MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. _ Nick Saban had been a college head coach for one year, at Toledo in 1990, before returning to an NFL assistant’s job. In 1995, he re-entered to the college ranks, this time as Michigan State’s head coach.
The first game in his new life came at home against Nebraska.
The 1995 Cornhuskers, you may recall, turned in one of the most dominant seasons in the game’s history. The 12-0 record was capped by a 62-24 trouncing of Florida in the Fiesta Bowl for Nebraska’s second straight national title.
Nebraska won another championship in 1997, giving the program three in four years. That standard of excellence had not been matched – until Monday when Alabama throttled Notre Dame 42-14 to win its second straight BCS title and third in four years.
Saban now knows that type of dominance from both sidelines.
“What I remember about it, I was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns under Bill Belichick, and the first game we have with me at Michigan State was against Nebraska, and they beat us 55-14 (actually 50-10),” Saban said. “And the score didn’t indicate how bad they beat us.
“And I’m thinking that I hadn’t been a college coach in four or five years because I was in the NFL, and we’re never going to win a game. We’ll never win a game at Michigan State. I must have taken a bad job, wrong job, no players.”
That thought lasted until Saban met Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne for the postgame handshake.
“He whispered in my ear, ‘It’s not really as bad as you think,’ ” Saban said. “So, I think he knew he had a pretty good team. We ended up winning six games, so we weren’t as bad as I thought.”