Best coach of BCS era: Nick Saban

There are coaches with more BCS appearances than Nick Saban. There are coaches with better BCS winning percentages than Nick Saban.

But there is nobody with more BCS national championships than Saban.

That is why he is the best coach in the BCS era.

Winning championships trumps any other BCS coaching statistic out there. None of this diminishes how many times Bob Stoops has taken Oklahoma to BCS games (nine, with a win over Saban in the Allstate Sugar Bowl two weeks ago). Or how impressive it is that Urban Meyer took three different programs to BCS games, going 4-1 with two national championships at Florida.

But Saban took two different schools to national championships, starting with LSU. He has four championships in all, having never lost a title game and has re-established Alabama as a football dynasty with three BCS championships over the past five years.

While there are probably folks in Baton Rouge and Miami still smirking over the way Saban left their programs, college football has been almost re-energized since Alabama re-emerged as a force, allowing fans outside Tuscaloosa and the SEC to pool their collective animosity together at both the program and the coach. Everybody loves a winner. But everybody also loves to root against a winner that wins too much, too.

Saban has not won many fans along the way to greatness for a host of well-documented reasons, but you do not have to like him to respect what he has accomplished. He is a coach who generally thrives when pressure is at its greatest. His ability to win at an iconic program with an iconic former coach speaks to that. His 4-0 mark in BCS national championship games speaks to that, most especially the 21-0 retribution victory over LSU in 2012. So does his 0-2 mark in BCS games when there are no championships on the line (losses to Utah and Oklahoma).

Those BCS victories have served Saban well for obvious reasons. But they have also had an impact on the entire college coaching fraternity. As Saban has continued to win, his contract has grown, ballooning to jaw-dropping values. When Saban was first hired at LSU in 1999, he received a five-year deal worth $6 million total.

Eight years later, Alabama hired him from the Miami Dolphins at an unprecedented $4 million per season. In the recently concluded 2013 season, seven more coaches joined him in the $4 million club. Of those seven, six have gone to BCS games and four have won the national championship. Only one coach among the seven -- Stoops -- won a national title before Saban did.

Next season, Saban is set to earn in the $7 million neighborhood, outdistancing himself from his coaching peers once again. With the BCS chapter now closed, Saban must get to work on making himself the best coach in the playoff era, too.

Honorable mention

Urban Meyer: Meyer has taken Utah, Florida and Ohio State to BCS games, going 4-1 in his five appearances with two national championships. His Utah team was the first BCS buster from outside the automatic qualifying conferences, taking down Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.

Bob Stoops: Stoops has the most BCS appearances of any coach, with nine, though he is probably known most for failing to win on the big stage. His teams played for four national championships but won only one, in the 2001 Orange Bowl over Florida State. His overall BCS record is 4-5.