SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Chances are, Nick Saban’s scorecard at the WM Phoenix Open’s Annexus Pro-Am Wednesday could have looked the same as the number of times he acknowledged “Roll Tide!” and “Go Coach!” cheers from the crowd at TPC Scottsdale.
Or his stroke count could have resembled the number of selfies he took with fans and autographs he signed.
Saban was in the Phoenix area to play some golf, roughly a month after retiring from coaching football. He’s enjoying his recent retirement by doing things he didn’t have much time for when working his way to national championships at Alabama and LSU, and one of those perks was a chance to work on his game.
“It’s great to meet a new sort of group of people and be associated with events like this, where you have a lot of fun. You know, I love coaching. I love trying to help create value for players. But you know, it was inevitable at some point in time that I was gonna have to do something else,” Saban said, stopping for a chat between the 17th and 18th holes. “And now hopefully, I can help the game and college football even more in retirement than before and do a lot of other things to start the next chapter of your life.
“I don’t want to really quit work, I just didn’t want to work all the time,” Saban added.
Sure enough, later in the day it was announced that Saban, one of the most accomplished coaches in college football history, is joining ESPN. He will work primarily as an analyst on the set of the network’s College GameDay program, but also will be part of ESPN’s NFL Draft and SEC Media Days coverage.
— Golf Today (@GCGolfToday) February 7, 2024
One could argue that it was a lot of work for the 72-year-old Saban to hit his golf shot, and often, instead of joining his foursome on the walk from the tee down the fairways, stroll over to where fans shouted for autographs and photos. But Saban seemed to enjoy it all, and there was no doubt he was one of the most popular celebrities of the morning at the pro-am.
Even if heavy rain put a stop to the tournament soon after Saban and his group made the turn from the first nine holes to the back nine.
The shouts of encouragement and otherwise (“Go Vols!” for Tennessee) began immediately after Saban teed off at the 10th hole to start his morning.