The brief Nick Saban drama is over, and fans are split over what really happened. Some suggest that it was all nonsense; a ridiculous attempt by the media at creating something out of nothing. Others will suggest that Saban was just trying to use his leverage for more money.
Here’s a few things I”ll suggest as some food for thought. First, these are very complex processes. Most reports indicate a lot of internal division within the Texas Athletic Department, their boosters and others affiliated with the program. Moreover, throw in the agents such as Jimmy Sexton, who represents Nick Saban. There may have been a great number of conversations exploring the possibility of Nick Saban coaching at Texas. He very well may have considered it, then decided to remain at Alabama. Only Saban knows how close the two options were in his mind, but to believe that he never considered it simply because he re-signed at Alabama isn’t necessarily true. Of course, when the deal is done, both sides will act like they won and never even considered the alternative, but that’s just PR at this point.
Second, why did Saban let this linger at all once the national media picked up the story and ran with it for several days? Saban, of course, doesn’t need to respond to the media every time members of the media speculate on Saban’s future, but this was different. This was a major story headlining all media outlets around the country across internet, television and radio. Why let it linger once it went to such levels of intensity?
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Again, nobody knows, but here’s one possibility. The Saban to Texas drama ended all criticism of Nick Saban and the recent Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. Admittedly, the criticism was minimal (as it should have been), but once Alabama fans considered that they might lose Saban, a quiet hush moved over the fan base. Did Saban letting this linger for a few days serve as a reminder to Alabama fans that he’s in control? That he’s still the man in Tuscaloosa? That fans should be grateful that he’s their coach? Maybe.
Now the story shifts. He’s re-signed with Alabama, and reports are that he will make on average between $7 million and $7.5 million each year with the Crimson Tide.
As a result, there are only a few NFL coaches that earn more money than Saban annually. In college athletics, only Duke’s Mike Krzyewski earns more (which is crazy in and of itself).
With the new deal in place, let’s look at the effects of Saban remaining at Alabama for the coming years:
- Nick Saban’s legacy at Alabama can grow – Last week, I asked what would happen to the Nick Saban statue outside the stadium if he left Alabama for another school. That would have been quite an interesting dynamic to watch unfold, but we don’t have to speculate anymore. He’s remaining, and his legacy now has the chance to build. You can debate the Bear vs Nick argument in terms of who is the bigger coach, but now, we might get the opportunity to debate which coach will have the larger legacy at Alabama. If Saban can win another championship or two, he might approach Bear Bryant status at Alabama.
- The SEC West remains the best division in college football by far – If Alabama took a step backward as a result of Saban leaving, the SEC West would undoubtedly remain very challenging to win. With Saban keeping the program moving forward, the SEC West remains brutal. No division in college football comes close. Also, it’s bad news for guys looking to get to the next level like Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss, guys in rebuild mode like Bret Beilema at Arkansas and even guys looking to stay in the SEC West race like Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. Oh yeah, LSU and Auburn should be right in the mix every year as well. Again, brutal.
- The Alabama-Auburn rivalry will be fantastic in the coming years – Can we fast-forward to when Gus Malzahn and Auburn have to travel to Tuscaloosa next year to face Alabama? Wow, that’s going to be excellent. The rivalry between the two styles of Malzahn and Saban should be outstanding for years to come. The fact that Malzahn beat Saban in his first season to win the division makes the rivalry between these two coaches extra juicy.
- Money, Money, Money – The larger television deals are fueling larger salaries at the major college football programs. As the system contracts to fewer programs that benefit, more money is concentrated in programs like we have in the SEC. Look at these new deals: Malzahn is just under $4 million (he coached high school football not long ago!), Sumlin is doing $5 million annually. All of a sudden, making $3 million as an SEC football coach is chump change. As the average coaching salary increases, beware of increasing numbers of the media world pontificating on how athletes are unpaid.
Even if you’re not an Alabama fan, most SEC fans are excited to see Nick Saban remain at Alabama. Sure, he might make life difficult for the other teams in the conference, but isn’t it fun to try to beat the best?