The two most successful Northern transplants in recent college football history are Nick Saban and Les Miles.
Hailing from West Virginia and Michigan respectively, the two icons of the SEC have retooled longtime traditional southern powerhouses Alabama and LSU to the epitome of BCS supremacy. What do these two coaches realize and capitalize on that not many other schools can in the BCS?
Between them, there are multiple BCS National Titles and an unprecedented wake of success at institutions that had seen their success wane in the 1990s and 2000s. Saban reinvigorated a stagnant LSU program and took it from mediocrity to the BCS National Championship. Les Miles became the beneficiary of the program when Saban jumped ship to the NFL for his abbreviated stay with the Miami Dolphins.
Les Miles has not only continued the success Saban started, but has emphatically put his own stamp on the program’s direction by winning his own national crown and playing for another. Saban’s quizzical departure from the Dolphins to take over a broken Alabama program was somewhat of a surprise to everyone but the Tuscaloosa faithful, but was nonetheless a coup for Alabama, whose fortunes were stuck on low Tide for a number of years.
Looking at Saban and Miles, you seem some distinct differences, but also certain character traits that have been solid gold for both. Saban has the reputation of being a non-forgiving taskmaster obsessed with the details of what he refers to as the process of the game. Les Miles, an interviewers dream, channels a combination of long time LSU Basketball legend Dale Brown and his mentor Bo Schembechler.
Both coaches have their strengths, but the most dynamic comparison between the two would come from the 1980s classic movie Top Gun — casting Saban as the cold, calculating Iceman who never makes a mistake and waits until his opponent falters, while Les Miles is Maverick, flying by the seat of his pants, talented and constantly erratic.
While their styles may differ, no one can argue with the success of their programs and the fact that they have established themelves as elite year after year. If you look at the other successful coaches in the national elite mix each year, you would find Pete Carroll during USC’s run, Urban Meyer at Florida and now Ohio State and Steve Spurrier before him, Chip Kelley at Oregon and Bob Stoops at Oklahoma.
All of these iconic coaches have a national reputation and capitalize on that in recruiting. The question becomes: what is next for both Miles and Saban?
The rumors of their departures are numerous each year, and yet both men have stayed at their respective institutions to the delight of fans and dismay of their opponents, especially outside the SEC.
As the “Saban to the University of Texas” rumors continue to fly, there is no doubt that Nick would have no problem soliciting moving assistance in the form of essentially every coach in the SEC, who would show up personally with their respective team’s bus eager to help with the heavy lifting.
That is a story for another day, but the Saban’s just may need those moving vans come the end of the season, with the destination being somewhere deep in the heart of Texas. Stay tuned for the story of why Nick Saban will likely depart for Texas in 2014.