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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/03/2007 01:07:00 PM

Alabama Gets Its Man --- At a Hefty Cost

Oakland Arena
Nick Saban will return to the SEC, where he won a national title with LSU in 2003.
Bob Rosato/SI
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- This may seem hard to believe, but do you realize that as recently as 1999, there were only five college head coaches making $1 million a year? Only one of those, then-Florida coach Steve Spurrier, was making as much as $2 million.

The meteoric marketplace spiral that’s taken place since then reached a new milestone Wednesday. College football now has its first $4 million coach: Nick Saban. That’s what it cost for Alabama, following a decade of coaching tumult -- including a series of high-profile rejections in this most recent coaching search -- to finally land its man.

If you’re one of the many long-suffering faithful of the Crimson Tide, today is unquestionably a day for rejoicing. ‘Bama is about to return to its rightful spot among the nation’s elite. It’s not even a question.

No more playing second fiddle to Auburn, LSU and Arkansas in its own division. No more 6-7 seasons and Independence Bowl losses. With Saban, the Tide will be competing for the SEC title -- and possibly the national title -- within two years. He will do exactly what he did in Baton Rouge: recruit like no other, install an NFL-style defense and instill a no-nonsense attitude throughout the roster. At LSU, Saban took over an inconsistent program and, by his fourth season, turned it into a national championship program with as stout a collection of athletes as any program this side of USC. Imagine what he'll be able to do at a program with one of the richest histories in the country.

Of course, this is all assuming he’s still there in four years. Not exactly a safe assumption when it comes to any Alabama coach, nevertheless Saban.

But while it’s a great day to be Alabama AD Mal Moore, there’s unquestionably some hand-wringing going on at other college administrators’ offices around the country today. The line to renegotiate your contract starts to the left.

In the past, any time there’s been a new milestone in coaching salaries, there’s been a domino effect on the rest of the market. This one could be particularly costly. Only a couple years ago, college football was still barely getting used to the idea of a $2 million coach. Before Wednesday, only USC’s Pete Carroll, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis had cracked the $3 million-a-year barrier.

Saban garnered $4 million based on one national title, two SEC titles and a career .683 winning percentage. With that as the standard, Carroll, who’s won two national titles, five conference titles and owns an .844 winning percentage, must be worth at least $8 million. What kind of raise could Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, whose current salary is a suddenly cheap $2.4 million, fetch himself if he earns his second national title on Monday? Or Florida’s Urban Meyer ($2.6 million) if he delivers the Gators their second-ever championship in just his second season?

Of course, the ADs at all of the aforementioned schools will tell you those coaches are worth every penny. With the amount of revenue raised by most powerhouse football programs -- not to mention their importance to hundreds of thousands of fans -- one can’t possibly place too high a value on having the right coach in place.

Alabama, for the first time in a decade, unquestionably has the right coach in place now.
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 1:44 PM   by Karsh
Unfortunatly it will create an atmosphere like Major League Baseball....where only a handful of 'New York Yankees'can afford 'elite' coaches. The rest of us will be 'Oakland A's'. With that being said, All the SEC Teams can't be title contenders. Usually when one rises another must fall. Who is ripe for a fall?
Posted: 1:48 PM   by Anonymous
Does anyone really believe that Nick Saban will stay at Alabama for more than 3-4 years? He's the Larry Brown of football coaches: he needs to be courted and shown some love every few years. The man can't stay put or stand prosperity. When he left Michigan St. before the end of the 1999 season, who'd have thunk he'd pull the same stunt only 7 years later? He's a great coach, no doubt, but in terms of integrity, he's a snake.
Posted: 1:50 PM   by Anonymous

You conveniently forgot about the Crimson Tide boosters and the havoc they play with the football team. The football boosters at LSU were didn't throw their weigt around five years ago. Mike Shula was one year removed from a 10-2 season, but he was shown the door. If Saban doesn't win immediately, his honeymoon will be short. And given his Larry Brown-like penchant for moving, 'Bama may be looking for a new coach before 2010.
Posted: 1:59 PM   by Southern Man
As one of the Crimson Tide faithful, I am elated. The biggest thing we have lacked is the disciplined, hard nosed attitude Saban will bring to the team. As far as him leaving in three years, I believe he is in a Steve Spurrier frame of mind. He's been to the NFL and done that. He is 55 years old, and I am sure tired of the travels, travails, and questions about moving and changing jobs.

