Texas Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian says Alabama’s Nick Saban ‘saved my profession’

AUSTIN, Texas — Steve Sarkisian hasn’t forgotten, and he will not overlook.

There isn’t any manner he might, particularly not this week with Nick Saban and the No. 1 Crimson Tide coming to city.

To most within the school soccer world, Saban is the man who has led Alabama to a staggering six nationwide championships, the man who has transcended school soccer in myriad alternative ways and the man who has constructed a dynasty the likes of which the game might not see once more any time quickly.

However for Sarkisian, Saban is, merely, the man who “saved my career.”

As massive a sport as it will likely be for Texas when Alabama visits DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday — and as massive a sport as it’s for Sarkisian to indicate that the Longhorns are on the suitable trajectory after struggling via a dropping season in his first yr on the helm — he says he’ll perpetually be indebted to his outdated boss.

“I’ve said this numerous times, but I would not be the head coach at Texas if it weren’t for Nick Saban,” Sarkisian instructed ESPN. “He gave me a chance when I had a hard time getting an interview, never mind a job. There were days that I thought, ‘Man, I’m never going to be a head coach again. I’m never going to be an offensive coordinator again. I’m never going to get another job.’

“However Coach Saban took an opportunity on me once I wanted any person to consider in me once more.”

Sarkisian’s issues with alcohol have been well chronicled and led to his firing at USC five games into the 2015 season when then-athletic director Pat Haden said Sarkisian’s “conduct didn’t meet USC’s requirements” and that Sarkisian was “not wholesome.” Sarkisian has talked openly about his alcoholism and says he hasn’t held anything back from his players at Texas.

“I am actually clear with my gamers. I am actually open. I am actually sincere,” Sarkisian said. “I share my story about the place I used to be in my profession at 33 or 34 years outdated as head coach on the College of Washington, then being fired publicly on nationwide tv at USC after which going to a remedy facility for 30 days.”

Sarkisian needed a chance to rebuild his career, and there was no better place to do that than at Alabama under Saban, who has helped to resurrect more than a few coaches’ prospects.

“Sark is the one who did the work,” Saban told ESPN. “We supported him and made positive there have been the suitable sources and folks in place to assist him, as we have now with many others. However, pay attention, he saved his personal profession by doing an ideal job for us and rehabbing himself professionally, and I am not simply speaking about personally, however professionally in a extremely, actually constructive manner that impacted our program enormously and helped us achieve success right here.”

Saban actually took two chances on Sarkisian, whose Longhorns opened the season with a 52-10 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. The first came when Saban hired Sarkisian as an offensive analyst just before the start of the 2016 season, which was a complete surprise to Sarkisian. In fact, he had already committed to being a part of Fox’s broadcast team that season and had no plans (or opportunities) to coach.

He was on Alabama’s campus that summer as part of his own mini-tour where he spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons on the NFL side and Florida and Alabama on the college side.

Tuscaloosa just happened to be his final stop.

“I used to be spending three to 5 days at each spot, simply attempting to faucet into the place my mates have been teaching and attempt to keep related to the sport,” Sarkisian said. “I might by no means had an August the place I wasn’t in coaching camp.” One of the main reasons he went to Alabama at all was to reconnect with old pal Lane Kiffin, the Tide’s offensive coordinator. They were together at USC as co-offensive coordinators under Pete Carroll and have remained close.

During Sarkisian’s visit to Alabama, Saban had Sarkisian watching tape and drawing up plays on the whiteboard.

“Day-after-day, it was like, ‘Watch this, watch that and inform me what you consider this, what you consider that,'” Sarkisian recounted. “Coach Saban would not miss something. He is all the time selecting your mind.”

Ultimately, Sarkisian said it was Kiffin who was “sort of the champion behind loads of it” and tossed out the idea of joining Alabama’s staff as an analyst. Sure enough, Saban offered him a position, but Sarkisian was unsure if he wanted to take it.

“I went forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards and agreed to take the job at Alabama, and it is the most effective choices I’ve ever made,” Sarkisian said.

