Monday, March 30, 2009
RIP Lou Saban 1921-2009
Former University of Miami head coach Lou Saban passed away yesterday at the age of 87. All Hurricane football fans owe Saban a huge debt of gratitude. He coached only two seasons at UM. (1977 and 1978) His combined record in those seasons was only 9-13. So why was Saban special? He may have been the most important coach hired by UM at a very dark time in the program's history.
In the late 1970s, UM was dangerously close to dropping its football program. The Canes were a perennial loser and drew few fans. Prior to Saban's arrival in Coral Gables, UM had only one winning season in the previous ten years and zero bowl appearances. While many credit Howard Schnellenberger for rescuing the program, he couldn't have done it without Saban. It was Saban who recruited key players including Jim Kelly, Jim Burt, Fred Marion and Lester Williams. These players helped build the foundation of Schnellenberger's early teams which eventually blossomed into a national championship in 1983.
Saban was a football nomad. He had 18 different coaching jobs, ranging from from the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos of the NFL, to coaching UM, Army and Central Florida were among his stops. He even coached high school football and once had a job in the New York Yankees front office. His average stint at those jobs was only 1.3 years. But he seemed to leave a mark everywhere he went. In Buffalo, he made O.J. Simpson a record setting running back. At UM, he was somehow able to convince Jim Kelly of East Brady, PA, to pass up a scholarship offer from Penn State to play for the Canes. Of course, it also helped Joe Paterno made the mistake of recruiting Kelly as a linebacker. He was known for his fiery pregame and halftime speeches. One of his famous rants was permanently captured by NFL Films when he famously yelled "They're killing me Whitey!" from the sidelines.
The passing of Saban will make the sidelines a little more quiet. But without him, there may not be any football at the University of Miami.