Jimbo vs Saban: Friends or Rivals?

Orry Cantrell, Contributing Writer

After a 3-8 record in the 1999 season, LSU decided it was time for a change in the head coaching position. 

Enter Nick Saban, coming off a 9-2 season with the Michigan State Spartans.   

LSU’s football program enjoyed immediate success after hiring Saban, finishing the 2000 season with a 8-3 record and a Peach Bowl Victory over the No. 15 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  

A part of this rapid success was Saban’s famous ability to surround himself with brilliant football minds, no matter where he goes.  

Throughout his tenure with the Tigers, names like Kirby Smart, Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley all coached under Saban at some point.  

No exception to this pool of coaching talent was Jimbo Fisher, who served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Saban for seven years at LSU.  

In their time together, Saban and Fisher won two SEC titles, three BCS bowl games and famously defeated the Oklahoma Sooners, led by Heisman-winning quarterback Jason White, in the 2003 BCS National Championship game.  

Despite the success, the two never had the best relationship, as reported in a piece by The Athletic’s Brody Miller, Bruce Feldman and Matt Fortuna. 

“There was [friction] all the time,” a former LSU staffer said. “Will [Muschamp] and Kirby [Smart] and all the defensive guys all bowed down to Nick, but Nick depended on Jimbo a lot. But Nick is so hard on his [offensive coordinators]. They were always at each other’s throats.”  

Flash-forward to the 2021 season, when head coach Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies upset the Crimson Tide in College Station, making Fisher the first former assistant of Saban’s to defeat him and snapping his 24-game winning streak against his former assistants. This landmark victory potentially signaled a turning point not only for Texas A&M, but for Fisher himself

However, Fisher seemingly found no significance in finally besting his former partner.   

“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Fisher said. 

But this game, coupled with Saban’s distaste for the recruiting practices of Texas A&M, may have reignited the tension that was present all those years ago.  

After Saban’s controversial comments claiming that Texas A&M “bought every player” in their recruiting class, Fisher had a few choice words for his former boss.  

“It’s despicable to me that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way, or things don’t go his way,” Fisher said. “The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen.” 

While many thought that this lingering feud between the two coaches would be the main storyline leading up to this week’s game, the two coaches are entering Saturday’s contest on good terms.  

“That’s over with,” Fisher said at a recent press conference. “He and I are in great shape — we’ve moved on.” 

While this may not be the heated matchup that many were expecting now that things between the coaches are resolved, this contest is still one to be excited about.  

For one, just because the coaches have buried the hatchet, does not mean the fans or players have. After everything that’s happened between these two teams in the last year, there is still a bit of bad blood going into Saturday. 

The Crimson Tide will look to avenge last season’s loss on their home field this Saturday.  

Kickoff from Bryant-Denny Stadium is set for Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. CT on CBS.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]