Little did he know that he would be calling plays in the national championship game later that season after Saban parted ways with Kiffin following a 24-7 win over Washington in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Kiffin had planned to stay on for the championship game after agreeing to take the Florida Atlantic head job, but Saban had other ideas after seeing the Tide struggle on offense in the win over the Huskies.

“Positively one of many extra distinctive experiences of my profession,” Sarkisian said of the 35-31 national championship game loss to Clemson.

Sarkisian had already been hired as Kiffin’s successor, but his first stint as Alabama’s offensive coordinator lasted less than two months. He left Feb. 7 to be the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, replacing Kyle Shanahan, who was named the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach. But after two years with Atlanta, Sarkisian was fired as part of a shakeup on the Falcons’ staff.

Saban admittedly wasn’t pleased Sarkisian bolted so quickly, but took a second chance on him after Mike Locksley left to take the Maryland head-coaching job following the 2018 season and then Dan Enos left abruptly to be Miami’s offensive coordinator. Sarkisian was all set to stay in the NFL and take a job as the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive coordinator when Saban called again.

“In my thoughts, I used to be staying within the NFL, however needed to take a step again and have a look at myself and say, ‘ what? Here is a person that provided me a job when nobody even wished to interview me,'” Sarkisian said. “‘Here is a person that entrusted me to name a nationwide championship sport once I had been an analyst all yr lengthy. Here is a person that employed me as offensive coordinator and I left a couple of months later … and he is nonetheless calling me to come back again?’

“I felt like at that time I owed him. He extended me an olive branch, and I don’t know how much I really appreciated that and how much I acknowledged that.”

Beneath Sarkisian’s tutelage, Alabama’s offense put up record-setting numbers. The Tide averaged 47.2 factors per sport in 2019, second solely to nationwide champion LSU.

After that season, Sarkisian turned down head-coaching alternatives at Colorado and Mississippi State to remain at Alabama.

“I thought to myself, ‘You know, I think there’s a better job out there for me, and I’ve got unfinished business,'” Sarkisian stated. “We didn’t win a national championship. We were good enough. We were talented enough. I didn’t do a good enough job. It was the right thing for me, for the program and for Coach Saban to stay another year.”

Sarkisian turned an excellent hotter commodity in 2020 because the Crimson Tide rolled via the season unbeaten on their option to a nationwide championship, and did so whereas taking part in an all-SEC schedule in the course of the COVID-impacted common season. The Tide once more completed second nationally in scoring offense (48.5 factors per sport) with first-year full-time quarterback Mac Jones taking part in his manner into being an NFL first-round draft decide and receiver DeVonta Smith profitable the Heisman Trophy. They scored greater than 40 factors in 10 straight video games.

Because the School Soccer Playoff approached, Sarkisian turned down a possibility to interview for the Auburn head-coaching job.

“There were a couple of opportunities, but they weren’t the right ones for me,” Sarkisian stated. “But then Texas came … very late.”

And really rapidly.

Texas introduced Sarkisian’s hiring Jan. 2, 2021, about 5 hours after asserting that Tom Herman was out as coach.

“Then, it felt right,” Sarkisian stated. “We were going to play for a national title, and I felt like I fulfilled what I owed to Coach Saban. Plus, it was Texas.”

Saban’s Alabama program has been one thing of a haven for coaches searching for second probabilities, whether or not they have been fired at their earlier stops for not profitable sufficient or for different causes. Saban stated those who’ve obtained second probabilities all had one factor in widespread.

They have been dedicated to serving to themselves.

“I’ve given several people chances, and they’ve all done really, really well, whether it was Lane, who had lots of baggage, or Mike Locksley, who had a negative past, and then Sark,” Saban stated. “I think people learn a lot sometimes when things go badly, and it makes them aware that there are some changes that need to be made.

“It wasn’t as a result of I instructed them. They did it themselves, did an ideal job right here and earned their alternatives.”

Texas will have to earn its way back to national relevance after going 12 straight years without as much as a conference championship. The Longhorns have had almost as many head coaches (four) as they’ve had winning seasons (six) over the last decade. Sarkisian knows what the pinnacle of college football looks like. He’s seen it up close.

“It has been Alabama for the final decade and a half,” Sarkisian said. “And on the finish of day, we must also be a kind of groups on the pinnacle, and that is what we’re striving to do.”