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Bama coach Saban receives first Bowden honor

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Alabama's Nick Saban had home-field advantage on his side in winning the inaugural Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year award.

Saban was presented the award by the Over the Mountain Touchdown Club of Birmingham during a ceremony Sunday night.

Bowden, a Birmingham native who retired after last season -- his 34th coaching career at Florida State -- also was in attendance.

Saban led the Crimson Tide to a national championship, setting a school record with 14 victories. Also, running back Mark Ingram became the program's first Heisman Trophy winner.

"This is a very special honor for us, because any award you get like this is a team award," Saban said. "But especially with Coach Bowden's name on it. I don't think there will be anybody real soon who has accomplished what he has in college football.

"It's an honor because of the man that he is, the person that he is, the people who he impacted and influenced and inspired. And he did it with such class and dignity in every way. I only wish that maybe someday we'll be thought of as well as he is, in terms of not only what he accomplished but the way he did it."

Bowden won 389 games and two national championships at Florida State.

"I'm not surprised one bit that Nick Saban won this award. He should have won it," Bowden said. "It's hard for me think that there's a coach in the country right now better qualified than him, and his record shows it."

Saban, a native of West Virginia, said the honor was especially meaningful to him because of a gesture Bowden made when Saban was a young assistant coach at Kent State. Bowden was the head coach at West Virginia at the time and knew Saban's father.

"After my father passed away, my mother was having a lot of problems, and coach Bowden called and said if I needed to come home, he'd create a graduate assistant position for me," Saban recalled. "I never, ever forgot that, and I don't think anybody in my family ever forgot it.

"So this is as special an honor as I can get, based on the history that we have with coach Bowden and the class that he has."