Washington coach Kalen DeBoer hired to replace Nick Saban at Alabama

Alabama moved quickly to find the replacement for Nick Saban.

Washington coach Kalen DeBoer has been named the next head coach of the Crimson Tide football team, the school announced Friday night.

"Coach DeBoer has proven he is a winner and has done an incredible job as a head coach at each of his stops," Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. "One of the things I told our team the other day is we are going to get someone who is not only a great coach with the Xs and Os, but also someone who cares about his players and someone I'd want my sons to play for, just like I would have wanted them to play for Coach Saban. We got that in Coach DeBoer.

"He is ready to get to work, and we look forward to him leading the Alabama Crimson Tide football program for years to come."

Saban announced his retirement Wednesday after 17 seasons with the Crimson Tide that included 201 wins and six national titles.

Other projected candidates such as Texas coach Steve Sarkisian and Florida State coach Mike Norvell received raises and contract extensions in recent days, paving the way for DeBoer to become Saban's replacement.

"Following Coach Saban is an honor. He has been the standard for college football, and his success is unprecedented," DeBoer said in the school's statement, adding: "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."

Coach Kalen DeBoer and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. celebrate after winning the Pac-12 championship game.
Coach Kalen DeBoer and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. celebrate after winning the Pac-12 championship game.

In DeBoer, Alabama lands one of the fastest-rising coaches in recent Bowl Subdivision history and a coach with a proven track record of success in the metrics the program values most: against ranked teams, in conference championship games and against fellow elite teams in the College Football Playoff.

DeBoer was a perfect 10-0 against ranked teams in his two seasons at Washington before losing Monday night's national championship game to Michigan, 34-13. After coming up just shy of the Pac-12 title game last season, this year's team beat Oregon for the second time during the regular season to advance to 13-0 and finish No. 2 in the final playoff rankings.

And in the playoff semifinals at the Sugar Bowl, Washington beat Texas 37-31 behind a near-perfect offensive scheme that saw quarterback Michael Penix Jr. throw for 430 yards and two touchdowns without getting sacked.

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DeBoer went 25-3 in his two years with the Huskies, a remarkable record given the state of the program upon his arrival. Washington went 4-8 in 2021 and was particularly inept on the offensive side of the ball.

But that was his first taste of Power Five football as a head coach after more than 20 years working his way up the coaching ladder. A former wide receiver at the University of Sioux Falls, a member of the NAIA, DeBoer became the offensive coordinator at his alma mater in 2000 and was promoted to head coach in 2005, kicking off a historic five-year run.

From 2005-09, DeBoer posted a record of 67-3 with three NAIA national championships and one additional appearance in the NAIA title game.

That success earned him the job as offensive coordinator at Southern Illinois, a position he held from 2010-13. He then held the same position at Eastern Michigan from 2014-16, Fresno State from 2017-18 and at Indiana in 2019.

DeBoer was rehired by Fresno State as head coach in 2020. He went 12-6 across two seasons, posting three wins during the 2020 COVID season and then finishing 9-3 and 6-2 in conference play in 2021.

That run earned him the chance at Washington, where he turned in one of the great two-year runs in Pac-12 history and put the Huskies back on the national map. A win against the Wolverines would've given Washington the first unshared national title in program history.

DeBoer was making $4.2 million in compensation with Washington in the 2023 season. Alabama will owe a $12 million buyout to the Huskies.

Unlike other expected candidates for the opening, DeBoer has no prior SEC experience and more limited Power Five experience.

And while his offensive background should mesh well with Alabama's roster and be attractive to recruits, DeBoer will be judged against the greatest coach of this generation and spend his tenure with the Crimson Tide under intense scrutiny.

Saban won almost 300 games in his college coaching career and seven national championships, with his first coming at LSU in 2003.

"I want nothing more than to see Alabama football continue to be successful, and Coach DeBoer is an outstanding choice to lead this program. He has a proven track record of success and is one of the brightest minds," Saban said in a statement. "Coach DeBoer has an excellent understanding of what it takes to be a successful head coach, whether it's coaching, recruiting, developing players or building a culture.

"He has done a fantastic job at every stop of his coaching career, and I am excited to see what he will be able to accomplish in Tuscaloosa."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kalen DeBoer of Washington hired to replace Nick Saban at Alabama