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Saban accepts Alabama coaching job

After repeated denials he would do so, he quits as coach of the Dolphins to take a deal worth at least $30 million to lead the Crimson Tide.

January 04, 2007|From the Associated Press

Nick Saban is 'Bama bound.

Ending five weeks of denials and two days of deliberation, Saban accepted the Alabama coaching job and abandoned his bid to rebuild the Miami Dolphins after only two seasons.

Miami owner Wayne Huizenga said he was informed of the decision in a meeting Wednesday at Saban's house. Huizenga announced the departure at a news conference that Saban didn't attend.

"It is what it is," Huizenga said, borrowing Saban's pet phrase. "I'm not upset, because it's more involved than what you think."

Saban's deal with Alabama is reportedly worth at least $30 million over eight years, the most lucrative in college football.

Since late November, Saban had issued frequent, angry public denials of interest in moving to Tuscaloosa.

Huizenga said the change of heart wasn't driven by money, and Saban never sought a raise or contract extension.

Instead, Huizenga hinted that family issues for Saban and his wife, Terry, were a factor. The Sabans, both natives of West Virginia, have a son in college and a daughter in high school.

A preference for the college game and the campus lifestyle may have swayed Saban. He won a national championship at Louisiana State and is 15-17 with the Dolphins.

The Crimson Tide first approached Saban shortly after firing Mike Shula.

Huizenga has said he received repeated assurances from Saban that he would return in 2007, and two weeks ago Saban said: "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

But when the Dolphins' 6-10 season ended Sunday, Alabama sweetened an offer that reportedly would make him the highest-paid coach in college football. He had three years remaining on his Miami contract at $4.5 million a year.

Saban's departure means the Dolphins will endure their third coaching change since 2000.

A dark day for Miami?

"I don't think so," cornerback Will Allen said. "Every time something happens, everybody wants to look at the negative things to it. There could be some positive things."

Former Dolphins coach Don Shula, father of Mike Shula, was even more harsh.

"My reaction is that Saban in two years was 15-17," Shula said. "I don't think that will be any great loss."

In Tuscaloosa, the mood was dramatically different.

Saban landed to chants of "Roll Tide," then stepped off an airplane and made the long trek across the tarmac to greet throngs of screaming fans.

"When I set out on this search, I noted that I was seeking a coach who has a proven record of championship success and achievement," Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore said. "Coach Saban brings that proven record of accomplishment and leadership to our program."

Moore said the high-profile hiring "signifies a new era of Crimson Tide football."

Alabama scheduled a news conference for today to formally introduce Saban, who didn't field questions from reporters.

Saban was greeted by hugs, handshakes and pats on the back by some of the several hundred fans in attendance. Then Saban and his wife and daughter were driven away in a red Chevrolet Tahoe with Moore to the football building. He was greeted there by dozens more fans.

The Tuscaloosa News put out a special edition trumpeting the hiring, with the blaring headline: "SABAN TIME."

"Mal Moore didn't just hit a home run, he hit a grand slam," raved Tide fan Mike Ryan, sporting a Bear Bryant-style houndstooth hat and a T-shirt listing the program's national championship years.

Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson believes Saban can win quickly with the team Shula left behind.

"He has won a lot of football games and he won the national championship at LSU," Wilson said. "That makes it even more exciting for us.

"We have a lot of guys coming back on offense and I think we have an excellent chance to make a run at it, especially with Coach Saban."

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