News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Riley backs Tide paying top dollar for Saban

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley said Friday he supports The University of Alabama's decision to pay new football coach Nick Saban about $4 million a year — an amount some have called excessive in a state that often ranks near the bottom nationally for education.

Riley said he called Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore and congratulated him on hiring Saban, a high-profile coach who won a national championship when he was head coach at LSU. Saban has been coach of the Miami Dolphins for the last two years.

"If he does what the fans hope, if he wins, the payback will be multiplied tenfold," said Riley, who as governor is also the ex-officio president of The University of Alabama board of trustees.

"We need to be competing at the highest level in everything we do," Riley said, adding that Saban brings a reputation for excellence to the university's football program.

Riley said the funds to pay Saban will come from ticket sales, licensing agreements and other Athletic Department sources and not from taxpayer funds. He added that when the football team is winning it increases fan support and revenue for other Crimson Tide sports teams.

Riley's comments were in response to criticism that $4 million is too much to pay a football coach in a state that ranks 46th in the country in household income.

Riley said it doesn't bother him that Saban will be making more than 20 times what he makes as governor.

"You don't run for governor in order to get rich," Riley said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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