The legendary American football coach steps off from the sidelines after his final game at the University of Alabama, where he spent 17 seasons after dedicating a lifetime dedicated to the sport, winning seven national titles and and creating an immeasurable legacy of developed players.

Nick Saban is retiring. The charismatic college American football coach is stepping away from the sidelines. At the age of 72, Saban is calling time on a career that has seen him win a record seven national titles, six of them with the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama. His journey ended this season with a loss to eventual champions Michigan in the College Football Playoff semi-finals. 

"The University of Alabama has been a very special place for (my wife) Terry and me," Saban said in a statement on the team's official website. "We have enjoyed every minute of our 17 years as head coach at Alabama and being a part of the Tuscaloosa community. It's not just about how many games we won and lost, but it's about the legacy and how we went about it. We always tried to do it the right way," he said in his statement. 

"The goal was always to help players add value to their future, be the best player they can be and be more successful in life because they were part of the programme. Hopefully, we have done that, and we will always consider Alabama our home," he added.

Nick Saban is an institution in college sports. His accomplishments and the way he works have left their mark on American football. Now, as his career comes to an end after 17 seasons, everyone is paying tribute to him. He spent most of his career in the college ranks. 

Before joining Alabama, he spent two less than stellar seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Saban began his long journey at Michigan State, where his success paved the way to Louisiana State, where he won his first national title more than two decades ago in 2003. His best run began at Alabama in 2008. 

He will also be remembered for the way he worked. It will serve as a manual for any good coach. Strict and disciplined, the way he treated his players and led his teams, and the results he achieved, made him a special figure to the team's fans. In 2011, a statue was erected in his honour on the team's campus. His career as a talent scout is also noteworthy, as he managed to identify 123 players who went on to play in the NFL during his coaching tenure. The 2023 NFL playoffs, for example, featured 13 players from Alabama.

Nick Saban says goodbye as the players listen attentively. GETTY IMAGES
Nick Saban says goodbye as the players listen attentively. GETTY IMAGES

His achievements make him one of the most decorated coaches in history, so his retirement came as a shock to players, coaches and everyone who loves the game of American football. Saban has won 11 Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships. 

"Simply put, Nick Saban is one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport, and the University of Alabama is fortunate to have had him lead our football programme for the past 17 seasons," said Greg Byrne, Alabama's director of athletics, as quoted by AFP. During his head coaching career, his teams won seven national championships, 11 conference championships and 312 games, and he developed an NCAA record 49 first-round NFL draft picks. 

He has discovered hundreds of college athletes and guided them through the learning process, turning many into high-level players. His human strength and significance united everyone, teammates and rivals, in this retirement after a life dedicated to the sport.