Roll Tide and welcome, Coach Saban!
Posted: 2:07 PM   by jake
Any major BCS school can afford a good head coach. Most of the money is pooled amongst them. You have to pay to compete with the best.
Posted: 2:22 PM   by Beelzebob
Saban abandoned Michigan State, LSU, and now the Miami Dolphins. The guy is a huge jerk. I hope Bama enjoys having a DICtator run their football show.
Posted: 2:30 PM   by commish
This makes the news from one of your recent articles on the same board that approved Saban's deal blocking UAB from getting Jimbo Fisher even more depressing.
Posted: 2:33 PM   by mashley278
A few things:

1) Media is ticked at Saban because he didn't tip his hand when it came to telling them what they wanted to hear. Now all the sudden he is a snake. Make no mistake, he is a snake because he lied to the media. Did they give Coach Franchione this much heat when he left Bama?

2) Everyone wants to hear that he will leave in 4 years - after all the jokes thrown around by the media, they need to save face.
If he leaves UA in as good as shape in 4 years as he did LSU - I have no problem with it.

3) Saban's salary just accelerated an already insane race for coaches. As soon as Tressel or Meyer wins a NC, their salaries will go up. Grobe, Schiano, Petrino, were in line for increases anyway - and high ones to keep them.
Posted: 2:37 PM   by mashley278
Looks to me like there is a lot of jealousy out there...
A few things:

1) The media is upset because Saban didn't give them the time of day on a story. They feel they have the right to know everything and he ignored them AND went to UA. The media had very little to say when the classless Franchione bolted for A&M.

2) He just accelerated the coach salary increases. Trust me, after this year, Tressel, Carrol, Schiano, Petrino, and Grobes are all getting big increases..not to mention Rodriguez and Spurrier

3) Will he stay 4 years or more? Who knows, but if he leaves UA like he left LSU....then I will be a happy man!
Posted: 2:44 PM   by Mark
The money is great, the program has great tradition, nobody should be negative about his move.
After all, HE is the one that has to live in Alabama. Ever been to the Deep South Stewart? It's the Twilight Zone meets Hee Haw. I wish Saban the best.
Do you think Alabama will be better immediately, and, if not and they go .500 again, will they be more tolerant than with Shula?
Posted: 2:50 PM   by Anonymous
Actually, I believe Dennis Franchione is the Larry Brown of football coaches. Like Fran, Larry's moves are random and seemingly for little purpose other than to be somewhere else. Saban moved up from Mich. St., the secondary program in Michigan, to LSU, a program with no other D-I teams in its talent-rich state, to the pros. Then he decided he didn't like the pros and the big (vaguely Central American) city, and moved back to a bigtime college program.
Posted: 2:58 PM   by Anonymous
Aside from the giant contract, there is no downside for Alabama with Saban. He is going to win, and he is going to win soon. This once heralded program has floundered too long for both their loyal fans and their rich storied history.

Saban fits at this university. He is one of the few coaches who can live up to the expectations.

The Tide may finally have hired the Bear Jr. they've been searching for.
Posted: 2:58 PM   by Anonymous
Shula could not beat the teams he needed to. IE: AU, UT, LSU.

Maybe Saban will settle down & get used to winning, and is old enough now to get tired of moving. Once he sets up a great team if he leavs they will still have agood foundation IE: LSU.

I think there will be an instant improvement. We were a few bad shula calls from winning at least 3 or 4 games last year. (Arkansas comes to mind).

Alabama will be back next year. To bad the SEC eliminates itself from contention. Look at all the ocverhyped teams in the bowl games.
Posted: 3:07 PM   by Anonymous
Those of you that are so worried about the boosters at Alabama, Don't. Nick Saban was given the same kind of deal as the last great successfull coach UA had. He will clean house and run the program his way or the so called boosters you are talking about will have to pay a hefty sum of money. As for LSU, Alabama has won more SEC Championships and National Championships than any other team in the SEC. We are sorry but we were use to winning at least 10 games a year. Is it wrong not to want success? We are not LSU, Vandy, Ole Miss, etc. WE ARE ALABAMA!! All anyone can say is wait and see. Keep your comments to yourself if you don't know the Program at Alabama. Best of Luck to Coach Saban and ROLL DAMN TIDE!!!!
Posted: 3:13 PM   by Anonymous

It is quite amazing how even in a story on the New Bama Coach you can work a plug in for USC.
Posted: 4:56 PM   by Anonymous
Congrats to Bama for landing the coach they wanted. Too bad everyone seems to be forgeting that we're talking about a university and not a pro team. All high profile coaches are paid many times what the presidents of the unverisity are paid and that seems seriously out of balance.

