The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

August 11, 2013

Bama's Saban bellying up to the Bear

(Continued)

Saban says the Bear is best

It seems unlikely the 61-year-old Saban will approach the longevity of Bryant, who retired in 1982 as college football's winningest coach with a 323-85-17 record and died within a month of his final game. He won six national titles and 13 conference crowns at Alabama.

Saban is 154-55-1 in 17 seasons.

He insists Bryant is likely the best coach in college football history and said as the man most responsible for establishing Alabama's tradition his famed predecessor must "be recognized as the person most responsible with contributing to the tradition."

"I think because of the respect for that tradition that a lot of people have on a national basis, the Crimson Tide is one of the most recognizable names in sports," Saban said. "When we started having success again that just heightened the awareness all these people have nationwide in terms of the University of Alabama in tradition of football that was really started back when that Bear Bryant probably elevated to te level it's at now."

Both Saban and Bryant have rebuilt Alabama quickly. It took Saban three seasons to win a national title; Bryant did it in four. They've got statues outside Bryant-Denny Stadium — down Paul W. Bryant Drive from the Paul W. Bryant Museum and Paul W. Bryant Hall.

Both also transcended sports to a degree. Among the framed national magazine covers lining the walls of the football building: Time with Bryant's face beneath "SUPERCOACH"; down the hall, Saban stares back as "Sports' Most Powerful Coach."

'The best leaders'

The coaches both cut intimidating figures and commanded respect from their players. Sington, who played for Alabama in 1958 and 1959, said he couldn't imagine calling them anything but "Coach Bryant" and "Coach Saban."

"They are the best leaders I've ever been around," Hall of Fame linebacker Lee Roy Jordan said. "They are out there inspecting what they expect the players to do every second. They are challenging the guys every play to try to reach that potential that each player has."

Jordan steers clear of trying to figure out which coach was better.

"I will never get in a debate on that, because I think they're both unbelievable coaches," the former Tide and Dallas Cowboys star said. "I don't think we've got to pick one over the other. I'm extremely proud that we have had both of them at the University of Alabama. They create their own history and the records and the reputations of the players they put out."

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