University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban will retire to pursue his “lifelong dream” of becoming a professional bass tournament angler.
“Five or six championships, whatever it is now, is enough,” Saban said. “I’m ready for a new challenge and have been preparing for this for years. Working with the players and coaches has been a remarkably rewarding experience but as of now, football is behind me. It’s just a game, anyway, y’know.
“I’d like to thank my sponsor, Little Debbie, which make the greatest snacks anywhere,” he said. “Little Debbie will be my only fishing sponsor and the great people there are behind me 100 percent. I don’t plan on having any rod, reel, lure or boat sponsors because I want to be able to fish in the moment and use whatever I need to win. And I plan to win. A’right? I plan to win. I want to win every tournament and the Bassmaster Classic and the FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup. Second place is the first loser.”
Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne, still shaken by the news, said a search will begin immediately for a new coach.
“I can’t say replacement because no one can replace Nick Saban and what he’s accomplished here in this competitive era of college football,” Byrne told GVO’s #FakeOutdoorNews team. “The Alabama Nation is incredibly grateful to Coach Saban and his family for all they’ve done here in the last decade. I don’t have any answers yet. I don’t have any short list of candidates because I didn’t think I’d be around long enough as athletic director to have to make this kind of decision, anyway. Is Belichick available? I may have to call Robert Kraft to find out.”
Saban has won six national championships as head coach and five with Alabama since 2009. He has had numerous players selected for All-SEC, All-America, academic and other individual honors along with being selected in the NFL Draft.
Age Not A Factor
Saban, who at age 66 would be the oldest rookie ever to compete on the Bassmaster or FLW tours, became agitated at suggestions he might be unable to compete with younger anglers. Jordan Lee of Alabama won his second Classic championship at age 26 in March 2018. Only a handful of pro anglers still competing on the professional circuits are older than Saban, including legends Rick Clunn of Missouri, Jimmy Houston of Texas and Larry Nixon of Arkansas.
“Seriously? Age isn’t anything, a’right? Those are just numbers,” Saban said. “I’m only 66 or so, so it’s not like I have a foot in the grave or anything. Good grief. The bass don’t know how old I am or if I’m a man, woman, old, fat, young, whatever. A’right? Next question.”
Saban has competed in bass tournaments “for several years,” he said, on the Black Warrior River that flows in central Alabama near Tuscaloosa. Unknown to anyone prior to his shocking announcement, he said weekend tournaments were his favorites because of the anonymity. Most tournaments he fished in were in spring and summer, but Saban said the best fishing “for those big Black Warrior spotted bass that make your knees shake” is in autumn.
Lee, who fished for the Auburn University bass team, said Saban competing on the Bassmaster Elite Series “would be just another guy, other than fans following him around.”
“He knows how to prepare and obviously how to win,” Lee said. We have to prepare for each cast, each tournament, and avoid mental lapses that could cost us a fish that might help us win. Saban obviously gets that, but this is all on you when you’re out there. It only takes one second for something big to happen.”
Fishing and Football
Thanks to Alabama’s history along with the overwhelming success during his tenure, Saban was able to dictate the kickoff times of games. He could often fish in tournaments until at least noon or 1 p.m., with assistant coaches handling meetings with fans and recruits or any last-minute game preparations. Saban would leave the tournament without weighing his fish, though, which resulted in a zero but helped keep his anonymity intact.
“It was pretty nice, to be honest, to not have to deal with that stuff for a few hours each week,” he said. “I mean, it’s not like we were the early 11 a.m. game when those other teams who don’t win too often are on television. The coaches did a great job of taking care of things on Saturday morning and just thought I was home with my family for a few hours.
“Nighttime kickoffs are the best, of course, and when you win championships like we do then you get to play in prime time. Road games drive me crazy. We strive to have the best football team here that we can trying to maximize the potential of these young men every day, each week, on every snap, to perform at their best level possible for the greatest success, and I’ve approached my dream of being a professional angler with the same intensity. The road games made me to change my schedule, but that’s something I’ll be able to use when I’m on the pro bass tournament trail.”
Saban Used Trickery
Using an old aluminum flatbottom boat he bought from an unidentified man who quit catfishing, Saban said he often entered tournaments with the name “Paul Whitworth.” He also explained how his wife helped him affix a rough beard and moustache, and his clothing was purchased at consignment stores. Saban said the addition of an old trucker hat and pouch of Beech Nut helped conceal his identity for years.
“I never won but I finished fifth or sixth a few times in the spring and summer tournaments,” he said. “Not winning just about killed me, OK? Do you get that? Leaving those tournaments early without weighing in, I hated that because I wasn’t able to finish. Not having that perfect day on the water, holding that trophy, it ate my guts out. It almost killed me to intentionally lose a bass at the boat. But that was part of the process to get where I am now.”
Saban said winning a tournament would’ve put him on stage and potentially exposed him. A close friend, who Saban declined to identify, helped with the tournament registrations to further the ruse. The professional Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour seasons are almost over for the 2018 season, but their lower-level qualifying offer potential paths to the top level.
“I’m looking at the Bassmaster Opens and FLW Costa events and seeing which ones I can get into,” Saban said. “Don’t ask me about football anymore. That’s in the past. I went fishing this morning and then had to come here to talk to y’all, a’right? I’m ready to get after it.”