Nick Saban to join College GameDay cast as analyst

Feb 8, 2024

By Mark Puleo, Stewart Mandel, Chris Vannini, Richard Deitsch and Mike Vorkunov

Less than a month after Nick Saban retired from his post at Alabama, ESPN announced Wednesday the legendary coach will be joining the network’s “College GameDay” cast as an analyst. He will also contribute to the company’s NFL Draft coverage and make appearances on SEC Network.

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

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

Saban, 72, retired from coaching on Jan. 10 after 28 years of coaching, which included seven national championships and an overall record of 292-71-1 at the collegiate level.

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

“I don’t want to get up in the morning and watch Netflix,” he said. “I want to do something … I’d probably like to do (broadcasting), but someone told me once 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 on the set with us before he’s a coach in the NFL,” Herbstreit said at the time. “I really believe that after he’s done at Alabama, whenever that time is, whether it’s a year, five years, whatever it is, I really believe there’s an itch there about becoming an analyst.”

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

Ultimately, the app will be bundled with Hulu and Disney+, Iger said.

A union 11 years in the making

Saban joining ESPN was a no-brainer. He’s made numerous appearances on the network over the years and proven himself to be a very good TV analyst. ESPN adding the greatest college coach of all-time felt like just a matter of time when Saban announced his retirement from coaching.

It also recently came out in a book that Saban considered leaving coaching for ESPN in late 2013 not long after the Kick Six loss to Auburn.

ESPN has the exclusive rights to the SEC, and it’s possible the network will end up holding onto all rights for the expanded College Football Playoff. Having Saban around for all of that will only add to the production.

While it’s his primary role, it’s yet to be seen how much Saban will appear on “GameDay.” ESPN’s press release would seem to indicate Corso is not retiring and McAfee plans to be back on the show after saying in the fall he was considering not returning. That’s a large group that rotates through three hours.

Will we get Saban for three hours on the set or a handful of segments? 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 an item in August 2014 on Nick Saban’s endless flirtation with ESPN. It recalled a conversation involving Saban and ESPN staffers that took place on first floor conference room at The Langham Hotel in Pasadena on the day before the national championship game. Sitting around a conference table were a dozen boldfaced names in the sport including Saban, Tim Tebow and the “College GameDay” regulars.

The group discussed Florida State and Auburn for a solid two hours with no breaks and everyone was blown away by the discourse.

ESPN officials have never hidden their lust to bring Saban into their orbit. There was one high-ranking ESPN official who told me years ago that he was the singular person they most wanted as an on-air talent. I heard that often.

They have now landed their broadcasting white whale. Saban has endless hours of television experience, he’s always been good when he’s been on ESPN, and he slots perfectly into ESPN as a former coach on “GameDay” with Hall of Fame currency who can talk about the modern game.

This may sound like hyperbole but it is not: ESPN will not make a better talent hire in 2024. — Richard Deitsch, senior sports media writer

Required reading

(Photo: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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