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Legendary Alabama head coach Nick Saban retires 6-0 against Kentucky at Alabama

Alabama head coach Nick Saban coaches his team during the Kentucky vs. Alabama football game on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky lost 49-21. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Legendary Alabama football head coach Nick Saban retired from coaching on Wednesday, ending his legendary career that also included six wins over Kentucky.

Saban, aged 72, finishes his career with seven National Championships, six of which were with the Crimson Tide, 11 SEC Championships and a 292-71-2 record on top of the collegiate game.

Prior to the Tide he also won a National Championship with the LSU Tigers (2003) and briefly coached the Miami Dolphins in the NFL.

After his stint with the Dolphins was unsuccessful, Saban returned to the college game to take over the Crimson Tide where he became the first head coach since Gene Stallings (1992) to win a National Championship. He also became the first coach since former Kentucky head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant to win multiple titles, with Bryant also leading the Tide to six championships.

Saban is the second winningest coach in Alabama history behind Bryant, who notched 269 wins.

During his tenure the Tide and Kentucky only faced off six times, equal to the number of championships won by Saban in Tuscaloosa, with the well-decorated Saban getting the better of the Cats all six times.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talks to Alabama football head coach Nick Saban before the Kentucky vs. No. 7 Alabama men’s basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama won 78-52. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

The first time Saban led his team against Kentucky was the 2008 season, marking the first time the teams had faced since 2004, where the Tide defended home field and won 17-14 inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Cats were led by head coach Rich Brooks during the ‘08 season and finished 7-6 (2-6 in SEC play) with a win in the Liberty Bowl.

Alabama, on the other hand, would finish 12-2, winning the SEC West before falling to Florida in the SEC Championship and Utah in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators would win the National Championship.

Kentucky and Alabama would meet again the very next year, in 2009, when the Tide traveled to Kroger Field, then called Commonwealth Stadium, and defeated the Cats 38-20.

Kentucky finished the 2009 season 7-6 with a loss in the Music City Bowl, officially ending the tenure of Brooks, who retired after the season.

Alabama had a fate that year, going on to finish the season undefeated and defeat No. 1 Florida and then No. 2 Texas to claim both the SEC Championship and National Championship, the first national title for Saban in Tuscaloosa.

The teams wouldn’t meet again until 2013, sparing Kentucky fans the embarrassment of the Joker Phillips era, when Alabama returned to Commonwealth Stadium.

Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, head coach Mark Stoops went 2-10 (0-8 in the SEC) during his first year as head coach, and that included a 48-7 thrashing at the hands of the Tide, who would go on to finish the year 11-2. The Tide did not make the SEC title game after an Iron Bowl loss against Auburn and was defeated by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Kentucky would return to Tuscaloosa in 2016 but the result wouldn’t be much different with Bama coming away with a 34-6 victory.

Kentucky finished the 2016 season 7-6 with a loss in the TaxSlayer Bowl while Alabama finished 14-1, defeating Florida in the SEC Championship and Washington in the College Football Playoffs before falling to Clemson in the National Championship.

The Cats took another trip to Bryant-Denny in 2020, suffering an even worse 63-3 thumping against an Alabama team that would finish 13-0 and defeat Florida and Ohio State en route to an SEC Championship and National Championship. Kentucky finished 5-6 and found success in the Gator Bowl.

Most recently, Saban led the Tide back to Kroger Field this past season, with Alabama getting its final victory over the Cats of his tenure, beating Kentucky 49-21.

Kentucky would finish the year 7-6 with a loss in the Gator Bowl, while Alabama would finish 12-2, defeating Georgia in the SEC Championship – ending two straight undefeated seasons for the Bulldogs – before falling to eventual National Champion Michigan in the College Football Playoff semi-final.

Just days after the Wolverines hoisted the trophy, Saban announced his retirement as one of the greatest college football coaches of all time and one that played a major role in one of the greatest dynasties in American sports history.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor

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