In his first interview since announcing his retirement, former University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban touched on his "hard" decision to call it a career, seemingly out of nowhere.
The seven-time national championship-winning head coach showed up at his office on his first day of retirement. He told ESPN that he still wanted to be around to "support" players and coaches during the transition.
"I want to be there for the players, for the coaches, anything I can do to support them during this transition," he told ESPN's Chris Low.
"There are a lot of things to clean up, to help as we move forward," Saban added. "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. This is a place that will never be too far away from Miss Terry's and my hearts."
The legendary coach called a team meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday to deliver the news.
"I wanted them to know how much they meant to me," Saban told Low.
"It was hard, all of it was," he continued. "The last few days have been hard. But look, it's kind of like I told the players. I was going to go in there and ask them to get 100 percent 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, 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?"
The 72-year-old head coach explained that it was getting "difficult" for him to "sustain and do things the way I want to do them."
"Last season was difficult for me from just a health standpoint, not necessarily having anything major wrong, but just being able to sustain and do things the way I want to do them, the way I've always done them," Saban outlined. "It just got a little bit harder. So you have to decide, 'OK, this is sort of inevitable when you get to my age.'"
While many have speculated that Saban had grown tired of the new-age of college football with the transfer portal and Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), Saban emphasized his decision wasn't about that.
"Don't make it about [NIL]. It's not about that," he stated. "To me, if you choose to coach, you don't need to be complaining about all that stuff. You need to adjust to it and adapt to it and do the best you can under the circumstances and not complain about it. Now, I think everybody is frustrated about it. We had an SEC conference call, 14 coaches on there [Wednesday], and there's not one guy you can talk to who really understands what's happening in college football and thinks that it's not an issue."
"But [his retirement] ain't about that. We've been in this era for three years now, and we've adapted to it and won in this era, too. It's just that I've always known when it would be time to turn it over to somebody else, and this is that time," Saban added.
While Saban will enjoy playing more golf than he could while coaching, he made it a point to say he was "always going to be here for Alabama however, they need me.
"There's life after football, but I'm always going to be here for Alabama however they need me," he said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Saban called the University of Alabama "a very special place" to him and his wife, Miss Terry. He said they would "always consider Alabama our home."
"The University of Alabama has been a very special place to Terry and me," Saban said. "We have enjoyed every minute of our 17 years being the head coach at Alabama as well as becoming a part of the Tuscaloosa community. It is not just about how many games we won and lost, but it's about the legacy and how we went about it. We always tried to do it the right way. The goal was always to help players create more value for their future, be the best player they could be and be more successful in life because they were part of the program. Hopefully, we have done that, and we will always consider Alabama our home."
Read the full interview here.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.