The Iron Bowl rivalry between Alabama and Auburn is enriched with history, and this year's game will showcase two head coaches with significant personal histories as well.
Saturday will not be the first meeting between Nick Saban and Hugh Freeze, but it will be the first time the two have faced each other since Freeze took the Auburn job.
Earlier in the year on an SEC teleconference call, Freeze was vocal about how Saban was there for him during his time after his resignation during a scandal at Ole Miss. Freeze even mentioned that Saban tried to hire him while he was coaching at Liberty.
Monday during his Iron Bowl press conference, Saban was asked to speak on his relationship with Freeze and the difficulties of coaching against someone that he has a good relationship with.
“I played against all kinds of guys and all kinds of coaches that coached for me, that I’m good friends with,” Saban said. “Whether it was [Bill] Belichick when we were together and all of a sudden I’m at Miami and he’s at New England, all the guys in college coaching that you have to play against.”
When you have been coaching as long as Saban has, and have a coaching tree as big as his, it is hard not to be accustomed to playing against coaches you have relationships with. The relationship with Freeze seems to be closer than other coaches, as it was made known at SEC Media Days that Freeze and his wife vacation with the Sabans.
“I’ve always been a guy that has a lot of respect for coaches and what we do to try to promote our game and how we try to impact young people as players. I think you can have a relationship with somebody and still compete like crazy when you play against each other, but it’s really not personal,” Saban explained. “The outcome of the game is really not personal, you’re doing the best you can to get your team to play the best and I respect that as a coach, and we’re gonna do the best we can to get our team to play their best as a coach and hopefully people respect that.”
On Saturday, the two vacation mates will square off against each other in one of the biggest rivalries in college football. It will be the sixth meeting between the two coaches with Saban holding a 3-2 record. Both victories for Freeze were during his time at Ole Miss. Although there is a large hatred between the two programs, Saban says that nothing will be personal.
“But at the end of the day, does it have to affect your relationship? I don’t think so. I don’t think you have to dislike somebody or have an adversarial relationship with somebody to actually compete against them,” Saban concluded.
This year’s Iron Bowl will be hosted by Auburn on Saturday, with kick-off set for 2:30 p.m. CT.
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