Seconds after winning his sixth national championship, Nick Saban was seen with a smile on his face.
It was no mirage, that was an actual smile the cameras caught covering the face of Alabama’s 66-year-old Alabama head football coach.
The image was proof that things can change. People too.
All over Louisiana the sight of a happy and winning Saban was greeted with anger, frustration and questions of what might have been.
For many fans of LSU, Saban is the big one that got away. To make matters worse, he comes around once a year to stick it to the Tigers and their faithful on the field.
Every time he wins a national championship — five at Alabama since leaving LSU and spending a short, forgettable time in the NFL — LSU followers think of what life would be like if Saban had stayed in Baton Rouge.
The truth of that we will never know. What we do know is this, Saban is college football’s best coach by a wide margin, something he has proven time and again since taking over at Alabama.
He has created a monster program, one that is the envy of all college presidents and fans not just the ones in Louisiana.
Saban proved his greatness in this year’s national title game, when he changed from his winning sophomore starting quarterback to an untested freshman at halftime when he was down 13-0 to Georgia.
The move worked, and Saban’s new star won the game in overtime with a 41-yard touchdown pass. It shows the coach is not afraid to make the tough calls.
LSU fans should remember this fact when they look back on the history of their program and rivalry with Saban’s tide.
Alabama won because their coach was willing to make the big decision. You can argue that LSU’s program failed when it had a similar chance.
Back on January 9, 2012 LSU was playing Saban’s team in New Orleans with the national championship on the line. The Tigers had already beaten Bama 9-6 on the road in overtime earlier in the year.
At halftime the Tigers were down just 9-0 and like Alabama this season, had done nothing on offense. Unlike this year’s tide, then LSU head coach Les Miles had an experienced fifth-year senior QB he could have turned to.
Instead, he stayed the course and let Jordan Jefferson struggle and his team lost 21-0. There was no offensive re-boot and no surge in energy like the one that saved the Tide.
Little did any of us know that LSU’s program was at a crossroads on that night. Since then the Tigers haven’t been much of a factor in the college football national title picture. Meanwhile, Alabama has become easily the top program in the sport.
And to add defeat to insult, the Tide have won seven straight against LSU since that night and Miles is no longer coaching in Baton Rouge.
Times clearly have changed and Saban has proven he can change with them.
As for LSU fans, they will have to wait for another day before they can smile.