Nick Saban: The way Alabama players reacted after Rose Bowl loss 'contributed' to decision to retire

Saban retired on Jan. 10 after 17 seasons and six national titles at Alabama

Nick Saban was not thrilled with the way his team reacted to losing the Rose Bowl.

Alabama lost 27-20 to eventual national champion Michigan in the College Football Playoff on Jan. 1. The overtime loss came after Jalen Milroe’s fourth-down run was stopped at the line of scrimmage. Milroe took off toward the end zone after a low snap on what appeared to be a designed run/pass option.

The game turned out to be the final one of Saban’s career as he shocked the college football world by announcing his retirement less than two weeks later. In a story recounting his decision-making process to retire and Alabama’s ensuing coaching search, Saban told ESPN the way some players on his team acted immediately after the loss and in the ensuing days “contributed” to his decision to hang it up after the 2023 season.

From ESPN:

"I want to be clear that wasn't the reason, but some of those events certainly contributed," Saban said of his decision to retire. "I was really disappointed in the way that the players acted after the game. You gotta win with class. You gotta lose with class. We had our opportunities to win the game and we didn't do it, and then showing your ass and being frustrated and throwing helmets and doing that stuff ... that's not who we are and what we've promoted in our program."

Saban also talked about how the way the college football landscape is changing influenced his decision. He estimated that "maybe 70 or 80% of the players you talk to" wanted to know about their playing time for the upcoming season and how much they would be making in NIL money.

Saban retired as the most successful coach in modern college football history. His teams won seven national titles — including six at Alabama — and he turned the Crimson Tide into a machine in the College Football Playoff era. Over the 10 years of the four-team playoff, Alabama made the postseason eight times. No other team made it more than six times.

Saban’s retirement was not a spur of the moment decision, however. He had been thinking about the end of his career for a bit. Saban told Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne at the end of the 2022 season that retirement was getting closer and closer.

"Greg, this is getting more and more difficult on me," Saban told Byrne. "I'm not ready to do it now, but we're going to have to start evaluating this more on a year-to-year basis."

Alabama moved quickly to secure Saban’s replacement after his retirement. The Crimson Tide hired former Washington coach Kalen DeBoer to succeed Saban after DeBoer led Washington to its second playoff appearance and its first CFP national title game. Saban’s retirement was part of a busy college football offseason that included Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh heading to the NFL and UCLA’s Chip Kelly heading to Ohio State to become the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator.

Saban, meanwhile, will still have a significant presence in college football. He's set to be an analyst for ESPN in 2024 after serving as a guest analyst in recent years when his schedule allowed.