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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2006
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Saban may see $40 million offer
Reports say Tide deal has $7 million bonus

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

Alabama is expected to make an offer today or Monday to Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban, according to published reports.

The Miami Herald reported on its Web site Saturday evening that Alabama will offer Saban about $4 million annually and a $7 million signing bonus to coach the Crimson Tide football team. That would make Saban the highest-paid college coach in the country. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops makes $3.4 million a year.

Saban can earn $15 million for the three years left on his contract with the Dolphins, but the newspaper is reporting that Alabama will guarantee him about $40 million during the length of a contract.

According to a source close to the Tide, Alabama had planned to make a last overture toward Saban.

If Saban does not bite, then the Tide will move on to Plan B, which possibly includes Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe or Navy’s Paul Johnson. Navy fell to Boston College on a last-second field goal in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Saturday.

Despite Saban’s harsh denial last week, saying he would not be the next head coach of Alabama, his name keeps coming up.

According to sources, friends of Saban have told Alabama that he could be interested in the job if the Tide waited for the end of the NFL season.

Saban’s legitimacy as a candidate appeared far-fetched a few weeks ago. However, Miami’s inability to improve on last season’s surprising 9-7 year has led to an unstable situation. The Dolphins are 6-9 heading into today’s road game at Indianapolis and are out of the playoff picture.

If he stays with the Dolphins, Saban will enter 2007 with an aging defense and without a marquee quarterback — Daunte Culpepper, signed in the off-season, has struggled with a bad knee.

Pro Bowl LB Zach Thomas will be 34 and All-Pro defensive end Jason Taylor will be 33.

The Dolphins’ quarterback picture has fallen to the point that Saban will start third-string quarterback Cleo Lemon today against the Colts.

In the past month, team owner Wayne Huizenga was rumored to be selling the franchise, which he bought in 1994 from the Robbie family. However, Huizenga told the Miami Herald for Saturday’s editions that the Dolphins are not for sale.

When asked if he might sell the team, he told the Herald, “Absolutely, positively, no way. We are not selling, and there is no waffling on that. How’s that for a definitive answer?”

When asked about Saban, Huizenga said, “If he didn’t stay, it would be huge news to me.”

Other potential possibilities from the NFL including Tampa Bay head coach John Gruden and Houston offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, a former Green Bay head coach.

A name that hasn’t come up, but could be intriguing — Bill Cowher, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1992. While the chances of landing Cowher appear slim, Cowher has not committed to remaining for the final season of his contract with Pittsburgh.

A North Carolina State graduate, he said in November that he wasn’t interested in going there.

His credentials — 11 winning seasons and two Super Bowl appearances with one win — would fit Tide athletics director Mal Moore’s vision of hiring a proven coach with impressive credentials.

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