John David Mercer/USA Today Sports
FORT LAUDERDALE - Alabama coach Nick Saban allows himself a notoriously brief period of time to savor winning a national championship, but even that was cut short on Tuesday.
Less than halfway through the 24 hours Saban had to enjoy the program's third title in four seasons - this one by way of a 42-14 win Monday against previously unbeaten Notre Dame at Sun Life Stadium - the questions came about where Saban stands in history and what lies in the Tide's future.
With Alabama's rout of the Irish (12-1), Saban secured his fourth BCS title and put himself in rarefied air. His 2003 title at LSU and three with the Tide tie him with two others for second all-time. Only legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant has more, with six.
"I don't even really think about that," Saban said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the coaches and what they've accomplished, but while you're in this game, you're always sort of looking for the next challenge of what you have to do to make teams (reach) the standard of excellence that you try to establish with your organization."
If Saban was unwilling to look at his place in history, he would look to what's ahead in 2013. A team meeting is scheduled for Thursday when the group of returning players will move forward with the process of winning another championship.
Senior offensive linemen Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones will be gone, and the Tide are likely to lose at least some juniors to the draft - most notably offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, running back Eddie Lacy and cornerback Dee Milliner.
But Alabama has taken big losses to early departures to the NFL during this run and has reloaded. Saban expects it can do the same next season.
"I think AJ will certainly have ability around him," Saban said. "I think we should have, God willing and everybody staying healthy, a pretty good receiver corps. We'll have to do some rebuilding on the offensive line. Regardless of what Eddie decides to do, we'll probably still have some pretty decent running backs.
"I think AJ has the ability and may be the best quarterback in the country next year."
Saban made clear that he intends to be there to coach McCarron in his senior season, again addressing a possible return to the NFL. In short, he's not interested.
"I didn't feel like I could impact the team (in Miami) the same way as I can as a college coach," he said. "I kind of learned through that experience that maybe this is where I belong. And I'm really happy and at peace with all that."
Rachel George, USA TODAY Sports