louisiana Tech W 49-10
#4 Nov. 15 at Alabama W 27-3
#3 Nov. 22 #15 at Ole Miss W 17-14
#3 Nov. 28 Arkansas W 55-24
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - ATLANTA, GA.
#3 Dec. 6 #5 Georgia W 34-13
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - NOKIA SUGAR BOWL - NEW ORLEANS, LA.
#2 Jan. 4 #3 Oklahoma W 21-14