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.