For the First Time in Over 5,000 Days, Saban Won’t Lead the Crimson Tide
After receiving a positive COVID-19 test result on Wednesday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban is expected to miss the No. 2 Crimson Tide’s home matchup against the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs. For many Alabama fans, it will be a new sight when a coach, other than Nick Saban, walks the sidelines for ‘Bama, but for older fans, they will be transported back to a time before Alabama dominance.
Saturday marks 5,042 days since a coach other than Saban has led Alabama.
After a rough 6-6 season (2-6 in the SEC), the Crimson Tide stumbled to an appearance in the 2006 Independence Bowl on December 28th, 2006 with a matchup against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, led by second-year coach Mike Gundy.
Mike Shula, the former Crimson Tide quarterback-turned-head coach, finished his fourth and final with an official record of 10-23 (5-19 in the SEC) and was fired after the Iron Bowl, a 22-15 loss that was the fifth loss in a row to Auburn.
Taking his place was Joe Kines, a brash, no-nonsense Alabama native that graduated from Jacksonville State and spent time assistant coaching in the NFL (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), the ACC (Clemson and Florida State), and the SEC (Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama.)
Kines never cemented himself as a permanent head coach, but he still coached nine games as an interim coach of Arkansas in 1992. While the Razorbacks only went 3-6-1, Kines still led the team to a big win over rival LSU 30-6.
Though he had a short first stint in Tuscaloosa as a linebackers’ coach in 1985-1986, Kines returned in 2003 as the defensive coordinator, working under Mike Shula.
Fast forward to Shula’s firing, Kines stepped up to bat for Alabama’s third straight bowl game.
Alabama appeared to be staying in the fight against Oklahoma State after a quick John Parker Wilson-to-Matt Caddell touchdown connection to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter. The Crimson Tide kept fighting and soon went down 17-7 in the second quarter. Alabama responded with a Tim Castille-touchdown rush, but the Cowboys took the game to halftime leading Alabama 24-14.
Then, in a spark of glory, ESPN sideline reporter Todd Harris entered into what would be one of the most famous halftime interviews by an Alabama coach of all time.
In the second half of Kines’s coaching debut for Alabama, the Crimson Tide kept it close with the Cowboys. In the fourth quarter, down by 14 to Oklahoma State, ‘Bama scored two straight touchdowns to tie the game 31-31 with around eight minutes left in the game.
This remained the score until the Cowboys drove down the field and kicked a 27-yard field goal to pull ahead 34-31. Time expired, Alabama lost the Independence Bowl, and Joe Kines’s short-lived tenure as the head coach of Alabama came to a close.
Under a week later, the University of Alabama hired Nick Saban, the former coach of LSU and the Miami Dolphins who had adamantly insisted that he would not be uprooting and moving to Tuscaloosa. Saban ultimately let all of Shula’s staff go, including Kines. From Tuscaloosa, the former interim coach moved to College Station, Texas, where he became the defensive coordinator for Texas A&M for two years (2008-2009) before retiring.
This brings the story to today. After 5,000 days, five national titles, and countless memorable interviews, Saban will be likely be skipping the No. 2 Crimson Tide’s matchup against a No. 3 Georgia team in a year that will forever be remembered as the year affected by COVID-19.
Alabama’s matchup against the Kirby Smart-led Bulldogs will kick off at 7:00 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The game will be televised by CBS. TIDE 100.9 will also carry the game with pregame coverage beginning at 2 p.m.