Nick Saban earns induction into Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame 15 years after LSU departure

Turns out, time really can heal all wounds. In a development that simultaneously goes against the grain of one of college football’s most heated current rivalries and rubs dirt on an old and unhealed wound, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that current Alabama and former LSU coach Nick Saban will be one of eight inductees into its 2020 class.

Saban coached the Tigers from 2000-04 before leaving to coach the Miami Dolphins — a stint that lasted just two seasons — before returning to the college game to coach at Alabama. His departure from Baton Rouge left many LSU fans filled with bitterness and animosity, especially when he later turned rival SEC foe Alabama into a juggernaut. Now, his induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame offers an olive branch of sorts to settle the situation. And for Saban, it’s an unexpected one.

“I’m just amazed this has happened,” Saban said via USA Today when he was informed of the Hall of Fame’s decision to induct him. “I didn’t know Louisiana would do this for me.”

As for that olive branch, Saban appears willing to extend one in return. In the interview with USA Today published Tuesday, Saban recalled his time in Baton Rouge fondly and said that leaving LSU for Miami happens to be one of his biggest professional regrets.

“As it turns out, what I learned from that experience in hindsight was, it was a huge mistake to leave college football,” Saban said. “And I know a lot of LSU fans think I left for whatever reasons, but I left because I wanted to be a pro coach, or thought I wanted to be a pro coach. We loved LSU. We worked hard to build the program. If there was one thing professionally that I would do over again, it would’ve been not to leave LSU.”

Since arriving at Alabama, Saban’s made it a habit of besting former program LSU with 10 wins over the Tigers since he took over in 2007 and five national championships to boot. That’s not much of an olive branch for his former employer, but it’s continuation, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland says, of Saban’s winning ways that led to his unexpected induction.

“We understand that LSU fans are conditioned to cheer against Alabama and Nick Saban, and Nick understands that as well as anyone,” he said. “But any LSU fan who looks at it objectively has to realize where LSU was when Nick arrived, where he brought LSU, and where it still is now. He brought in players, coaches, facilities and a philosophy. He brought in the golden era of LSU football. If Nick doesn’t come to Baton Rouge, one has to wonder where LSU would be right now.”

Saban took over a program that posted losing seasons in eight of the 11 years before his arrival and achieved a remarkable 48-16 record during his time at LSU, which culminated with a 2003 national championship. 

Saban’s induction will take place on June 27, 2020. 

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