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Alabama makes Washington’s Kalen DeBoer its new coach, replacing Nick Saban: ‘Opportunity of a lifetime’

Kalen DeBoer is officially the new head football coach at Alabama, the university announced Friday, quickly filling the coveted vacancy left by Nick Saban.

DeBoer, 49, takes over the Crimson Tide after two seasons as head coach at Washington, where he went 29-3 overall and this season led the Huskies to a berth in the national championship game.

“Following Coach Saban is an honor,” DeBour said in a statement. “He has been the standard for college football, and his success is unprecedented. I would not have left Washington for just any school. The chance to lead the football program at The University of Alabama is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Saban, 72, retired Wednesday after 17 seasons and six national championships at Alabama. He also won a championship with LSU in 2003.

Speculation swirled about who would replace the coaching great in Tuscaloosa. Texas’ Steve Sarkisian, who previously served as an offensive coordinator at Alabama under Saban, and Oregon’s Dan Lanning both reaffirmed their commitments to their current programs this week in videos shared to social media.

Joining Alabama continues a rapid ascent for DeBoer, who immediately turned around a Washington program that went 4-8 in 2021, the year before his arrival. The Huskies finished with a 14-1 record in 2023, won the Pac-12 Conference and defeated Texas in the first round of the College Football Playoff. They lost in Monday’s final to Michigan, which eliminated Saban’s Crimson Tide a round earlier.

DeBoer received numerous Coach of the Year honors after the season, including from The Associated Press.

DeBoer previously won three NAIA championships (2006, 2008 and 2009) in his first head coaching gig at Sioux Falls, where he had played wide receiver during the mid-1990s. He later served as Fresno State’s head coach for two years before joining Washington ahead of the 2022 season.

Former Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. transferred to Washington after DeBoer’s arrival and threw 67 touchdown passes in 28 games.

Penix is one of several Washington players considered a potential first-round pick in April’s NFL draft, along with wide receiver Rome Odunze, offensive lineman Troy Fautanu and pass rusher Bralen Trice. Wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk is projected to be a Day 2 selection.

Saban’s retirement and DeBoer’s subsequent move came amid a wave of high-profile coaching changes in college and the NFL. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots mutually agreed to part ways this week, while the Seattle Seahawks moved Pete Carroll into an advisory role.