Anna Sheffer
Updated Dec 14, 2017 @ 2:32 pm

The staunchly conservative state of Alabama just elected a Democratic senator, Doug Jones, in a surprisingly close election on December 12th. Many factors, including Jones’ opponent’s alleged sexual misconduct, possibly influenced the results, but one stands out as particularly unusual: write-in votes for college football coach Nick Saban.

Jones’ margin of victory was slim. The Democrat bested Moore with a lead of a little less than 21,000 votes. Alabama, like most states, doesn’t always tally individual write-in votes, but when it does, it’s because more write-ins were received than the margin of victory. In this case, there were 22,819 write-in votes, so they will be counted on December 19th, one week after the election. With so many write-ins, it’s entirely possible that these votes influenced the election in a big way. And Saban could rank high among write-in candidates.

Saban has reportedly received write-in votes before. In the 2012 presidential election, the coach received dozens of votes. In the campaign leading up to yesterday’s election, one liberal political action committee suggested that voters write in Saban or the football coach at Auburn University. At least one voter admitted to voting for Saban in an interview as he exited the polls.

Saban has been the head football coach at the University of Alabama since 2007. Before taking the job at UA, he coached the Miami Dolphins for two seasons. Saban is revered among passionate Alabama fans; during his tenure, the Crimson Tide have won 130 games and lost only 20.

After Moore was accused of making inappropriate advances toward teenage girls, many Republicans attempted to distance themselves from the Senate candidate. Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby was among those who condemned Moore. Shelby said on CNN on December 10th that he refused to vote for Moore and “would rather see a Republican write-in win.”

Twitter users celebrated Jones’ victory by writing “Roll Tide,” the battle cry of the Alabama Crimson Tide. And Saban’s write-in success makes this celebration all the more fitting.

We probably won’t know how many people voted for Saban for a while. But regardless, we’re impressed at the potential impact of college football mania on this election. Congratulations to Jones, to Saban, and to Alabama. Roll Tide.