Legendary Alabama coach Nick Saban urged players to block out 'external factors' and ignore internet trolls

Nick Saban shocked the college football world when he announced his retirement from coaching. The seven-time national championship winner has since taken on a “supportive” role at Alabama, the program he coached to six national titles.

While Saban faced challenges throughout his storied career, he also had to contend with criticism away from the field. In December, the undefeated Florida State Seminoles were left out of the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Saban-led Crimson Tide took the fourth and final playoff spot, which sparked controversy.

Some upset fans decided to contact Saban directly. 

“My phone’s been getting blown up from people who didn’t get in. As if I’m responsible for that,” Saban said on “The Pat McAfee Show” last December. This week, Saban offered a more blunt take on “internet haters.”


Nick Saban in Georgia

Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide before the SEC championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Saban said one of the challenges he faced as a coach was trying to minimize the impact of “external factors,” like opinions on the internet.

“It amazes me that some guy sits in his basement, probably in his mom’s house, probably in his underwear, probably overweight, and he puts something on the internet and anybody cares about what he thinks,” Saban said at the Irondale Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Alabama.

“But it would affect our players,” Saban said. “And I was constantly trying to get them not to be affected by external factors, what other people think.”


Saban added that “doing the right things” should ultimately carry more weight.

“You trusting and believing and doing the right things is so much more important than what somebody else thinks,” Saban said. “So, that was one of the most challenging things, to not let external factors — and you’ve heard me use the term ‘rat poison’ — affect what you do and how you do it.”

Nick Saban coaches in the CFP

Alabama head coach Nick Saban reacts after running back Jase McClellan scored a touchdown during the second half of the Rose Bowl CFP NCAA semifinal game against Michigan Jan. 1, 2024, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

Saban also reflected on the “most humiliating” loss of his coaching career.

“If you remember back the first year we were at Alabama, we lost to ULM,” Saban said. “You may not even know what that stands for — University of Louisiana-Monroe. It was the most humiliating defeat, maybe of my entire coaching career.” 

The game Saban was referring to happened in 2007 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Louisiana-Monroe celebrated a 21-14 victory over the Crimson Tide.

“I think we had five guys suspended by the NCAA,” Saban said. “We had three more suspended for disciplinary reasons. We played horrible in the game. I was almost ashamed of how we represented the university and the program. We fumbled the ball six times. So, we ended up getting beat in the game. Everybody’s disappointed. Fans are disappointed.”

Nick Saban at SEC Media Days

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide speaks during 2023 SEC Media Days at Grand Hyatt Nashville July 19, 2023, in Nashville. (Johnnie Izquierdo/Getty Images)

Shortly after Saban’s retirement, Alabama announced Kalen DeBoer would leave the Washington Huskies and take the head coaching role in Tuscaloosa. 

“I want to bring the least amount of attention to me being around here as possible,” Saban told ESPN. “So, I want to be supportive. I want to be helpful, but I don’t want to be looking over anybody’s shoulder.”


Saban will step into his new role as an analyst on ESPN’s “College GameDay” later this year.

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