Nick Saban's Abrupt Retirement Could Have a Ripple Effect on Ohio State and the Rest of College Football

By Garrick Hodge on January 11, 2024 at 10:15 am
Nick Saban
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The greatest college football coach of the modern era — and possibly ever — stunned the sports world on Wednesday with a sudden retirement.

After 17 seasons at Alabama, Nick Saban officially hung up his whistle for good in a move that was hard to see coming, even if he is 72 years old. No coach in the sport has ever won more national championships (seven) than Saban, and whoever succeeds him will face a tremendous amount of pressure.  

It’s not often we’d write a full-length article about the ramifications of a coach leaving a non-Big Ten team, but given the weight his name carries alone, Saban’s sudden departure from Tuscaloosa could have a seismic impact around the nation – and perhaps has a chance of affecting Ohio State.

We’ll break down what exactly we mean below. 

Alabama players now have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal

In the interim, regardless of how soon a replacement is named, or who the next Crimson Tide coach is, all players in the Alabama program now have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal to find new homes if they so choose because of the NCAA rules regarding a coaching change. 

The only exceptions to that are four Alabama signees from the 2024 class, running back Kevin Riley, wide receiver Amari Jefferson, wide receiver Rico Scott and tight end Jay Lindsey. They’d need the school to let them out of their National Letter of Intent if they want to play elsewhere because they’re not officially enrolled in the university. Alabama’s other 21 early enrollees from the 2024 class all should be fair game for transfer purposes if they so choose, even though they’ve been on campus for less than a week.

Hell, it only took two hours after Saban’s retirement was announced for the floodgates to start cracking open after five-star 2024 wide receiver Ryan Williams decommitted from Alabama. In fairness, that divorce is a lot easier to facilitate since Williams hadn’t signed with the Crimson Tide and won’t sign with any school until Feb. 7. 

Since the winter transfer portal opened, Ohio State has already added one transfer from Alabama to its roster for the 2024 season in center Seth McLaughlin. Considering Alabama boasts one of the more talented rosters in the entire sport, OSU (and let’s be honest, a million other teams) would likely consider adding others should they become available. 

There has been no shortage of recruiting battles Ohio State has lost to Alabama over the years. Some players who chose to play for the Crimson Tide instead of the Buckeyes currently on Alabama’s roster include: 

  • Safety Caleb Downs
  • Offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor
  • Offensive tackle Olaus Alinen
  • Running back Justice Haynes 
  • Running back Richard Young
  • Linebacker Jihaad Campbell
  • Defensive end Keon Keeley
  • Offensive lineman Tyler Booker

Then you also have three 2024 signees that Ohio State had high interest in, all of whom should be eligible to transfer if they so desired:

Saban’s decision could also have a ripple effect on future recruiting classes. Three 2025 Alabama commits had heavy interest from Ohio State:

A couple of quick disclaimers: None of these players are guaranteed to hit the portal, of course, as they all may buy into the vision of whoever the next head coach is. But there’s always a chance at least a few could transfer. 

Some of those names mentioned would make more sense for the Buckeyes than others. For example, I can tell you right now, if Caleb Downs entered the portal Ohio State would have massive interest in bringing in the 2023 five-star prospect. But with OSU’s entire starting cornerback room running it back for 2024 and the highly touted prospects the Buckeyes are bringing in, it would not make as much sense to bring in someone like Zabien Brown.  

Should Alabama players opt to explore their options in the next month, the ripple effects for the Crimson Tide and the rest of the country could be massive.

Consider the coaching carousel reopened

Per 247Sports, shortly after Alabama’s team meeting alerting them of the Nick Saban news Wednesday, Crimson Tide players were told a replacement was expected to be named within 72 hours. 

The quick turnaround is no doubt spurred by what we outlined above, an attempt to mitigate departures from the current roster. Alabama will have no shortage of options for what is one of the most coveted jobs in the industry, but assuming it poaches a sitting Power 5 head coach, the coaching carousel is officially reopened. 

Let’s say for the sake of argument, Alabama hired Oregon coach Dan Lanning. Then another marquee job becomes open (which would also impact the Big Ten landscape), and so on and so forth. Not to mention, both Alabama and Oregon players would have the freedom to enter the transfer portal within 30 days of their coach's departure. (Update: Lanning announced on Thursday that he's staying put in Eugene.)

That’s not even factoring in that Michigan’s job could become open within a few weeks, too, depending on if Jim Harbaugh leaves for the NFL like reports have strongly suggested over the past month.

The 2024 offseason was always going to be more interesting than usual when factoring in conference realignment and the expanded 12-team playoff. The next few weeks will be particularly fascinating to see just how many dominoes are set in motion.  

View 151 Comments