They will both go down as legends in the history book of college football. Alabama's Nick Saban has won four national titles and is the only man since World War II to win national championships with two different schools. Ex-Florida State coach Bobby Bowden won 377 games in a career that stretched from 1959 through 2009. He also holds the current record for wins by a head coach, but the NCAA's decision to vacate wins from Bowden and Joe Paterno render that record meaningless. (They've also vacated some wins from Saban.)
Current Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has worked for both men. In 2002 and 2003, he was a graduate assistant under Bowden at FSU. Since 2007 he's served under Saban at Bama and in his current position of D-coordinator since '08.
Earlier this week while making a radio appearance on WCNN-AM in Atlanta ("680 The Fan"), Smart was asked to compare the two titans.
“That’s interesting because I always said they are like polar opposites. I mean, Bobby was so laid back, let so many of his coaches do so much more freedom [sic], hours were different. He ran the program in a different way than Nick did and they’re both so good at what they do...
If you had to say the similarities, I’d probably say game maintenance in terms of pre-game speeches, talking to the team, controlling the team. Bobby was very much ‘What I say to the team affects them.’ It’s the same way Nick is.”
Saban currently has 165 wins as a college head coach, 200+ fewer than Bowden. One wonders how many wins he might have been able to stockpile had he not spent eight seasons as an NFL assistant or head coach. Saban also toiled as an assistant in the college ranks for 16 seasons before landing a head coaching spot. Bowden spent 12 years as a college assistant and never ventured into the pro game. He also coached until the age of 80. Saban is currently 62-years-old.