Thursday brought out the worst in Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, who were reprimanded by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey for “derogatory comments and public criticism of another institution’s athletic program.” It was an embarrassing look for both coaches (one source accused them of “acting like 12-year-olds”) and the culmination of a bitter feud years in the making with Saban and Fisher’s shared resentment going all the way back to their time together at LSU. Fisher spent five years as Saban’s offensive coordinator (he stayed for another two seasons, working under Les Miles after Saban left for the NFL), where the two were, according to one source, “always at each other’s throats.”
As detailed by Brody Miller, Bruce Feldman and Matt Fortuna of The Athletic, Fisher and Saban were constantly at odds, ironic given how similar their personalities are (they’re even from the same part of West Virginia). “There is no love lost between Nick and Jimbo—at all,” said a former LSU position coach, noting their fundamental disagreements at practice, rarely seeing eye to eye on implementing schemes and strategies.
The hostility only grew over time with Fisher tired of Saban’s defense getting all the credit for LSU’s success. “I can only imagine if I was offensive coordinator under [Saban],” said Matt Mauck, LSU’s starting quarterback from 2002-03. “You kind of just feel like the unwanted stepchild.”
Though fellow staffers would sometimes criticize Fisher for not knowing his “place” in LSU’s pecking order, most preferred him to Saban, who ran his coaches ragged with endless assignments and nonstop recruiting, to the point where one assistant only made it to two (actually closer to one and a half) of his son’s high school football games despite playing in Baton Rouge. “Nick made it so miserable,” said a former coach. “It just wore on everybody.”
They say iron sharpens iron and the sparks that flew between Saban and his protégé no doubt shaped both on their respective coaching journeys. With that said, it doesn’t sound like either of them were much fun to be around at LSU.
“It’s that West Virginia grind-it-every-day super-hard-worker thing that lives with them forever,” another anonymous staff member expressed to The Athletic. “Those guys were so competitive with each other.”
Seeking to avenge last year’s loss to A&M, Alabama will host the Aggies October 8th in Tuscaloosa.