The dust has settled from one of the most active college football recruiting seasons in recent memory. The 2019 college football season saw numerous changes to coaching staffs and offensive and defensive lines as well as a massive overhaul of the NCAA guidelines regarding the enforcement of rules on the recruiting trail. It is time for the next head coach in each BCS conference to settle down and get back to the basics of competing for a National Title.
There is one thing we learned this year that will undoubtedly make the process of selecting a coach more interesting. Sometimes the best laid plans can go awry. A perfect example of this came during the final week of November when it was reported that Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz was planning on being one of the first people in line to offer the vacant Alabama head coaching job. The assumption at the time was that Nick Saban would remain in Tuscaloosa for at least another season, allowing Diaz to get his deserved shot at becoming the next great Alabama coach.
That was then. This is now. The Diaz-Saban plan, while seemingly brilliant in theory, almost came to an ignominious end on the night of January 3, 2020 when Nick Saban made the shocking announcement that he was stepping down from his position as Alabama’s football coach, a decision that sent shockwaves throughout the Southeastern Conference and the national football world. In truth, it was uncertain as to whether or not Saban would ever coach again. In the end he decided to return to the NFL and not even give the head coaching position at Alabama a try.
The question is, who will replace Saban as Alabama’s head coach?
Predictably, the coaching carousel began to spin as soon as Saban made his announcement. Within 24 hours of Saban’s bombshell, a cavalcade of head coaching candidates arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in an attempt to interview for the position and put in a good word for their candidacy with the newly appointed Nick Saban. Among those head coaches hoping to succeed Saban were Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Missouri’s Mike Leach. While the optics of their visit may have been a shot at redemption for both men, neither was succeeding at the moment, having lost out on the head coaching vacancy at Texas A&M and West Virginia respectively. At this point in the process, it was anyone’s guess as to who would be named Saban’s successor.
The good news for fans of the Crimson Tide is that the guesswork is over. With one fell swoop, athletic director Chet Faulkner set the football world on its ear by naming the man he felt was best suited to succeed Saban as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, former Clemson offensive coordinator and interim head coach Jeff Scott.
Jeff Scott’s Remarkable Rise
To say that Jeff Scott’s rise to the occasion was nothing short of remarkable would be an understatement. With just over two months of experience as Alabama’s interim head coach, the 53-year-old made the trip to Tuscaloosa three times in an effort to convince the Crimson Tide’s administration and fans that he is the man to lead the team to another national title. In the process he won over the hearts, minds, and pockets of every person he came in contact with, including those who had questioned his lack of head coaching experience. Even those close to the program raved about Scott’s performance, noting that it was reminiscent of the great Steve Spurrier, with whom he shares a number of parallels in terms of style and success as a collegiate and professional coach.
Jeff Scott is a born leader, having served as the chairman of the Texas State Athletics Council, the executive director of the Texas Sports Authority, and the general manager of the Houston Hobby School District before assuming his current role as Alabama’s head coach. During his time as the head coach at Houston Hobby High School, Scott led the program to a 68-9 record and two state championships, not to mention a school record for wins in a season and a half (31-2). He was named the Texas High School Coach of the Year in both 2012 and 2016. His success in guiding the program earned him a coveted spot on the 2018 Texas High School Coach Hall of Fame induction class along with such luminaries as John MacReady, John Cooper, and Jimmy Jones. While at Houston Hobby High School, Scott coached future NFL players Jameill Showers and Darius Slayton.
A Coach Worth Remembering
On the heels of an 11-2 season, in which the Tigers went from being a one- and-done to an SEC Championship contender, it’s fair to say that Lincoln Riley’s name will be among the first that come to mind when thinking of the best coaches in the history of the Southeastern Conference. After all, it was Riley who engineered the impossible comeback and subsequent College Football Playoff appearance by the 2017 NCAA champions, the Oklahoma Sooners. In fact, if the Sooners had not achieved victory, perhaps we would be forced to question whether or not Nick Saban should have been given a fourth year, as was the case in 2007.
In terms of pure genius, there is surely no coach in the history of the sport who combines the mind-bending strategic acumen of Bill Belichick with the offensive talent of Nick Saban. The results of their partnership are both legendary and still fresh in the minds of every NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball fan in the country. Since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the Crimson Tide program has produced nine first-team All-Americans, including the 2017 recipient of the John MacReady Award, DE Bradley Chubb. Needless to say, whoever succeeds Saban as Alabama’s head coach will not be lacking for opportunity to succeed.
While we await the announcement of the official staff and coaching roster for the 2020 season, it is worth remembering the caliber of coach that Alabama has already assembled, even if they have yet to take the field for the Crimson Tide. In the end, it was Scott’s remarkable performance that convinced administrators and fans alike that he was the right man for the job at this time. Perhaps no one deserves the accolades more than the man who achieved them.