Posted: 12:20 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
By Eric Murtaugh
Typing some stuff on the pending move (or non-move) of a generation's greatest coach.
What if I told you back in November 2008 after Tyrone Willingham left the University of Washington men's football team in a smoking 0-12 crater that in just 5 year's time the Huskies would out-hire both Southern California and Texas in the same off-season?
Yeah right, E. You're crazy.
Well, we may be a week or two away from such a preposterous notion befuddling an entire country.
By now I'm sure you've heard the rumors about Nick Saban potentially signing a deal with Texas and leaving behind the dynasty he's built in Alabama. There's been a lot of smoke about this move so much so that many believe it's going to happen.
But will it really? This is something I'd need to see to believe and I've remained skeptical for months that Saban would leave Tuscaloosa for Austin.
First, it looks like Mack Brown's time as coach at Texas is over. That's the first big piece to the puzzle that needs to play out over the next few days. The only question is whether Brown goes down swinging (it looks like he will for now) or whether he'll go off gently into the night with a comfortable retirement package that makes him the envy of all retired coaches in the history of collegiate athletics.
This is a messy hurdle that Texas has to deal with first but it's one they will clear one way or another. They've hired a new athletic director and the powers that be are restless over Brown's mediocre record over the past 4 seasons. He's been backed into a corner and doesn't have the institutional support he once enjoyed in years past. It's over.
As of this writing Saban is rumored to have an offer from Texas on a 10-year contract worth $100 million plus a 1% stake in the Longhorn Network. The administrators at Alabama have an offer on Saban's desk for a $1.5 million annual raise to push the Crimson Tide head coach's total yearly pay to $7 million per season.
How did we get to this point where the game's best coach is thinking about leaving a dynasty he's built while it's still at its zenith? There's never been a coach making a lateral move like this even when his program isn't at the level of modern-day Alabama (like say, Bob Stoops leaving Oklahoma for Notre Dame) and yet Saban is going to pull the trigger and walk away from all that success to start over at Texas?
I find that so hard to believe.
Let's remember, this all started earlier in the year when reports surfaced in September that Nick Saban's agent had some discussions with Texas. Tom Hicks, the then Texas Regent, had this to say:
"Sexton [Saban's agent] confirmed that UT is the only job Nick would possibly consider leaving Alabama for, and that his success there created special pressure for him."
That's quite a loaded statement but it's important to remember that these talks took place all the way back in January after Alabama beat Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, and more importantly I believe, the talks were initiated by Nick Saban's agent.
Saban had just destroyed our Irish in the title game, won two straight national championships, three titles in four years, and lost only 5 games over the preceding 4 seasons and he's got Texas on the mind because of all the pressure at Alabama? I'm not sure how much I buy the sincerity from Saban and his agent's part on this one.
Now, this didn't immediately get Saban a raise at Alabama--he signed a 2-year extension in March 2012 making him the game's highest head coach just ahead of Mack Brown after a $550,000 salary bump--but both of his top assistants got handsome pay increases. Now, Saban could sign a deal that could possibly see him make up to $3 million more than the next highest-paid college coach in the sport once Mack Brown exits.
Sure, there's been a lot of smoke and rumors plus if a school is going to pull this off Texas could probably do it but this has smelled like a ploy by Saban's agent from the very beginning. Saban is no spring chicken--he'll turn 63 next year just a few months younger than Mack Brown--and this could be his last serious pay day before hanging things up in 5 or 6 years. What better way to do that than prey on a blue-blood program whose coach has been on the hot seat for such a long time?
There are plenty of sources saying Saban to Texas is going to happen and I have no doubt that the powers in Austin and the Longhorn fans feel like it's just a matter of time before Jolly St. Nick packs his bags for the pile of money being thrown his way. I remain much more skeptical.
In baseball terms Saban's thrown some heaters that Texas has been fouling off in recent months and weeks, but eventually the Longhorns will strike out. The history of college football makes it a near certainty.
I can't blame for Texas for trying to get Saban but they might want to start looking at some other coaching options before kicking Mack Brown and his 16-year tenure to the curb in such a public fashion. If they put all their eggs in the Saban basket and thought getting rid of Brown would be easy it could turn out that Washington will make the best hire of the 2013 off-season.