SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Four national titles in seven years and Alabama coach Nick Saban isn't done yet.
Just one day after beating No. 1-ranked Clemson 45-40 to win his fifth overall national championship and tie former Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant for the NCAA lead in national titles, Saban was asked how much longer he wants to coach.
"The one thing I've always said is I've been a part of a team since I was nine years old," he said. "It scares me to ever think of the day when I wouldn't be a part of the team. The feeling that you get being associated with a group like this makes you want to do it more.
"That's kind of how I feel about it. I know you can't do this forever, but I certainly enjoy the moment and certainly look forward to the future challenges that we have and really have no timetable for ever not being a part of a team."
Saban said he still remembers 1998, when his Michigan State team was 4-5 and the Spartans were heading to play No. 1-ranked Ohio State. Now, with the win over Clemson, Saban is 11-1 in championship games at Alabama and LSU, with six SEC titles and five national titles.
"If somebody would have told me then that this would have happened," he said, "I would have said, 'I think you're crazy.'"
"It never gets old," Saban's wife Terry said, "because every team is different. It's a new challenge with every team."
The next challenge will be guiding the players in their decisions about whether to leave early for the NFL draft. Saban said he met with the players after the SEC championship game to see who wanted to submit their paperwork to the NFL's junior committee to find out what their draft status would be. While some players submitted paperwork by the Dec. 18 deadline, they will meet with their coaches on Wednesday and Saban said he would share with them what he was told by the junior committee and the teams they've talked to.
Saban said he tells his players that if they are a first-round draft pick, "the business decision is you should go out for the draft.
"If you're in a position in the draft where you can enhance your value by staying in college, then maybe you shouldn't go out for the draft," he said.
Saban said linebacker Reggie Ragland had a second-round grade last year and the coach estimated that Ragland made a $12-$14 million decision to stay. Tight end O.J. Howard, who was named the offensive MVP of Monday's game, said Saban will help him and his family make the right decision.
"He's always done that for me since I've been here at the university," Howard said. "You don't have to think about it too much during the season, you just want to play football. If you get focused on trying to leave early, the only things, you mess up on stuff. But at the end of the day, I'll sit down with coach tomorrow, like he said, and we'll make the right decision."
Saban addressed a wide range of topics on Tuesday morning at his final press conference at the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T, including the playoff itself. Saban reiterated his concern for the health of the bowl system in the playoff era, and the health of the players involved who are now playing up to 15 games.
"I am concerned about how does a playoff and a bowl system coexist," he said, "and how could we make it better if that's possible or get it right. I think it's difficult on the fans, too, as well as I'm sure the players would agree, we go stay in Dallas for a week to play a game, we come home for five days, and we come out here for three or four days to play a game. I mean, that's hard on fans. It's hard on players.
"This whole dynamic of how do we keep a healthy bowl system, which I think is great for college football, it's a lot of positive self-gratification for a lot of players who had a good season," he said, "and the national interest that we have in a playoff, which sort of overwhelms the importance of all the other bowl games."
On a lighter note, Saban also addressed the fact that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin missed the team bus back to the hotel after the game.
"He ended up hitching a ride with me," Saban said. "I miss the bus about every game, so I'm always anybody's fall-back for a ride."