For Nick Saban, the annual college football coaching carousel has left him exactly where he always said it would … at the University of Alabama.
Saban and the school agreed to a new contract Friday night, after a week of breathless speculation and even at least one sort-of media report that he would succeed Mack Brown as the head coach at Texas. Brown, it turns out, is still on the job and may remain there.
Texas had little to do with this, however. Saban, who just finished his seventh season with the Tide, was never really going anywhere. At most, his agent used the buzz about the Longhorns for a slightly richer deal than the one Alabama was already going to give him. He reportedly will go from $5.6 million per year to more than $7 million. That's about it.
"Quite frankly," Saban said back in September when the Texas talk began, "I'm just too darn old to start over somewhere else."
Saban doesn't have a great track record of consistency on job hunts – he once famously declared he wouldn't be the head coach of the University of Alabama – but the candidness, or at least comfort, of the answer sort of said it all. It was a somewhat un-Saban-like statement – not some planned denial, but an explanation, a reasoning, a sensible point he was making.
Combine that with his wife Terry not just granting an interview to The Wall Street Journal in November but boldly declaring they weren't leaving Tuscaloosa, and most of the speculation was based on speculation.
The Sabans were about as clear and consistent on this one as they ever get.
The truth is, Saban isn't too old to start over somewhere else, certainly not a place with the potential of Texas. He's 62 and still on top of his game. He could have the Longhorns in national contention within two seasons. Maybe three at most.
What Saban is, however, is too impatient to start over somewhere else. Why build when you already own? Why work for 2015/2016 when he could certainly win it all next year?
His shot at three consecutive national titles was stopped by a 109-yard field goal return (on a play in which his team could've won the game). It's perhaps the smallest margin of defeat possible in football.
Besides, there is nothing in Austin that Saban doesn't have in Tuscaloosa. Perhaps in some spread sheet/parlor game comparison Texas is a job with greater resources than Alabama. None of that has anything to do with Saban's reality.
Yes, UT has more money than just about anyone. But Alabama has all the money Saban needs – not only in salary but to employ a massive staff of assistants, scouts and support people.
It's true Texas has it own TV station – the Longhorn Network – that might yield great dividends in the future. Saban, of course, tries to keep media distractions to a minimum and films his weekly half-hour TV show in about 18 minutes flat while standing impatiently on the field after each week's game. He doesn't sound like a guy looking for his own network.
And, sure, the state of Texas produces more top high school talent than Alabama, but recruiting players talented enough to win national championships is hardly Saban's problem. Three titles in four years should be proof enough.
His current top-ranked recruiting class may prove it even more, however.
Of the Crimson Tide's 23 current verbal commitments, just four are from Alabama. Five-star recruits, per Rivals.com, from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia have all pledged. Four-star commits hail from Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and, yes, Texas. He'll probably pick up a couple more.
Without Saban, it's unlikely a lineman from the upper Midwest or a quarterback from Norman, Okla., would head to Tuscaloosa. But this is Saban. That's all that matters. This is what he built.
Why change anything when you've got a recruiting juggernaut capable of walking into just about everyone's backyard and grabbing almost whomever you want?
There is little doubt that given the money and facilities and location and power of Texas, Nick Saban could get the Longhorns to a similar level. It would take time, though. Not much, perhaps, but more than Nick Saban cares to waste at this point, which is anything longer than a second.
"Just too darn old to start over somewhere else," he said back in September.
It was an unusually insightful line, which made it worth believing then and even more so now. Because the one thing he didn't say was that he was too darn old to win another national title.
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