Nick Saban named a top program 'elevator'

June, 8, 2011
6/08/11
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There's no question that Jim Tressel did some great things while he was at Ohio State. But his accomplishments with the Buckeyes will forever be tarnished with the recent developments revolving around him and a handful of his players.

Still, Tressel elevated the Buckeyes to a true national power under his watch.

All that Buckeye hoopla created a bit of inspiration for my ESPN colleague Bruce Feldman, who took a look at the best elevation jobs done by coaches over the past 25 years.

One important message Feldman conveys is that this list is made up of coaches who elevated "programs that had never been to such heights previously, or were dormant for a very long time." That's why you won't find former Florida coach Urban Meyer on this list.

The only SEC name to make the list was Nick Saban at No. 2 -- and it wasn't with Alabama. Feldman wrote about Saban's five years at LSU, in which he guided the Tigers to a record of 48-16 (.750), won a national championship (2003), two SEC championships, three SEC West Division championships, and a 3-2 record in bowl games. LSU was 28-12 (.700) against SEC opponents under Saban.

Saban was also named the 2003 National Coach of the Year by the Associated Press and earned both the Paul W. "Bear" Bryant National Coach of the Year Award and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by the Football Writers Association of America.

Not bad.

Here's what Feldman wrote about Saban:
For all of his great work reinvigorating the Alabama Crimson Tide, it's Saban's efforts in Baton Rouge that merit his place on this list. After all, for as down as the Tide was before he got there, they still had won a national title in the previous decade. Before Saban came to SEC country, the Tigers had only won three league titles in about a 40-year stretch and they hadn't finished in the top 10 since 1987.

It only took two seasons for Saban to get the Tigers back into the top 10, and in his fourth season he led LSU to a BCS title. The national championship was only the second in school history and its first since 1958. Saban bolted Baton Rouge one year later for the NFL, but the foundation he built helped spur momentum for his successor Les Miles to win another BCS title for LSU, and the program hasn't lost any traction since.

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