Sports Outside the Beltway

Nick Saban Watch LiveBlog: Going to Alabama

Nick Saban Photo ESPN It’s 10 am Eastern and the world (at least, Alabama and Miami Dolphins fans) awaits the decision of Nick Saban.

ESPN News is having a special show about it, leading off with Saban’s most vehement denial. They report that Saban is going to meet with Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga “momentarily.” (Note: Unlinked sourced quotes below are from the ESPN News television coverage.)

Chris Mortenson thinks we’ll know within the hour. He notes, too, that Huizenga knew when he hired Saban that he really didn’t want to leave LSU or the college game but he was offered such a ridiculous sum of money that he couldn’t turn it down.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports,

Nick Saban had decided to leave the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday morning. Then he met with club owner Wayne Huizenga and backed away from that decision, asking instead for more time to talk to his wife and mull his options before finally announcing his intentions to the owner at a 10 a.m. meeting today.

Mortenson notes that Saban has had trouble turning Miami around because of the limitations of NFL recruiting, whereas an elite college program can bring in a huge number of #1 draft picks right away.

Jeff Darlington says Saban is being viewed as a savior by Tide fans.

Hank Goldberg reports (10:12) that neither Saban nor Huizenga have shown up at the Dolphins complex for the meeting and that there is a rumor that Saban is already on a plane to Tuscaloosa. Goldberg says that Saban’s wife and family are not enjoying the hustle and bustle of south Florida and would prefer to return to small town life.

John Clayton writes, “It will be an upset if Nick Saban doesn’t take the Alabama job by Wednesday morning.”

Even though he has vehemently denied he would leave for Alabama, it’s probably the right choice.

First, after saying he would be the 2007 head coach of the Dolphins, it would be pretty hard for Saban to go back to Miami and have the full confidence of his players after taking two nights to debate whether to stay or leave. Second, it wouldn’t enhance his long-term NFL job security with owner Wayne Huizenga now that he spent a couple days toying with a college job that doesn’t pay as much as the $4.5 million a year he is getting from the Dolphins. Saban probably needed two days to decide because his return to college could kill his future chances of getting back into the NFL. Saban is probably better suited for the college job because he has more control over the players than he does in the NFL. Plus, Saban is a masterful recruiter and usually has better players than the other teams. In the NFL, the pool of free agents is tougher to acquire.

Alex Marvez & Harvey Fialkov quote an unnamed source saying, “Saban is gone for sure.” Not surprisingly, there is some bitterness in Dolphin Land.

Sources said Saban told Dolphins assistant coaches that he was uncertain about what his final decision would be. But Saban did try to gauge whether several current assistants would follow him to Alabama if he accepted the offer.

Even if Saban ultimately decides to stay, the internal damage from his waffling may already be done. “He’s lost the coaching staff for sure,” a source said.


Saban spoke Monday with Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore despite having made repeated denials to Huizenga, Dolphins players and the media last month about interest in the job. The Mobile Press-Register reported that Moore agreed to almost every stipulation Saban demanded, including a large budget to hire assistants.


Reaction varied among Dolphins players about whether Saban would leave to replace the fired Mike Shula at Alabama.

“If he wasn’t [leaving], it probably would be over already,” cornerback Will Allen said. “This is a business, man. You’ve got to take care of your family and do what’s best for you at all times. That’s what everybody in here’s going to do.”

Said cornerback Eddie Jackson: “That’s a hard decision for him to make or anybody else. … It’s definitely about his family and what’s best for him, and down the road what’s going to be best for him.”

Florida Sun-Sentinal reporter Alex Marvez (10:34) (hat tip: Bill Jempty) says that Saban has taken the Alabama job.

The Nick Saban coaching era with the Dolphins has ended.

A source said Wednesday morning that Saban has agreed to become the new head coach at the University of Alabama, ending his two-year tenure with the Dolphins.

A source said Saban failed to show this morning for a scheduling meeting at team headquarters in Davie with Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga. Saban told Huizenga of his intentions via telephone and then informed all of his coaches by speakerphone that he was leaving to accept the Alabama position, the source said.

Not the classiest way to go out, to be sure.

Alabama sports radio WJOX is reporting it’s a done deal, too. (via RollBamaRoll)

Strangely, ESPN News has left the story entirely and hasn’t mentioned anything yet (1045).

Now they have (1101). They report that he’ll get “in the neighborhood of 4 million dollars a year” and maybe up to ten years on the deal.

Cecil Hurt, Sports Editor of the Tuscaloosa News, says Saban is on the way.

Nick Saban is on his way to Tuscaloosa.

Saban is en route to a private airport to fly to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday morning, where he is expected to formally accept the job to become the Crimson Tide’s 27th head football coach, ending a month-long wait by Tide fans and nationwide media frenzy to see who would replace Mike Shula.

Saban will fly to Tuscaloosa today with University of Alabama athletics director Mal Moore via private jet, and would be formally introduced at a news conference either later today or Thursday.

