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THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2007
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Saban's hiring excites backers, former players

By Michael Wetzel
mwetzel@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

Early in the search for a head football coach at Alabama, Tide athletics director Mal Moore said the school was looking for "a proven head coach with a proven record of achievement who can reach the level of excellence that all of us desire."

Wednesday, several Alabama supporters and former players in the area said they feel Moore delivered on his promise by hiring Nick Saban away from the Miami Dolphins.

Saban was 15-17 in two years with the NFL team, but had a 48-16 record and won the 2003 national championship at LSU before moving to the professional ranks.

"It's a good day for Alabama and its football program," said Decatur's Conley Duncan, an All-SEC linebacker for the Tide in 1975. "I was just ecstatic to hear Coach Saban was coming to Tuscaloosa. He's got the charisma and the ability to lead young players.

"We've got an outstanding facility at Alabama and now we have an outstanding coach. He's one of the gems in this profession. There's no questioning his leadership ability."

A member of The University of Alabama Foundation board of directors, Britt Sexton of Decatur, said he was "excited and relieved" to hear the news of Saban's hiring.

"I'm so glad the school and Coach Moore had the patience to wait for Saban to come available," said Sexton, the CEO of Sextons, Inc. "He has a proven resume.

"I've got some friends in Louisiana, and they've called me about Saban. They concur that he'll do a wonderful job here."

Another relieved supporter is Decatur's Mike Ferguson.

"The coach watch is over," said Ferguson, president of the Morgan County Chapter of the Alabama Alumni Association.

"I certainly hope he's the right fit and does the same job for us he did for LSU."

Tanner football coach and former Tide offensive lineman Laron White likes that Saban is a big-name coach known as a disciplinarian.

"He's strict," White said. "That's what the program needed. I feel Alabama will do fine next year. He's a proven coach.

"His name being known might be able to sway some of the high school recruits who were borderline."

Curtis Wofford, a Tide defensive back in the 1980s, said Saban is getting more than a fat wallet out of the deal with Alabama, which reportedly is for eight years and at least $30 million.

"He's walking into a program that has a rich history of winning, and one that is hungry to win again," said Wofford, an insurance salesman in Decatur. "And there has been talk about his family not feeling safe down there.

"The money issue is certainly a factor, but maybe more important is being at a place where you can raise a family and feel and be safe."

Wofford said he likes the work ethic Saban has shown in past coaching gigs.

"Combine his work habits and winning record and getting him to Tuscaloosa is enormous for the program," he said. "It's a great opportunity Alabama football. Hopefully, he will put us back at the top of the colleges."

Duncan said he expects Alabama to be a national title contender in "three to five years."

But everything has a price. Duncan said he hopes a new coach doesn't mean a hike in ticket prices.

"They're high enough already," he said.

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