Questions swirled almost immediately after Nick Saban announced his decision to retire after 17 seasons and six national titles at Alabama.

On Thursday, Saban publicly explained the reasoning behind his decision, saying he wanted to leave Alabama while the program was still in a good position to regularly compete for conference and national championships.

“The last few days have been hard,” Saban told ESPN in an interview Thursday. “But, look, it’s kind of like I told the players. I was going to go in there and ask them to get 100% committed to coming back and trying to win a championship, but I’ve always said that I didn’t want to ride the program down.”


The 72-year-old Saban spent 28 seasons as a head coach, the last 17 of them at Alabama. He said he came to a decision on his coaching future after returning from a recent trip to his Florida home. 

“And I felt whether it was recruiting or hiring coaches, now that we have people leaving, the same old issue always sort of came up — how long are you going to do this for?” Saban said. 


Saban’s decision also opened a 30-day window for Crimson Tide players to enter the transfer portal, and five-star wide receiver Ryan Williams already announced he was leaving.

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne is now tasked with finding the right person for the high-profile job. There has been broad speculation on what Alabama is looking for in a head coach. 

Oregon’s Dan Lanning’s name has been linked to the job. But Lanning attempted to put those rumors to bed Thursday by releasing video showing the Ducks head coach telling his team he was staying in Eugene.

“I want to be here in Eugene for as long as Eugene will have me,” Lanning says in the video. “This place has everything that I could possibly ever want. There’s a little bit of a problem in society today with people looking for what’s next and where there’s an opportunity.

“The reality is the grass is not always greener. In fact, the grass is damn greener in Eugene.”

Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer and Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin have also been mentioned in conversations about the Alabama job. Kiffin spent three seasons under Saban, serving as Alabama’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator.

Saban, meanwhile, said he’s not going anywhere quite yet. He still went into his office Thursday morning, like always, and said he wanted to be around to support the current coaches and players.

“There are a lot of things to clean up, to help as we move forward,” he told ESPN. “I’m still going to have a presence here at the university in some form and trying to figure out all that and how it works.’

His shadow — and his statue outside Bryant-Denny Stadium — will loom large for his successor.

No program knows better the challenge of replacing a legendary coach than Alabama, which took more than two decades to find a comparable successor to Paul “Bear” Bryant after his retirement following the 1982 season. Alabama cycled through seven coaches before Saban’s arrival, starting with former Bryant player Ray Perkins.

All had at least one 10-win season, but only Gene Stallings (1990-96) won a national title, in 1992. The next one came under Saban in 2009, a 17-year drought that would be hard to swallow again for ‘Bama fans. Alabama won its last national championship in 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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