Saban leaves Dolphins, takes coaching job at Alabama

MIAMI (TICKER) —Nick Saban spent the last few weeks denying he would leave the Miami Dolphins to take over at Alabama. Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga found out on Wednesday that was a lie.

Alabama succeeded in its quest to lure Saban away from the NFL with a lucrative multi-year deal.

Terms were not disclosed, but the school reportedly signed Saban an eight-year deal worth $32 million.

Saban did not address the media on Wednesday. Less than two weeks ago, Saban told reporters that he “was not going to Alabama.”

However, Huizenga confirmed Wednesday morning that the coach indeed was headed to Alabama.

“It is what it is,” Huizenga said. “I met with Nick at his home this morning. There were a lot of reasons why decisions get made in life. I don’t think it was about the money for him and his wife.”

Saban had three years left on his five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Dolphins. Along with serving as coach, Saban also had final say on personnel decisions.

But Miami failed to make the playoffs in two seasons under Saban, who compiled a 15-17 record in the NFL. After closing Saban’s first year with a six-game winning streak to finish 9-7, the Dolphins slipped to 6-10 this past season.

“I thought Nick could have won here,” Huizenga said. “But we have to go from here and get back to being a winning team sooner rather than later.”

Miami has not made the playoffs since 2001.

While the Dolphins begin a coaching search, Alabama is basking in the glory of landing a coach that won a national championship at Louisiana State in 2003.

Saban will be introduced at a news conference on Thursday morning.

“When I set out on this search, I noted that I was seeking a coach who had a proven record of championship success and achievement,” Alabama athletic director Mal Moore said. “Coach Saban brings that proven record of accomplishment and leadership to our program.

“The hiring of coach Saban signifies a new era of Crimson Tide football.”

The hiring of Saban also wipes off the sting the Crimson Tide felt when West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez turned them down last month.

After firing coach Mike Shula in late November, Alabama contacted Saban’s agent Jimmy Sexton to gauge the coach’s interest in the job. The Crimson Tide then started to court Rodriguez, who decided to stay with the Mountaineers.

Alabama eventually steered back to Saban and its persistence paid off.

“I’m very excited,” Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson said. “All the guys are very glad to have coach Saban coming to Alabama. He has won a lot of football games and he won the national championship at LSU. That makes it even more exciting for us.”

Saban compiled a 48-16 record at LSU from 2000-04 before Huizenga lured him to the NFL. From 1995-99, Saban was 34-24-1 at Michigan State and went 9-2 at Toledo in 1990.

Alabama is coming off a 6-7 campaign after losing to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl The previous season, the Crimson Tide went 10-2 under Shula and won the Cotton Bowl.

But after starting 6-3 in 2006, Alabama lost its last three games under Shula and then fell to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl with Joe Kines serving as interim coach.

Saban becomes Alabama’s fourth coach since 2000.

Shula took over at Alabama in 2003 after Mike Price was fired for an incident at a Pensacola, Florida strip club. Price had taken over for Dennis Franchione, who left after two seasons in Tuscaloosa to take the job at Texas A&M.

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Updated Wednesday, Jan 3, 2007