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New Alabama football coach Nick Saban shakes hands with fans after getting off a plane Wednesday in Tuscaloosa. Seeking to rebuild a championship football program, Alabama lured Saban away from the Miami Dolphins. According to sources who didn't wish to be identified, Saban will receive an eight-year contract worth at least $30 million. That would make him the highest paid coach in college football.
AP photo by Michelle Williams
New Alabama football coach Nick Saban shakes hands with fans after getting off a plane Wednesday in Tuscaloosa. Seeking to rebuild a championship football program, Alabama lured Saban away from the Miami Dolphins. According to sources who didn't wish to be identified, Saban will receive an eight-year contract worth at least $30 million. That would make him the highest paid coach in college football.

Saban rolls with Tide
Former NFL coach is reportedly highest paid in college football
Ending 5 weeks of speculation and 2 days of deliberation, Bama finally
has a new coach

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

What seemed so improbable a month ago became a reality Wednesday.

Nick Saban accepted the head football coaching job at The University of Alabama, replacing Mike Shula who was fired Nov. 26. Saban joins the Crimson Tide after two seasons leading the NFL's Miami Dolphins. He has 11 years of head coaching experience in college, including five at LSU during 2000-04 when he went 4-1 against the Crimson Tide.

Alabama fan Susan Harless cheers while watching the plane carrying new football coach Nick Saban arrive Wednesday in Tuscaloosa.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Alabama fan Susan Harless cheers while watching the plane carrying new football coach Nick Saban arrive Wednesday in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama will introduce Saban at a news conference in Tuscaloosa at 10 a.m. Thursday. It comes only 13 days after Saban responded to constant questions from reporters about the Alabama job with, "I guess I have to say it — I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

But Wednesday afternoon, Saban and his wife, Terry, and daughter Kristen joined Alabama athletics director Mal Moore on a private jet from South Florida to Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. The flight landed at about 4 p.m., and several hundred Alabama fans greeted the new Bama coach.

"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 a statement released by the university. "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."

According to sources who didn't wish to be identified, Saban will receive an eight-year contract worth at least $30 million. That would make him the highest paid coach in college football, ahead of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, who makes $3.45 million per season.

When Wednesday began, the Crimson Tide waited to hear from Saban as to whether he would accept the university's job offer.

The previous day, Saban had asked to wait until Wednesday morning to give Alabama a decision. He had a 9 a.m. meeting set with Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga at the team's practice facility to discuss his future.

Alabama new head football coach Nick Saban receives a kiss from Colette Connell of Tuscaloosa as he is mobbed by Alabama fans at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport on Wednesday.
AP photo/Tuscaloosa News by Michael E. Palmer
Alabama new head football coach Nick Saban receives a kiss from Colette Connell of Tuscaloosa as he is mobbed by Alabama fans at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport on Wednesday.
With reporters camped around the complex, Huizenga showed up, but Saban did not.

Huizenga already had met with Saban at the coach's home in Fort Lauderdale where Saban reportedly told Huizenga that he intended to leave, but would stay if Huizenga wanted him to.

Huizenga told Saban that he understood why he would want to go back to collegiate coaching — teaching younger players, impacting their lives, living a simpler lifestyle — and wished him well.

"I think Nick is great," Huizenga said in a news conference to announce Saban's departure. "We met and talked this morning. We want the best for Nick and Terry. I'll be cheering for him to win that bowl game. I think he could have won here. I'm a Nick Saban fan."

After West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez turned Moore down to remain in Morgantown, Moore looked to Saban, who wasn't available for job talk until the NFL regular season ended Dec. 31.

"We congratulate and appreciate the efforts of coach Moore in bringing this search to a successful conclusion," said Cullman attorney and University of Alabama Board of Trustee member Finis E. St. John IV. "He and Dr. (Robert) Witt did a wonderful job. He accomplished what he set out to do."

In 11 seasons as collegiate coach with Toledo, Michigan State and LSU Saban is 91-42-1.

With Michigan State, Saban went 10-2 in 1999. That season the Spartans defeated Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State for the first time since 1965. The Spartans finished the year with a No. 7 national ranking.

Crowning achievement

Saban's crowning achievement occurred in 2003, when LSU won a national championship and beat Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl.

On Christmas Day 2004, he accepted the Dolphins' head coaching job, taking over a team that went 4-12 the previous season.

Saban appeared on his way after a quick turnaround to go 9-7 in 2005.

But in the 2006 season, the Dolphins slipped to 6-10.

Now, with an Alabama offense loaded with young talent — the only significant skill-position players who have completed their eligibility are running back Kenneth Darby and fullbacks Le'Ron McClain and Tim Castille — coupled with Saban's strong defensive coaching, Alabama will be a favorite for a turnaround next season.

"All of the guys are very glad to have coach Saban coming to Alabama," Tide sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "He has won a lot of football games and he won the national championship at LSU. That makes it even more exciting for us."

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