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FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2007
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Faculty mixed on Saban's hiring
Some see it as a smart
investment, others not so sure

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

After talking with members of The University of Alabama faculty, it appears that the academic core of the school has no majority opinion of the hiring of Nick Saban.

Some feel that it is a solid move for the school while others look at it with a sense of trepidation.

Some look at it as a good investment, while others feel that the $4 million given to the football coach could be doled out in different ways.

"We're moving in the direction to maximize football as an investment for The University of Alabama," said William H. Stewart, a Hartselle native and Professor Emeritus of Political Science who has been associated with the school as a student or professor for the past 50 years. "I'm a football fan, but my personal feeling is to have a school where the tail doesn't wag the dog."

The professors who spoke to The Daily indicate that Saban's hiring as football coach does not hinder the school.

The only thing that it reinforces is the public image of the university as more of an athletic than academic school, something, which they do not believe to be true.

"What has aggravated people around here is that it's almost a worship of a sport," said history department chairman and Alabama football season ticket holder Lawrence A. Clayton. "I understand that it brings notoriety to the school and the publicity that the football team produces revenue. Applications for our freshman class go up, the relationship is very direct. It also sheds some light on our culture and the value we put on a sport."

One of the positives that Clayton touched in terms of increasing the visibility of the school was furthered by law school professor Alfred L. Brophy.

Brophy said that he looked at the hiring of Saban as being an investment, which would help Alabama, providing that Saban could bring a winning program to the school.

"A school should be known for academics, but a lot of it is branding," Brophy said. "You want positive association with the name. One of the ways you do that is with academics. Another way you do that is with excellent athletic teams.

"I'm a very bottom-line person, and I recognize there are many ways that the school has a lot of constituencies, and I think excellent athletics will help the overall mission of the university."

One of the main criticisms of Saban's hiring has been his hefty contract.

At $4 million per year during eight years, Saban is the highest paid college football coach in the country — Oklahoma's Bob Stoops is second at $3.45 million.

While the athletic department budget is separate from that of the university, some professors were able shed some light on what they could do with an extra $4 million per year with their departments.

"You could hire additional faculty so you could cover areas that weren't covered in the department," Stewart said. "You could provide more scholarships to students, and you could try to recruit at the associate or at least the full professor level."

Clayton gave a far-reaching idea for the history department to broaden the horizons of students at the school with more guest scholars to lecture them.

"We can really put that money to good work," said Clayton, who estimates that the history department's yearly budget is about $1 million. "We could expand the availability of high-quality research to our students to be able to sit and take classes with some of the minds that are on the cutting edge of thinking."

Clayton's idea also included taking the state and showing students of how it relates to the rest of the world in terms of economics, trade and location.

"I would take two football coaches," Clayton joked.

When asked about what he would do with the money, Brophy went into several academically involved directives, but was quick to point out that $4 million to an athletic team was still well-spent.

"I would probably double the size of the faculty. You can get scholarships too, but this isn't like spending money. It's an investment, but that's what you have to pay to swim in these waters."

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