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Saban’s going nowhere, but we like for you to be prepared

For many years, produced an annual feature called “Coaches to Watch,” a discover-them-before-your-neighbors-do article identifying up-and-coming mid-major coaches who might one day be candidates at large schools like Alabama.

The feature actually predates itself – the first one rolled off the presses following the 1996 season, when was still and Dennis Franchione, who made the list, did so from his post not at TCU, but rather New Mexico.

Over the years, the popularity of the article waned, as much due to the proliferation of the internet and the airing of seemingly every as cable sports TV exploded across the landscape. Suddenly, fans got to see every coach firsthand. Finding the next big thing wasn’t such an efficient use of resources for, when keeping the next big thing hidden got almost impossible to do.

Some of the names on those old lists were notable: Franchione at New Mexico, at a no- program called the of San Francisco, Jim Grobe at Ohio, at Central Michigan, as an at Tulane. We didn’t always hit – UTEP’s Gary Nord received several fawning paragraphs one year, and Sylvester Croom was talked up as a potential disruptor of the hierarchy while he was still coaching in the NFL. But it was entertaining enough and good for water cooler conversations if nothing else.

When Nick came to Alabama, though, talking about “coaches to watch” became relevant only in the context of discussing coaches at programs Alabama might play. It was clear from Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa that he’d be staying just as long as he wanted to.

How much of Saban’s career is left, that’s anyone’s guess. It’s an answer likely known only by himself, or his family, and even they may not have a specific day or year in mind. But in the spirit of not being caught off-guard, it’s time to start at least pulling the blankets off the coach-finding machine and getting it pre-oiled. Saban is 68 years old; has long responded to of “how long will coach at Alabama?” with a guess that he’d retire sometime between the ages of 70 and 75. If we’re closer to the former rather than the latter, it’s going to happen during the next five-year cycle, and in today’s world, that’s not all that far off.

Continue Reading: To Dabo, or not to Dabo

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