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Here’s Nick Saban’s record of destroying his former assistants

Jimbo Fisher is the latest to take another crack at him.

Alabama v Florida State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama’s Nick Saban has a big coaching tree. Former assistants of his are in important head coaching and assistant jobs all around the country, in both college football and the NFL.

But the success of Saban’s ex-assistants has not extended to one area in particular: actually beating the master.

Saban has faced former assistants of his 12 times in games where both were head coaches. Those coaches have gone 0-12 against him and only rarely given him any type of scare.

The average margin of victory in these games: Saban 37.8, Former Assistant 11.2.

The full results on the verge of Bama’s meeting with Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher — his former offensive coordinator at LSU — in Week 4:

How Nick Saban’s former assistants have fared against him

Coach Team Record vs. Saban Score vs. Saban
Coach Team Record vs. Saban Score vs. Saban
Derek Dooley Tennessee 0-3 122-29
Jim McElwain Colorado State, Florida 0-3 114-37
Will Muschamp Florida 0-2 80-31
Mark Dantonio Michigan State 0-2 87-7
Jimbo Fisher Florida State, Texas A&M 0-2 69-30
Jeremy Pruitt Tennessee 0-1 58-21
Billy Napier UL Lafayette 0-1 56-14
Kirby Smart Georgia 0-2 61-51

It has not been a good run of things for coaching children trying to top their dad.

Fisher and Saban have a long history with each other.

In Fisher’s first year, LSU was 54th in scoring offense, at 26.5 points per game. The Tigers climbed from there, getting good enough to win the ‘03 title and producing Fisher’s best unit yet by ‘06. Saban had left after 2004 for the NFL.

In 2007, Fisher left LSU to become FSU’s coordinator under Bobby Bowden. (He would’ve become the head coach at UAB, if not for some regents getting in the way.) Bowden stepped down after 2009. Fisher’s since won a national title of his own, while Saban’s returned to the college game and won four.

In 2017, they faced off for the first time as head coaches. The Week 1 game between No. 3 FSU and No. 1 Alabama was the most blockbuster-y opener ever. The Tide won, setting FSU down a path that led to Fisher leaving for A&M three months later.

Fisher has come closer than most of Saban’s offspring to actually beating him.

The margin of his loss to Saban in 2017 was 24-7. Kirby Smart came closer when he only lost by 3 to Saban in that year’s national title game, but other than that, Fisher did better than anyone. Saban has treated his former assistants’ teams no better than he treats anyone’s.

If things stay on current trajectories, Saban will meet Smart in 2018’s SEC Championship Game, and conceivably in several more in a row after that. And now that Fisher’s in the SEC West, he’s guaranteed at least one matchup like this every year for the foreseeable future. Keeping the undefeated mark against his own proteges will require regular work.

Fisher and Saban speak about each other with lots of respect.

When Fisher and Saban were at LSU together, they sparred often at practice, according to former Tiger defensive lineman Marcus Spears. But they’ve gotten along great in public.

Fisher said of Saban this week at his press conference this week:

I think first of all, he’s created a culture at his place. He expects to win, he knows how to win and they’ve got good players and they’re well-coached. That makes it a real good combination in what you’re doing. But you learn from everybody. From Terry Bowden, to Bobby Bowden, to Les Miles, Rick Minter, to Coach Saban. There’s a lot of things you learn. When you go against a guy who is as well thought of as a defensive mind, you have to come up with different protections, different ways to run and being multi-formational.

And Saban said of Fisher at his:

I think everybody that takes over a program is really working hard to establish principles and values of the organization. The standard that you want people to work to in terms of effort, toughness, intangibles, discipline, things like that. Jimbo has obviously done a really good job of that. They’re a completely different kind of team than they’ve been in the past.

Both coaches are making $7.5 million this year, as part of contracts that are worth a combined $137.8 million over the next decade. The A&M-Bama series over the next few years is slated to be the most expensive coaching matchup in college sports history, so in a way, both of these men have already won it.