Listen to Austin 360 Radio
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $3 for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $3 for 3 months

Bohls: Texas' Sarkisian will try to break his old boss's domination

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, left, and Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban will coach one more game together: next Monday's College Football Playoff championship game. Then Sarkisian will leave to take over the Texas program.
  • Nick Saban has a perfect 23-0 record against his former assistants.
  • You can expect GameDay to show up for Alabama-Texas in Austin in 2022.
  • If nothing else, Sarkisian gets high marks for his mentors.

Nick Saban’s record against his former coaches is, well, perfect.

In 23 meetings, not a single former Saban assistant has beaten the Alabama football coach. 

None.

Not Kirby Smart.

Not Jimbo Fisher.

Certainly not Will Muschamp or Derek Dooley or Jeremy Pruitt or Lane Kiffin or go on down the list.

Nobody. None of them.

Saban’s a perfect 23-0 and counting against the field. 

Heck, this season alone, his Crimson Tide went 4-0 against the Saban family tree. He whipped Kiffin’s Ole Miss team by 15 points. He beat Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs by 17. Fisher’s Texas Aggies didn’t put up any bigger fight, getting crushed by 28. Pruitt’s Volunteers? Mauled by 31.

Of course, Texas can say Saban hasn’t coached against Steve Sarkisian.

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will start his third career head coaching job immediately after the Crimson Tide meet Ohio State for the national championship. He previously coached Washington and USC.

Sarkisian, who was announced as the successor to Tom Herman on Saturday, will get that opportunity — or sentence — in the next couple of seasons when the Longhorns' new coach squares off against his current boss in 2022 and 2023. 

Think "GameDay" won’t be here in Austin for that grudge match on Sept. 10, 2022? Or the rematch in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 9, 2023?

Make your hotel reservations today.

So we went to the source for an explanation. Just why hasn’t any of your minions been able to vanquish you, Nick?

“Well, I think that’s probably only a matter of time,” an aw-shucks Saban told me during Monday’s virtual press conference promoting next week’s national championship game between Alabama and Ohio State. 

And, of course, Saban is right. It will happen.

Maybe in the year 2050 someone will finally get his way against the 99-year-old Crimson Tide coach, but that’s not a crazy prediction. Not even an expectation.

You might think this cast of dozens would know all the ins and outs of Sabanese 101, would know the complexities of his thought process and would be one step ahead of him on the football field.

But you know what? Saban knows them, too. Everything about them.

And there’s the theory that none of his assistants, after taking a new job, would dare to infuriate Saban and tug on his cape by trying to take any other assistants with him. Perhaps Sarkisian won’t care. Maybe he’ll try to persuade close buddy and celebrated offensive line coach Kyle Flood to pack his bags for Austin, too.

Hey, Smart hired Saban’s trusted lieutenant, strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, out from under his nose when he went to Georgia. Sure, it ticked off the old man, too.

If you’re going to beat Saban, you’ve got to out-Saban him and do Saban things, but we hope that does not include making Sark’s own staff unavailable to the local media. Tom Herman tried that here, limiting availability to once-a-week sessions of about 15 minutes with each coordinator. Didn’t work out all that well.

Saban, of course, is already up to his old tricks.

He’ll kill Sark with kindness. There’ll be none of that Dabo Swinney spit-in-the-face, lowly 11th ranking of Ohio State with Saban to fire up the Buckeyes, although Saban did rank Ryan Day’s team fifth, probably because he preferred to face less potent Notre Dame.

Nick Saban, always two steps ahead.

In short, Sarkisian has Saban’s trust. He didn’t keep Kiffin around for the title game after he had accepted the Florida Atlantic job, but he clearly wanted another game out of Sark. And Sark can greatly enhance his value in recruiting the Lone Star State if he's wearing an Alabama national championship ring (although Herman had the same from his Ohio State days).

If nothing else, Sark gets high marks for his mentors. Having worked for both Saban and USC’s Pete Carroll, Sarkisian has learned from two of the best college coaches in the past two decades. Not so much guilt by association, but good by association. Saban has so much trust in Sark, he named him acting head coach for the Iron Bowl when Saban had his COVID-19 scare.

And he’s already puffing up Sarkisian — softening him up for that 2022 showdown, we’re sure.

“Sark has done a marvelous job here,” Saban said. “He’s very well-organized. He works very well with all the people in the organization, players and coaches alike. He’s a good play-caller on game day. He does a really good job preparing the players game plan-wise for each and every game. And he’s just done a great job.”

On and on he went.

Ohio State’s Ryan Day threw in some bouquets as well for the guy who calls plays for the nation's second-best scoring offense, which averages 48.2 points a game.

“He’s got a great tradition of a lot of success,” Day said of Sarkisian. “He’s been around some unbelievable offenses, and he’s got a great feel. I think when you look at the things he does and the plays he runs, he puts the defense in a lot of stress. He’s very aggressive. He’s very, very talented.”

If nothing else, Saban was guilty of piling on ... the compliments.

“He’s been a real asset to our organization,” Saban said. “I think he’ll be very successful as a head coach. And he’s taken over a good program, so it’s going to be challenging for anybody that plays them in the future, I think.”

Yeah, anyone else, that is.