The Pandora's box on this issue was opened 5-7 years ago, Saban and Bama (along with Weis and ND) have just kicked the lid off.
Posted: 5:14 PM   by Anonymous
Stewart, you said this two weeks ago: "......and I have to chuckle when I hear Nick Saban’s name still being mentioned. Of all coaches, Saban is the ultimate control-freak. He answered to almost no one at LSU, and he ultimately chose the Dolphins job over other NFL offers because he would have control over personnel decisions. Saban may well jump back to college at some point, but do you really think he’s going to go to a school where the wealthy son of a former coaching legend -- among others -- has a say in his fate? Oh man … I’m sorry. It’s just too easy.

You then come back today and say this is a great hire for AD Moore and Alabama?

So, are you the kettle or the pot?
Posted: 6:13 PM   by pharaoh
I think Saban and 'bama are made for each other.

Saban jerks around won of the best owners in the NFL, who allowed Wannstedt to stay too long. Yeah, maybe he should have known that he wouldn't like the NFL from his stint in Cleveland with Belichick.

'bama will benefit greatly, if only their boosters would stay out of the way. He can recruit, he is a disciplinarian, and he will build a defense that half of the people will love.

I know that their are probably 11 coaches who are quaking in their boots about this hire. Yeah, this will be more fire for the crying babies who say that this is the best conference in the nation. If the other 11 teams in this conference don't do everything in their power to keep him from recruiting, he will restore the tradition to this program. If they succeed, Saban will probably miss that cushy NFL job in about 3 years when the insane Alabama boosters run him out of town on a rail.

Finally, Jimbo Fisher should feel slighted. Unless Saban can get him a 600K contract as a coordinator in college (unlikely), he was basically prevented from a head coaching job in Birmingham by the same group that hired Saban. Hey Jimbo, I have an idea...give Randy Shannon a call. I bet he needs you more than Nick does.
Posted: 6:19 PM   by Anonymous
What a steal! A COLLEGE program grabbing a coach from amongst the PROFESSIONAL ranks (and from a storied franchise like the Dolphins) is absolutely ridiculous... I know it's still early, but Mal Moore is a strong candidate for Pimp-of-the-Year honors!

Roll Tide

Don't stereotype Alabama, please.
Posted: 6:29 PM   by Southern Man
I am sick and tired of the elitest comments from ESPN talking heads and posters from around the country degrading the south and Alabama in particular. I have lived here all my life and it is the greatest place in the world. I have traveled all over the country and, to be honest, they were nice places to visit but I certainly wouldn't want to live there.

As a long suffering Alabama fan, I welcome Coach Saban and cannot wait for the 2007 season. Roll Tide!
Posted: 5:09 PM   by Anonymous
I'm curious this is a totally racially motivated comment, but nearly all the in SEC have had an african american quarterback with a legitimate playing career except for BAMA. Saban recruited one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the state of Alabama to go to LSU. Its no secret the boosters want things to remain stat quo at BAMA, and that is if you are black play wide out, cornerback, or wide receiver. Patrick White another great quarterback from the state of Alabama passed on by BAMA. Can Saban actually push about a change or will he just fit right in with the rest of the good ol boys.
Posted: 6:53 PM   by Anonymous
maybe all these so called studs that are coaching in the sec arent really studs at all. none of em have won in the nfl, then they claim they beat each other and it makes it hard to get out of the sec unbeaten. so why all these sec losses in the bowl games against non sec teams. shouldnt the sec just sweep all the bowl games if they are so superior
Posted: 10:44 AM   by P
for the Racially motivated comment, Alabama has has black QBs. Remember Andrew Zow? When he left Alabama a few short years ago, he held many AL qb records.
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