You’d think it would be easy to write about people who hate Nick Saban. Just list everyone in the world who isn’t a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide, right? But the truth is that a lot of people don’t really hate Saban. There are plenty of people who are jealous, but that’s not the same thing as hate, right? And if you look below the surface of Nick Saban, you’ll find a guy who has done some incredible philanthropy for impoverished children, as well as a man who has given more than one coach the opportunity to write his own comeback story.
At the same time, Saban has done some stuff that makes a lot of people angry--especially if you were a fan of one of the teams where he coached during a nomadic time in his life, where he bounced from Michigan State to LSU to the NFL and back to the college game. Saban left several programs high and dry, always looking for a new challenge. Like many coaches, he doesn’t appear to be an introspective man. He looks forward: to the next challenge, to the next game, to the next practice. He follows his vaunted "Process", working to perfect his coaching legacy.
That’s made him some enemies along the way, whether that’s other coaches, media personalities, or players. So here are 15 people who hate Nick Saban.
15 Mack Brown
Brown and Saban are actually friends in real life, but when Saban’s Crimson Tide not only beat Texas for the BCS title in the 2010 Rose Bowl, they dismantled the Longhorn team and sold it for parts. OK, so that’s a bit of an overstatement. What they really did was begin the long, slow, downward slide of UT football. Brown was never the same after that 37-21 loss (which was worse than it sounds after the Longhorns lost Colt McCoy early in the game to a shoulder injury).
Brown and Texas parted ways, and the Burnt Orange went into a freefall that Charlie Strong had no chance of stopping. So a national butt-whipping by Saban and the Crimson Tide resulted in early retirement for Brown and a years-long slump for the Longhorns.
14 Steve Sarkisian
Once Lane Kiffin left The University of Alabama to become head coach at… uh … where did he go, again? Oh, right. FAO Schwartz. I mean FAU. Anyway, Sarkisian had been an ‘analyst’ for the Crimson Tide during what was widely seen as Kiffin’s last year. But even though he replaced Kiffin as offensive coordinator for the national championship game against Clemson, Sarkisian didn’t stay long. He and Saban reportedly clashed, and Sark was out the door almost as quickly as he came in.
Alabama fans probably aren’t too worried. Their chief memory of Sarkisian is watching him pick his nose and eat his own booger during an ill-timed camera shot of the Tide’s semifinal victory over Washington, apparently unaware that booger-eating only appeals to Auburn alumni.
13 Brian Kelly
Media folks were salivating over the prospect of Alabama facing Notre Dame for the BCS title at the conclusion of the 2012 college football season. Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly had made his team believers--until they stepped on the field with the Tide. In a 42-14 shellacking that was sadder than Manti Teo’s fictional girlfriend saga, Bama showed Kelly what a championship team looks like. In the years since, Kelly has lost more and more games, unable to get back the mojo that led the Irish so close to the promised land.
Kelly’s coaching reputation has taken a major nosedive as Notre Dame continues to worsen following that embarrassing loss. No wonder he always looks so mad when he’s on TV.
12 Bret Bielema
The former Wisconsin coach went from rolling over teams in a weak Big Ten to losing game after game after game in the SEC West as coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Bielema came into the conference with a reputation for running up the score on weaker teams, but that has seemed to come to a screeching halt. Since the Hogs hired Bielema, he’s gone 0-for-lifetime against Saban’s Alabama teams, while also rarely finding a winnable game on his conference schedule. You know losing so consistently bothers the rotund midwesterner, as evidenced by the flop he pulled when an Alabama defender nudged him during a game. Bielema did soccer players everywhere proud, while Bama just took care of business and cranked out another win over the Razorbacks.
11 Auburn Fans
Saban has led the Crimson Tide to four national championships and a resurgence that’s annoying to many fans on a national level. Now imagine cheering for Crimson Tide’s in-state rivals while they’re going through some major upheavals. How aggravated would you be? The last time Auburn beat Alabama, it took a miracle of Biblical proportions. That’s the stage Saban has set at Alabama. Auburn fans still celebrate one game from three years ago that ended in the ‘Kick Six’ field goal return for a touchdown and a victory in the Iron Bowl. Of course, if you look at the Tigers’ regular seasons the last couple of years, it’s no wonder they still celebrate that victory. There hasn’t been much else to celebrate on the Plains.
10 Les Miles
Fun fact: Miles’ real first name is ‘Fewer,’ a joke that might make some of you grammar nerds laugh. In all seriousness, Miles followed Saban as head coach at LSU and won a national championship with Saban’s recruits. Since then, the Mad Hatter hasn’t done a whole lot of note, including dropping a rematch with the Crimson Tide for the BCS title, 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl. He was fired partway into the 2016 season after nearly being fired during the 2015 season, largely for failing to win against Saban’s new team. Including the BCS title loss, Miles lost six straight to Saban. In today’s college football world, that’s more than enough to get you canned. Of course, Miles can take some slight satisfaction that his replacement, Ed Orgeron, lost to the Crimson Tide, too.
9 Colin Cowherd
Sports radio blowhard Colin Cowherd often says the Crimson Tide is boring to watch. Apparently winning is an unpopular activity in the Cowherd household. He’s also stated before that when Auburn hired Gus Malzahn as its head coach to replace Gene Chizik that the game had changed for Alabama, and that Saban would not be able to keep up. Cowherd had to eat those words as Malzahn has struggled to move from coaching a mid-major program to a team whose fans expect it to be a football powerhouse. As the losses have piled up around Malzahn over the past two season, Cowherd has become awfully quiet about how he once thought Malzahn would move the game past Saban, as Saban’s defenses have adapted to the spread and the Crimson Tide’s offense has incorporated spread elements of its own under quarterback Jalen Hurts.
