When Saban and Alabama split, it won’t be pretty

Friday, July 6, 2007 at 1:36am

Without having coached a game at Alabama, new Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban is the reigning king of the state.

Some day, however, he’s going to leave, and it’s not going to be a happy ending.

Last month, school trustees approved the eight-year, $32 million contract – the richest in college-football history – that Saban agreed to when he left the Miami Dolphins for Alabama in January.

The contract has plenty of perks, including a country club membership, two cars, a luxury box at Bryant-Denny Stadium and up to 25 hours of yearly flight time for personal travel in a noncommercial plane.

Most importantly, the deal doesn’t include a buyout clause if he wants to leave early.

Here’s where the rubber hits the road. Over the years, Saban has bandied about from Michigan State to LSU to the Dolphins to Alabama. Each time, the highest bidder won.

In January, after repeated denials that he was Alabama-bound, Saban did, in fact, leave the Dolphins to take over the Crimson Tide. Sure, money talks. In Saban’s world, it screams.

Why the lack of a buyout clause? Because Saban wants the freedom to walk away from Alabama without having to pay even a dime as a token of appreciation. Isn’t love grand?

This brings to mind a typical Hollywood marriage in which two people starved for success come together in order to benefit their own careers.

They make a few movies, appear on Larry King Live and stroll arm-in-arm along the red carpets. Adoring fans snap photos. The paparazzi chases breathlessly.

You know, however, that it’s a marriage doomed for failure because it’s founded on the wrong things. Namely, it’s based purely on self-interest, and each person is merely a vehicle for the other in that pursuit.

Similarly, Nick Saban and Alabama make no pretenses about the nature of their marriage. Perhaps in that regard we should applaud them for their honesty.

This marriage in Alabama is headed for a messy divorce. It’s only a matter of time, and it’s not going to be pretty.

ALMOST GONE: Tennessee guard Chris Lofton told a television station this week that only an ankle injury prevented him from skipping his senior season and entering last month’s NBA Draft.

“I was going to go,” he said. “It was just that my ankle, my injury, slowed me down a lot, and I couldn’t work out for any teams. That forced me to come back.”

Lofton suffered a severe ankle sprain Jan. 20 and missed the next four games. He still led the SEC in scoring at 20.8 points a game and in 3-pointers per game at 3.42.

EX-GATOR FOUND DEAD: Troubled former Florida football player Avery Atkins was found dead in his car Thursday morning in Port Orange, Fla., according to reports.

The former Daytona Beach Mainland High star played as a true freshman at cornerback for the Gators in 2005 and was a projected starter for the 2006 season. He left the school last summer for personal reasons. Atkins was arrested Monday in Ormond Beach, Fla., for possession of crack cocaine and was also was arrested in June on cocaine and drug paraphernalia charges.

After leaving Florida, Atkins enrolled at Bethune-Cookman College and attempted to return to Florida, only to drop out of classes this past winter.

QUICK SLANTS: Former Kentucky basketball standout Walter McCarty became an assistant coach at Louisville this week, where he will rejoin former Kentucky head coach Rick Pitino. McCarty helped lead UK to the 1996 national championship and played 10 seasons in the NBA. … Auburn’s Board of Trustees approved a new $92.5 million basketball arena that will open in 2010. In the past two years, Auburn has also spent $45 million to upgrade Jordan-Hare Stadium and build new venues for tennis, track, swimming and golf.

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By: dgallent on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Great piece on Saban.....the biggest ego in sports and not even close to the best D1 coach.....I predict the lovefest will end sooner than most expect....Saban is "no class" where Bryant was "all class"...

By: rgene on 12/31/69 at 7:00

At least get your facts correct!Saban took a pay CUT to come to Alabama! He also did not go to the highest bidder since Alabama was the only bidder. I predict that time will prove this entire article as wrong as your (lack of) research.

By: wolfy on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Slow news period? This what I hate about this time of the year. Lazy writers resurect non-stories to fill space.Saban hasn't coached a single game and we have a piece on When he leaves? Go cover the weather...Atleast you'll be correct some of the time.

By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 7:00

You can always write this article because it's not like Saben will be the coach for 25 years. You could write an article that when Fulmer leaves UT it will not be pretty.

By: WayneJ on 12/31/69 at 7:00

You're kidding, right? The guy hasn't even coached a game yet and you're talking about the severance package when he leaves. I thought 'Bama went through that already with Mike Price. Wolfy's right, it must be a slow news period. Instead of doing this effortless journalism, why don't you go visit the American operations of Honda, BMW, and Nissan and do some research as to when they plan to join Toyota in Nextel Cup? Face it, you have more NASCAR fans reading your e-rag than you have 'Bama fans reading it.

By: TCR on 12/31/69 at 7:00

rgene is right, the fins were paying Saban 5 mill & Bama is paying him 4 mill...and from what i get is that his salary is his buyout.

By: gatech on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I think this story hit's the nail on the head. When you pack your stadium for the spring game, that shows fan expectations are as high as they can be. Nick Saban is probably not going to win quick, but if he does, the absence of a buyout makes it a quick jump back to the NFL. Why in todays world would Alabama not have included a buyout???While I agree that most coaching tenures don't end amicably, The point of this article is that Saban won't be leaving alabama like JoePa and Bowden will be leaving their schools.

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Alabama got caught on this one hire. They did not have to live through a hiring process where they would be turned down by those coaches they realy wanted, such as what happened to Miami and several other schools. This happened to them when they got stuck with Shula. They chose the coach they wanted and were turned down. This time though they were not going to be embarrased by the process so they kept offering more, and more, and more until Saban agreed. They wanted the world to know that (this time) Alabama was getting the man they wanted. Unforuntately they paidd 100% more than the going rate for a coach who has won a single championship and unrealistically raised the expectations of an already dellusional fan base who expect champioships everytime they step on the field. Now when he goes 7-6 this year he will be drug over the coals for not earning his perks and money. Alabama has the least patient fan base in college sports and Saban's salary just shortens that patience even more.