One year, that is.
The Tigers brought Nick Saban down to the Bayou and he led them to a shared national championship in Year 4 of that process.
While Alabama has yet to lay claim to a title, Saban has led the Crimson Tide to the precipice. In just three years, Saban has the No. 1 Tide vying for a national championship. They'll get that chance on Thursday against No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl.
Alabama athletics director Mal Moore got exactly what he went looking for — even if it took longer than most Tide fans wanted and there was a perception that it had been bungled.
"When we were making the change, at the press conference, I stated that I felt this hire was the most crucial of all, and we wanted to hire someone that had won championships," Moore said on Thursday. "I didn't want to bring someone to try out and hope they could do it.
"I wanted someone proven. Certainly coach Saban had won a national championship and several SEC championships. I felt he would be perfect for this program."
Saban didn't have as big a rebuilding job with Alabama as he did at LSU, a program that barely topped the .500 mark during the 90s, former LSU athletics director Skip Bertman said.
"They didn't have the downturn we did, but they did have a downturn," Bertman said. "Then coach Moore decided to ante-up and do what was needed. The results have been tremendous, and that's good."
At LSU, one of the biggest things Saban was involved with was in helping upgrade the football facilities. During Saban's tenure, LSU built an academic center, and also — for the first time — built a football facility adjacent to the practice fields, Bertman said.
"The excellence portrayed by football carried over to other sports," Bertman said. "People asked why was baseball winning and saw that they had good facilities and what they perceived as a good coach, so they said, 'Let's try that combination in other sports.'
"I don't mean to say it was easy. It required a lot of hard work by Nick and other coaches and the administration."
Watching what Saban did while he was at LSU certainly made him worth waiting for, Moore said. Moore and the Tide pulled Saban away from the NFL after he spent two years with the Miami Dolphins.
Before the Tide landed Saban, Alabama was turned down by then-West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. A perceived lack of progress on hiring anyone in the weeks after that Dec. 8, 2006, shoot down had fans worried. Even at the Independence Bowl that year, Moore told reporters there was still no timetable.
Apparently, Saban was worth waiting for. Moore described that wait as "difficult."
"Part of it is I felt coach Saban wanted back in the college ranks," Moore said. "I coached in the NFL, and I had a feeling about it. Deep in my heart, I felt I knew how he felt about colleges versus the pros because I'd felt it too."
For Moore, it was about following that conviction and having patience.
"That's what I held on to and believed," Moore said. "I believed he wanted back. That gave me the strength to hang in there and wait. I'm thankful it worked out for him and for us."
Of course, the other issue when the Tide hired Saban was his nearly $4 million per year contract, which made him the highest paid coach in the country at the time. Three short years and a title game berth, Saban has proved his worth. Moore said the money wasn't a big issue at that time.
"I was more concerned about getting the right person," he said. "I knew the hire was very, very crucial. We had a lot riding on it. I was not as concerned (with the money) as getting the right man in."
Saban popped on the radar of big-time college programs in the late 1990s following extended success at Michigan State. He arrived at LSU late in 1999, and helped engineer a turnaround of a program that had seven losing seasons in the 90s.
"Nick saw … the speed of the Southeastern Conference in the Independence Bowl when Michigan State played LSU," Bertman said. "He saw that LSU was the only team in the state, and that the things we were missing wasn't talent but facilities."
LSU had an 8-4 year in his first season, then a 10-win season. Then in 2003, Saban guided the Tigers to the national championship game and they knocked off Oklahoma for a share of the championship.
"He's got great instincts as a coach," Bertman, also the former baseball coach, said. "He has a terrific eye for talent, and he's a very good game-day coach. He's very intense."
Moore said that although he only knew Saban through coaching circles, he was "aware of his success there."
"I followed it, and thought he did a super job there," Moore said.
Although Saban left a year later for the NFL, it was his work at LSU that proved to be the most enticing for Moore.
"From what he had accomplished and how quickly he had done it — and simply the fact he had won a national championship and that's hard to do — I felt if he could do it there, he could do it here," Moore said.
And indeed Saban is on the verge of it. Although Moore brought Saban in to win championships and quickly, even he expressed surprise at how quickly the turnaround has been.
"I'm very proud for the university, for the president, the board, the alumni, for everybody," Moore said. "Alabama carries a great history and great tradition. People expect it to be one of the top teams. The fact that coach Saban got us back to this level makes me extremely proud for everybody."
BCS National Championship Game: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Texas, Thursday, 7 p.m., ABC 33/40, 95.5 FM
Scenes from California....and she loaded up the truck and she moved to Beverly. Hills that is. Movie stars, swimming pools ... Well, she didn't move, but assistant sports editor Christa Turner is out West with Alabama's football team. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/StarsFellOnCali
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Do you remember Del Taco, the pre-Run for the Border restaurant that was all over Calhoun County a couple of decades ago?
Well, you can still find them out here in sunny California, along with a lot more sunshine, warmth and palm trees than I left when I flew out of Atlanta way too early Saturday morning.
Of course, there was also California's seemingly ubiquitous In-N-Out Burger, which is a necessity stop for awesome burgers.
This trip is all about fun, right? Well, it is for the fans and others, but maybe not so much for Alabama coach Nick Saban, who said during his welcome press conference at Disneyland's ESPN Zone that he was having fun for the sake of the media. The players, however, wrapped up their day with some time at Disneyland, balancing work and play on their first full day in California.
— Christa Turner