8 LSU Fans
The Tiger faithful were understandably hurt when Saban left the Miami Dolphins after an unsuccessful (and short) two-year stint to return to college football. That he returned to coach another team in the SEC West was even worse; and coaching Alabama? Unforgivable. The Crimson Tide’s first trip to Baton Rouge under Saban was marred by death threats from the LSU faithful. It also doesn’t help that the Crimson Tide has been dominant against the Tigers, mauling them seven times in a row, including a 21-0 waxing for a national championship. For the Tigers, Saban’s betrayal was every bit as traitorous as Benedict Arnold’s during the Revolutionary War. Every time LSU fans see Saban clad in an Alabama coach’s polo on the sidelines, they think about what might have been. And weep.
7 Dan Le Batard
Another radio loudmouth doesn’t like Nick Saban. Who would’ve guessed? At least Le Batard has a reason. His show was based in Miami, and he pandered to Dolphins fans as Saban’s tenure in the pros faltered. He also has never forgiven Saban for flatly denying that he was going to be Alabama’s football coach following the Crimson Tide’s dismissal of Mike Shula. (Which, OK, that’s fair.) Le Batard gave voice to many fans in Miami who were 1) expecting a playoff berth for the Dolphins in Saban’s second year with the team; and 2) thousands of people who simply felt betrayed that Saban had told them he’d be staying in Miami when he was, in fact, hired away by Alabama.
6 Manuel Wright
It’s a moment frozen in time: the 5’7” Saban chewing out enormous defensive end Manuel Wright during the Dolphins’ training camp. That ass-chewing happened to be caught on film, and it became infamous because Saban brought the former USC Trojan to tears. Wright rarely saw the field with the Dolphins and sat out the 2006 season before being placed on waivers by Miami. If there’s any consolation here, it’s that Saban chews people out publicly all the time. He’s done it to Lane Kiffin, A.J. McCarron, Kirby Smart, and a host of others. For Wright, it was a defining moment. For Saban? It was Tuesday.
5 Gus Malzahn
Everyone at Auburn jumped aboard the Gus Bus when Malzahn was hired to replace Gene Chizik. And then the bus promptly broke down. Malzahn was expected to contend for SEC and national championships, and his creative offense was supposed to return the balance of power in the football-crazy world of the Yellowhammer State. But no. Instead, Alabama has won three straight Iron Bowls, even topping a shootout against Malzahn’s vaunted offense, 55-44 in 2014. The only Iron Bowl the Tigers have won in the last six years was the fluke ‘Kick Six’ victory. It’s understandable that Malzahn might hate Saban a little, since the Crimson Tide coach seems to have his number.
4 P.K. Sam
Journeyman wide receiver P.K. Sam has played professional football in the NFL as well as Canada, but his greatest claim to fame may have been when he came out with a blockbuster allegation against Saban in 2016, tweeting that the former Dolphins coach cut him for leaving the team to go visit his dying father ten years earlier. Saban has never commented on these allegations. While it’s certainly believable that someone as ultra-focused as Saban might have done what Sam claims, all we have on this so far is Sam’s word. Regardless, it’s a certainty that the two men aren’t going to be exchanging Christmas cards anytime soon. Or ever.
3 Lane Kiffin
The man also known as Joey Freshwater in the bar scene in Tuscaloosa was being set up for greatness. Had Kiffin continued to keep his nose clean and evolve the Alabama offensive machine, he had rehabbed his image to the point that he could have been considered the dark horse candidate to replace Saban at the Capstone in the future. But Kiffin has always had the itch to be a head coach. How could he not, after coaching the NFL’s Raiders, Tennessee, and USC? When he finally found a head coaching job at FAU, he couldn’t wait to get on the job--to the point where Saban had to fire him prior to the national title game against Clemson. Kiffin was also the target of several Saban sideline tirades, and was left at several venues by the Alabama team buses. While they were together, Saban and Kiffin seemed to make a great football odd couple. But don’t expect a reunion anytime soon.
2 Urban Meyer
There was a point when Urban Meyer was the preeminent coach in the Southeastern conference. Florida was winning SEC and national titles, and Meyer looked like a genius. Until the 2009 SEC Championship, when Alabama humiliated Meyer and the Gators, 32-13. One of Saban’s great quotes is to “Make their ass quit.” Which is what he literally did to Meyer. Alabama beat Florida so badly that Meyer was hospitalized with heart attack-like symptoms. (In reality, it was just stress.) Meyer would later quit at Florida, spend a year as an analyst at ESPN, and return to coaching college football at Ohio State. In other words, Saban made Meyer quit football, and when Meyer came back, he wanted no part of facing Saban regularly again. A semifinal victory in the first College Football Playoff probably alleviated some of Meyer’s pain, but you know there’s still some bad blood there.
1 Gene Chizik
One of Nick Saban’s greatest attributes is that he can win consistently, year after year, even though the talent on his team changes. Saban and his assistants adapt to the skills of their available talent. Cross-state rival Auburn isn’t that lucky. The last coach to lead them to a national title, Gene Chizik, was the coaching version of a one-hit wonder. Lacking the offensive scheme of Gus Malzahn and without the benefit of arguably the greatest college football player of all time in Cam Newton, Chizik was at a loss helming a helpless Tiger team that dropped to 8-5 in 2011, and then to 3-9 (and 0-8 in conference play) in 2012. Alabama waxed Auburn 49-0 in the 2012 Iron Bowl in what amounted to a mercy killing of Chizik’s coaching career at Auburn.
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