Here are Saban’s career stats:

Nick Saban Career Stats Chart

Joe Schad notes that the naysayers who said Saban was an impossible get (he didn’t mention me personally) and that the Alabama job was no longer attractive have been proved wrong.

ESPN has a long report under the headline, “After repeated denials, Saban takes Bama job”

Nick Saban has accepted an offer from Alabama to coach the Crimson Tide and left the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday, two weeks after declaring “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”

They offer this chronology of denial:

Nov. 27: Saban: “When I was in college it was always about coming to the pros. This is the challenge I wanted. I had a good college job. Why would I have left that if I was going to be interested in other college jobs?

“I took this as a challenge. We certainly haven’t seen this through and gotten where we want to go and finished the job here, so why would I be interested in something else?”

Dec. 5: Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga (after giving Saban a vote of confidence): “When I sit with Nick Saban, whether it’s breakfast lunch or dinner, even on his radio show when I listen to him, I come away convinced he’s on the right track. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so. I am completely sold on Nick Saban. I would admit we made a mistake if we did make a mistake, but I firmly believe in Nick Saban.”

Dec. 7: Saban: “I’m flattered that they may have been interested in me, but it never really progressed, because we just never let it progress.”

Dec. 21: Saban: “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.” & “I don’t control what people say. I don’t control what people put on dot-com or anything else. So I’m just telling you there’s no significance, in my opinion, about this, about me, about any interest that I have in anything other than being the coach here.

Dec. 27: Saban: “I’m just making a rule to never comment on something like that again because every time you comment on it, it just makes for another story. So I’m not going to comment on it five years from now, and I’m not going to comment on it next week.”

Wayne Huizenga is expected to have a press conference around 1130 Eastern.

Former Alabama coach Bill Curry is on the phone with ESPN News. He says the “hire, fire, hire, fire” syndrome proves the hypocrisy of claiming that the college game is still somehow amateur.

Interrupted for the Huizenga presser. “It is what it is.” He met with Saban at his home this morning, so it wasn’t on the phone. “We have to move forward.” There is a “process in place” to find Saban’s successor. They’ve met with all the remaining coaches and staff to talk about “continuity.” He “wants the best” for Nick and understands why he left. “I’m a Nick Saban fan.” He also thinks coaches should have the right to pick their own employees, so he has no qualms about the coach-GM model.

“It was not about money.” Indeed, Saban never tried to finagle a raise or renegotiate his deal with the Dolphins in any way.

Very classy, indeed, considering what he’s been through over the last month.

Thomas Murphy and Neal McCready report that, “The deal will be worth approximately $32 million over eight years.”

Back to Bill Curry: “Nobody ever mentions the young people who are supposed to be educated by this process.” Colleges have lost sight of the objectives of the institution. The tail now wags the dog. As to Alabama specifically, he notes that Shula has “done a marvelous job of recruiting” and the school has only just emerged from the probationary restrictions he inherited. “The chain of command is not working.” Boosters have had way too much power since Bear Bryant died.

Joe Theisman thinks Saban owes Miami fans and players an explanation. Was the NFL just too tough? He also wonders how Saban will be able to recruit, talking about commitment, given his actions the last few weeks. My guess is that won’t be a problem.

Len Pasquereli confirms the 8-year, $32 million figure and adds that the amount is guaranteed. Presumably, that guarantee would come at a price to bind Saban to Alabama, but I haven’t seen any report on that aspect.

Alabama has scheduled a news conference to announce Saban for 4 Eastern, 3 local.

UPDATE: The presser will be 11 am Eastern tomorrow.

Meanwhile, shortly before 2 p.m. CST, Saban and his wife boarded the plane of UA athletics director Mal Moore at a Miami area airport and took off for Tuscaloosa.

Saban will be introduced at a 10 a.m. CST press conference on Thursday in the Naylor Stone Media Room in the Mal M. Moore Athletic Building on the UA campus, according to a statement on UA’s Web site.

“When I set out on this search, I noted that I was seeking a coach who has a proven record of championship success and achievement,” Moore said in the statement. “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 and affirms our commitment to provide our student-athletes and fans with a leader who will continue our commitment to excellence across the board.”

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Of course, what this means is that after next season everyone plays this same game again: will Saban leave for the Lions or some other NFL team…

Posted by Mark | January 3, 2007 | 11:26 am | Permalink

No, I don’t think so. Mortenson is likely right: Saban never wanted to leave college for the NFL to begin with but got lured by big bucks. My guess is that an incredibly lucrative, long term deal will keep him at Bama.

Posted by James Joyner | January 3, 2007 | 11:31 am | Permalink

You knew he was leaving Miami once he said “My wife doesn’t like South Beach”

Posted by Mister Biggs | January 3, 2007 | 11:48 am | Permalink

James, just because he says he is not interested does not mean the press will lay off. Every year certain coaches are given this treatment: will Pete Carroll leave USC? Will Charlie Weis go to the Giants? Will Parcells retire? Saban is one of the guys on this list.

And of course now that he has taken the Bama job after making it clear he was not interested to begin with, the press is not going to let this die out…

Posted by Mark | January 3, 2007 | 12:58 pm | Permalink

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