February 21, 2024
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Nick Saban’s retirement last week after 17 years as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide took college football by storm. 

Saban’s retirement came shortly after a season that saw Alabama win another SEC Championship and earn a berth in the College Football Playoff. 

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide is shown prior to the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 25, 2023, in Auburn, Alabama. (Michael Chang/Getty Images)

His decision sent Alabama scrambling as it attempted to find a replacement for the coaching legend.

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Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne told college football analyst and radio show host Paul Finebaum on Wednesday that he asked the players to give him 72 hours to find a new coach. Byrne didn’t require 72 hours, hiring former Washington Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer on Jan. 12.

While Saban will no longer be strolling the sidelines, Byrne told Finebaum that the seven-time national champion will have a role in the football program moving forward.

“He has an office down the street at Bryant-Denny [Stadium],” Byrne said when asked about Saban’s role. “He is going to be an adviser for us. He’s been awesome. He and I talked during the coaching search.”

“Somebody asked me, ‘Was he involved?’ Man, I’m not very smart. Many people know that. But I’m smart enough to know when you have a chance to have Nick Saban involved with talking about coaching and football and decision-making and leadership, shame on me if I don’t take advantage of that.” 

New Alabama head coach Kalen DeBoer gives his introductory speech during a press conference at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

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Byrne added that DeBoer has “embraced” having Saban around the program. Saban spoke highly of DeBoer after the hire was made official.

“I want nothing more than to see Alabama football continue to be successful, and Coach DeBoer is an outstanding choice to lead this program,” Saban said in part in a statement after the hire.

Saban’s retirement has caused a good number of Alabama players to enter the transfer portal, including star safety Caleb Downs, who was named a second-team All-American in his freshman season. 

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Nick Saban waves

Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates after the SEC Championship Game against Georgia on Dec. 2, 2023, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Downs entered the transfer portal on Wednesday and his father said he’d like to decide on his future within 48 hours.

“Our time is so short, and we don’t have time to look at a lot of unknowns,” Gary Downs told 247 Sports. “It has to be previous relationships with people. We want to try and find a place with stability, the same coach and same coordinators, knowing you have to be prepared for change.”

“He just turned 19. This is a lot for him to process right now. You don’t go into this situation thinking about transferring.”