He was the talk of two conferences, even though his team wasn’t playing a snap and he refused to utter a word.
That’s exactly how Nick Saban likes it. As demonstrative and wordy as he is on game day, the man at the helm of Alabama football also knows when to lay low and keep his mouth shut. That was the case this week.
With Mack Brown’s future at Texas up in the air until Saturday when Brown confirmed to his players and staff that he would be leaving immediately after the Longhorn’s face Oregon in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, rumors that Saban would vacate Tuscaloosa for the hills of Austin hit a fever pitch. A television network had reporters jabbering outside both Bryant-Denny and Texas Memorial Stadium. One report had his contract extension sitting unsigned on his desk, while another had him waiting to board a private jet for Austin at any moment. Speculation ran so deep that many commentators were already throwing out names of possible replacements for Saban at Alabama.
Through it all, Saban said nothing.
That came to a halt on Friday night when Alabama officials announced an extension of Saban’s contract, one that moves him into the stratosphere of coaches in all sports, college or professional.
The contract is said to be $7 million a year, a full $1.5 million more than he was making and $1.1 million more than the contract Brown is walking away from. The money Saban makes stands alone in college sports, and is very close to topping the most in sports, period.
Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks makes $7 million a year, as does Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams and Doc Rivers of the NBA L.A. Clippers. Mike Shanahan who has two Super Bowl rings and more critics right now than every member of Congress, also makes $7 million.
The only coaches who make more are Andy Reid and Bill Belichick, who, according to Forbes, make $7.5 million and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who makes $8 million a year. Saban’s contact extends through 2020, at which point he will be 70 years old.
His played coy with everyone and got a deal of a lifetime. Nobody should blame him. If you’re market value is in the high seven figures, that’s what you should be paid. Texas was reportedly willing to go to $7 million, so Alabama officials stepped up to keep their man at home.
The irony in all this Bell of the Ball drama is that it came after Saban made one of the biggest game day coaching blunders of his career, attempting a 56-yard field goal in the final second of the Iron Bowl without thinking the matter through. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn put Chris Davis, his best kick returner, deep in the end zone and the rest has become college football history.
Afterward Saban talked about missed opportunities and a "failure to execute" without shouldering any blame for the blunder. Whether he meant it or not, his comments came off as insulting to his team and a clear violation of the Bear Bryant Rule.
Bryant said, "If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you."
Saban said, "I do not think we played our best game today. Everyone knew what was at stake and we did not make the plays when we needed to make them."
But all that was forgotten on Friday night. That was when the ink dried on the contract and Saban said, "This agreement allows us to continue to build on the tremendous success that we have enjoyed to this point — successes that have transcended the football field. We are excited about the future and the University of Alabama is where I plan to end my coaching career."