Nick Saban retires: Top candidates to coach Alabama next

USA Today Sports

Nick Saban won six national titles at Alabama, elevating an already iconic program to the stratosphere of the sport while cementing himself as the best to ever walk a college sideline.

Who wants to follow the GOAT?

We will soon find out after Saban shockingly retired from his post Wednesday after 17 seasons with the Crimson Tide. Although retirement had become an increasingly common topic around the 72-year-old, he also had given indications that he would return for the 2024 season, and remains in strong health. Saban has often talked about how he has been affiliated with teams almost his entire life and doesn't know how he would function without one. But he's ready to find out.

Saban's impact on Alabama is astounding. He finished in the top 10 in each of his final 16 seasons, winning nine SEC titles and making eight College Football Playoff appearances. Although Alabama was considered a blue blood long before his arrival, he inherited a program that had lost six or more games in three of the four seasons before he got there, and had one AP top-10 finish in the previous 12 seasons. He changed how programs structure their staffs and infrastructure, while lifting the university's profile to new heights.

Coupled with a national title at LSU and stints at both Michigan State and Toledo, Saban went 292-71-1 in 28 seasons as a college coach with 12 conference titles and 18 bowl victories. He leaves gargantuan shoes to fill, which could impact the candidate pool for an otherwise A-list job. As an industry source noted Wednesday, "The expectations are massive, but so are the resources there."

Athletic director Greg Byrne is a veteran administrator who came to Alabama knowing this day would come but now must make a career-defining hire. He certainly will focus on established coaches, including some with ties to the school and the SEC, for Saban's replacement.

Here's a look at the potential candidates.