Saban-To-Texas Rumors Borderline Ridiculous
He's shopping for a house there. His agent is talking to the school about a potential opening. Someone is paging him at the airport.
The rumors won't die.
However legitimate it seems, though, Texas is not prying Alabama's greatest football coach in 30 years away from the Tide, in part because there aren't any viable reasons.
Let's start with the far-fetched case for Nick Saban uprooting to Texas after this year.
Some of it is factual:
• Saban never has stayed at a school longer than five seasons prior to his current seven-year tenure at Alabama.
• Saban has issued denials before, only to accept a job he explicitly said he would not.
• Texas' athletic department is rich. Filthy, stinking rich.
• Texas does not have a state income tax.
• Saban called out Bama fans earlier this year for being spoiled, and his wife Terry Saban called the Crimson Tide fan base somewhat ungrateful.
Now let's look at reality. Sure, it seems a certainty that Mack Brown no longer will be the head coach at Texas, possibly by the end of the week. But why would Saban leave Tuscaloosa, Ala., for Austin, Texas?
Theory: The Challenge
Saban, along with most high-level control freaks at the top of the college football world, embraces challenges.
The theory: He leaves Alabama for Texas, resurrects the Longhorns, wins a national title or two and cements his legacy forever, having won championships at three major programs.
Plenty of great coaches have gone to a big-time program with resources galore. Texas went to a national championship game less than four years ago. Saban himself has proven a fine college football architect, building at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama.
The general consensus is Saban wasn't a fan of the NFL, where he didn't get to choose his players through the recruiting process and had much less control. Still, if there's any unproven "challenge" that could add to Saban's legacy, it's at the NFL level.
Going through the hassle of another move, another upward mobility project and another few seasons before he can get Texas to the level of an Alabama? We all seem to agree he's capable of that. If he's confining himself to college, the biggest challenge, to me, is sustaining the kind of success at Alabama he's experienced in the last five seasons. Can he win four national titles in six years? Can he somehow keep Tide fans happy? Can he continue to win in the toughest division in college football, the SEC West? Can he outcoach Les Miles, Kevin Sumlin and Gus Malzahn? Can he out-recruit Hugh Freeze? That's the greatest challenge.
Theory: The Money
As I mentioned, Texas is filthy rich and obsessed with football. Call them boosters, regents, whatever, there are plenty of loaded, wanna-be Jerry Joneses with some modicum of power in the state.
The theory: Texas offers so much cash to Saban that he won't be able to resist and no other school, not even Alabama, could come close to matching.
Again: Really? Alabama already pays Saban ($5.62 million this year) more than Texas pays Brown, and reportedly is offering a raise in the neighborhood of $7 million per year. Oh, and Alabama spends more money than any other school on coordinators, paying defensive coordinator Kirby Smart a record $1.28 million this year.
Alabama is not going to let Texas win a bidding war, if it comes down to it. How high would Texas have to go to buy Saban from the Tide, if that were even an option? Ten million per year? Considering they're paying Brown barely $5 million, that seems preposterous.
The Theory: Prestige
The theory: Texas can somehow will Saban to its program with an outpouring of love, appreciation and prestige, outdoing an Alabama fan base that's grown used to winning 12 games a season. And he won't have to live in the shadow of Bear Bryant.
Texas is a tremendous program. In fact, along with Florida, it may be the greatest overall athletic department in the country.
But when it comes to football, there's no place like Alabama.
Programs like Texas, Oklahoma, USC and Ohio State are in the same ballpark. Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan have great history. There are plenty of proud SEC schools. But it's tough to make the case that any of them are "better" football schools than the U of A.
Sure, there are great players in Texas and a love for football that may even top the pigskin-crazed Bama. (OK, it's a big "may.")
But what's the advantage for Saban? He has no problem luring recruits to Alabama, and despite the recent exodus of cornerback commitments to Auburn, looks to claim yet another paper championship with his 2014 recruiting class. Is he somehow going to get better players if he can peddle from Texas?
And as far as legacy goes, the man already has a statue in Tuscaloosa. With another season or two, he can claim clear No. 2 status in Tide coaching history. Although he'll never surpass Bryant's cultural legacy, Saban could make a legitimate case that his coaching record and accomplishments are better than Bryant's if he stays at Alabama another decade and continues his current rate of success.
Apparently some Alabama fans are nervous because Saban may or may not have let an offer for a raise sit untouched since Friday.
In SEC country, where the threat of some snow flurries wipes out the bread and milk at every grocery store and shuts down all the schools, this constitutes grounds for paranoia or even panic.
Saban takes some sort of sick pride in being able to declare his laser focus, like when he beamed and proclaimed on ESPN that he hasn't had time to watch the "60 Minutes" special focused on him that aired earlier this year because he's got a game for which to prepare. It's easy to imagine Saban refusing to consider a raise while the Tide is coming off a disappointing Iron Bowl loss, hammering home another recruiting class and prepping for a Sugar Bowl.
And though Saban mostly is revered as a football coach, the denial and abrupt departure from the Miami Dolphins will haunt him the rest of his career. By all accounts, his wife, Terry Saban, is hands-on. He gives her public credit and license to speak that many big-time coaches don't. Knowing how much scrutiny he got after he left Miami, do you really believe he'd allow his wife to tell the Wall Street Journal the two were staying put in Alabama, potentially subjecting her to some of the same blowback?
He doesn't have to deny Texas rumors, whether he's interested in them or not. He could use it to his advantage from a business sense, driving up the price of his raise even more. Instead, he's issued repeated denials, already having experienced the intense criticism of going back on his word.
Saban has proven an intensely private man when it comes to his career ambitions, but he's also publicly acknowledged a friendship with Brown. This is a man who doesn't seem to claim a wide circle of friends. Would he really pull off what would amount to a betrayal of Brown, given the way the latter has been treated this year, and be the one to push him out the door?
It makes sense that Texas power brokers and fans are doing everything they can to create noise about Saban to the Longhorns. They're doing everything but buying one of those message-in-smoke planes to fly over Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Asked by a Memphis radio station today to give his level of surprise from one (not at all) to 10 (complete shock) if Saban did become the next Texas coach, Yahoo! college football columnist Dan Wetzel hesitated for a few seconds before answering with eight.
Let me go on record as a nine.
Let's all come back to reality: Nick Saban is never going to coach at Texas.