Nick Saban joins the “College GameDay” staff as an analyst, contributing to ESPN’s draft coverage

Nick Saban joins the “College GameDay” staff as an analyst, contributing to ESPN’s draft coverage

Written by Mark Beaulieu, Stuart Mandel, Chris Vannini, Richard Deitch, and Mike Vorkunov

Less than a month after Nick Saban retired from his position at Alabama, ESPN announced Wednesday that the legendary coach will join the network’s “College GameDay” staff as an analyst. He will also contribute to the company’s NFL Draft coverage and appear on SEC Network.

Saban, who has appeared as a guest on “College GameDay” on numerous occasions, will join the show’s cast of Rhys Davis, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Pat McAfee.

“ESPN and College GameDay have played an important role in the growth of college football, and I am honored to have the opportunity to join their team,” Saban said in an ESPN press release. “I will do my best to provide additional insights and perspectives to contribute to College GameDay, the ultimate Saturday tradition for college football fans.”

Saban (72 years old) retired from coaching on January 10 after 28 years of coaching, which included seven national championships and a total record of 292 wins and 71 wins at the collegiate level.

Shortly after announcing his retirement, Saban told Davis: “I’m just going to keep working.”

“I don’t want to wake up in the morning and watch Netflix,” he said. “I want to do something… I might want to do (radio), but someone once told me you can’t start a broadcasting career at 80.”

In 2014, Herbstreit spoke about Saban’s post-retirement plans and said he expected Saban to become an analyst.

“Nick Saban will be with us on set before he becomes an NFL coach,” Herbstreit said at the time. “I really think after he finishes at Alabama, at any point, whether it’s a year, five years, whatever, I really think there’s a desire to be an analyst.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger also announced Wednesday that a standalone direct-to-consumer ESPN app will launch in the fall of 2025. The price of the new ESPN/Fox/WBD sports streaming app will be “more attractive than the bulk package,” he said.

Eventually, the app will be integrated with Hulu and Disney+, Iger said.

An 11-year-old union in the making

Saban joining ESPN was a no-brainer. He has appeared several times on the network over the years and has proven to be a very good television analyst. ESPN’s addition of the greatest college coach of all time was only a matter of time when Saban announced his retirement from coaching.

It was also recently revealed in a book that Saban considered leaving coaching for ESPN in late 2013 shortly after a Kick Six loss to Auburn.

ESPN has exclusive rights to the SEC, and it’s possible the network could end up retaining all rights to the expanded College Football Playoff. Having Saban in all of this will only increase production.

Although this is his primary role, it is not yet clear to what extent Saban will appear on “GameDay.” ESPN’s press release seemed to indicate that Corso is not retiring and that McAfee is planning to return to the show after saying in the fall that he was considering not returning. This is a large group that rotates during three hours.

Will we get Saban for three hours on set or just a few clips? People will want to see what Saban has to say on all kinds of topics. — Chris Vannini, national college football writer

ESPN lands its white whale

I remember reporting on an article in August 2014 about Nick Saban’s endless flirtation with ESPN. She referred to a conversation involving Saban and ESPN employees that took place in a first-floor conference room at The Langham Hotel in Pasadena the day before the national championship game. Sitting around the conference table were dozens of the sport’s biggest names, including Saban, Tim Tebow and “College GameDay” regulars.

The group discussed Florida State and Auburn for two hours straight without breaks and amazed everyone with the speech.

ESPN officials have never hidden their lust to bring Saban into their orbit. There was a high-ranking executive at ESPN who told me years ago that he was the only guy they wanted as on-air talent. I heard that often.

They have now landed the White Whale broadcast. Saban has many hours of television experience, was always good when he was on ESPN, and he fits in perfectly with ESPN as a former “GameDay” coach with Hall of Fame currency who can talk about the modern game.

This may seem like a stretch but it’s not: ESPN won’t be hiring top talent in 2024. Richard Deitch, senior sports writer

Required reading

(Photo: Robin Allam/Ikon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Tags for translation) Alabama Crimson Tide

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