Saturday, December 14, 2013
It's no surprise that Saban is staying
By Chris Low
Now that the latest chapter of “Nick Saban is getting antsy at Alabama” is over, maybe the rest of the college football world will begrudgingly come to the realization that he truly has found a home.
Saban’s not unlike a lot of coaches. By nature, he’s a builder, and he’s built Alabama’s program into the envy of the sport at the collegiate level.
But this is no longer a project for him. This is and will be his legacy, and I think he’s had it in his mind for some time now that Alabama will be his final coaching stop.
I say that based on multiple conversations I’ve had with Saban in recent years as well as with others close to him.
Alabama fans and SEC foes alike can expect many more victory laps for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.
When he says there are no other coaching horizons for him, he means it, which was underscored Friday night by the news that Saban and Alabama had agreed to a new long-term deal.
So while the story du jour over the past week has been whether or not Saban would go to Texas, it was never a story in his mind.
Despite what anybody might think about Saban, good or bad, he’s as old-school as it gets when it comes to these situations. There’s not an opening at Texas and might not be one.
The Longhorns still have a coach, at least for now.
Besides, Saban and Mack Brown are friends, and the last thing Saban’s going to be a part of is being perched to swoop in when a coaching colleague -- a colleague who happens to be a friend -- is teetering.
Saban’s new deal will make him richer than he already was, but the salaries coaches make these days are more like monopoly money.
Whatever Alabama pays him, upward of $7 million per year, probably won’t be enough when you consider the success he’s had on the field and the exposure he’s brought to that university.
Think the enormous increase in freshmen applying to Alabama recently has had anything to do with Saban and the Crimson Tide’s three national championships over the past four years?
Ask University of Alabama chancellor Robert Witt that question.
Here’s the other thing: While Saban spent this last whirlwind of a week on the road recruiting, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Alabama to have his name in the headlines every day.
Typically, the more recruits read and hear about you, the more they like you.
The shock of losing to Auburn in that final game (and the way the Crimson Tide lost) hit everybody at the Capstone hard, Saban included.
One theory making the rounds was that such a crushing loss could be the impetus to chase Saban out of Tuscaloosa and be the perfect segue to a new coaching challenge.
If anything, though, he’s attacked the recruiting trail with as much passion and vigor as he ever has since that 34-28 loss on the Plains and has only thought about what he can do to get Alabama back in a position to win a championship next season.
It’s been a while. The Tide last won one in 2012.
In all seriousness, this next year might be more of a grind than Saban or anybody at Alabama is used to. But it’s the process that he loves, and while key players from the Tide’s historic run such as AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley will be moving on, Saban knows as well as anybody that the infrastructure is in place to win a few more titles.
The next question becomes: How much longer will he coach?
It’s difficult to imagine Saban doing anything but. I’ve asked him a couple of different times what he’ll do when he’s not coaching. He’s never really answered specifically other than to say that he’s not a “sit-around kind of guy.”
In other words, he’ll be fully invested in whatever he’s doing (and he’s pretty good on TV).
Saban turned 62 in October, and the way he goes at it, seeing him coach into his 70s might be a stretch.
But five or six more years is certainly realistic. He’s in remarkable shape and has the energy of a 20-year-old. He’s reputed to be a pretty salty basketball player even if he does get to pick who guards him on occasion in pick-up games.
This won’t be the last time his name comes up for a job. The next time, it’s likely to be an NFL gig.
But as McCarron cracked this week while traveling on the awards circuit, Miss Terry (Saban’s wife) is the one who runs that house.