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Alabama football head coach candidates with Nick Saban retiring

The Crimson Tide are going to have to find a new head coach to run this powerhouse program.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Clemson v Kentucky
Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers reacts during the second half of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against the Kentucky Wildcats at EverBank Stadium on December 29, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

The Alabama Crimson Tide football program will have to finally make a change at the head coach position. Legendary head coach Nick Saban announced he is retiring, leaving the powerhouse program after 17 seasons at the helm. Saban led Alabama to a whopping six national titles during his time, and routinely put the Crimson Tide in a position to be at the top of the college football world.

Now that Saban is officially moving on, here’s a look at the coaches Alabama could target to lead the program.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach

Alabama is arguably the best job in the country, largely because of the reputation Saban built. However, Swinney has been able to match Saban for most of the last decade, winning two national titles over Alabama and building a big-time program of his own. He’s an Alabama native and an alum of the school, so the fit is obvious. The track record is also something Crimson Tide officials will like. The one hurdle will be Swinney’s objections towards NIL money and the transfer portal, which are going to be key tools in the new SEC and college football landscape.

Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss head coach

I can go on a long rant about Kiffin being able to fail upwards for most of his coaching career, but he has put together great offenses and that would be something different for Alabama going forward. The Crimson Tide might’ve been efficient but were never flashy, even during Kiffin’s time there as the offensive coordinator. He’s familiar with the SEC and has experience under Saban, which are two green checks for Crimson Tide administrators. The question will be whether he can handle the pressure of a job like this, especially after flaming out at Tennessee and USC.

Steve Sarkisian, Texas head coach

Sark just led Texas to a College Football Playoff semifinal, but this is the job. After he was disgracefully ousted at USC, Saban hired Sarkisian as an analyst in 2016. He left for the pros, but returned to Tuscaloosa in 2019 to become the offensive coordinator, where he remained until he got the Texas job in 2021. Sarkisian has more than proven himself at the head coaching level in Austin, redeeming himself from the USC days.

Dan Lanning, Oregon head coach

Lanning was only a graduate assistant for one year at Alabama in 2015, but his young career has skyrocketed in the time since then. He was the defensive coordinator at Georgia for three years, during one of which they won a national championship, and has knocked it out of the park at Oregon in his first head coaching gig. It’s rare to see someone with no experience jump straight into the big leagues like Lanning has, but the culture and teams that have come out of Oregon in the last few years speak for themselves.

Mike Locksley, Maryland head coach

Locksley is certainly a long shot here, but as a former Alabama offensive coordinator, he’s on the list. Locksley has done a good job at Maryland since he took the job in 2019. His age — 54 — may be a tick against him if the Tide are looking for another coach with Saban’s longevity.

Kirby Smart, Georgia head coach

This is a long shot for several reasons, but Alabama will likely make the call anyway. Smart is at his alma mater and has assembled a talent pool rivaling that of Alabama’s, so he has no reason to leave. The Crimson Tide will want him but Smart probably politely declines.