The debate about Nick Saban’s salary has probably been settled — on either side — for quite a time now. People who think Saban has been as wise a 10-year investment for the University of Alabama as a stack of Amazon preferred stock are more than happy that the head coach received a well-deserved extension.
The last line of resistance doesn’t think of Saban’s salary in terms of the compensation received by corporate CEO’s (which is essentially what he is. They don’t think of it in terms of sports celebrity salaries, although if Saban and Julio Jones go to lunch, Julio should pick up the tab.
On the other hand, there is a faction that wants to tie coaching salaries to compensation for student athletes. The fact is the schools that have multimillion-dollar football and basketball coaches — Alabama, Clemson, Texas A&M, Ohio State and the other elite outposts of intercollegiate sports — probably do have the resources to pay players in all sports, men’s and women’s. That doesn’t mean every school can do it.
Until the NCAA agrees on a comprehensive plan, no progress is going to be made, even if you put an artificial ceiling on the pay of Saban, or Dabo Swinney or Mike Krzyzewski. The schools that can do so are going to spend somewhere else because you want to invest in your future, whether on luxury facilities or coaching salaries or both.
People in Tuscaloosa see the Saban Effect on the university campus every day. Yes, there are other factors in the booming enrollment and higher admission standards. Branding is the name of the game, though, and UA uses the football brand to strong effect.
The most intriguing aspect of Friday afternoon’s announcement of a contract extension for most UA observers wasn’t the dollars. It was the years. Will Saban really be on the sidelines through 2025? He doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and as long as he is given the resources to win, there is little need to look elsewhere. His health is good, and his family situation seems settled.
Was it entirely coincidental that the announcement was made at the beginning of a huge recruiting weekend? If you think that was random, you haven’t been following closely for the past 11 years. Everything connects to recruiting in some way. No one in college football recruits negatively — that is, if you ask them whether they do. But in the wake of Alabama’s success, somehow the talking point comes up for recruits, who have a little bird, one supposes, hinting to them that Saban might retire. What better way to counteract that “rumor” for the visitors to Alabama’s campus?
Even better, since recruiting is sometimes like five-dimensional chess, what more proactive way is there to speak to all those recruits who are heading to other campuses than to have a big ESPN story about how Saban has agreed to a lengthy extension? (ESPN does not stand for Eternal Saban Propaganda Network, no matter what you might hear on social media.)
That’s the biggest evidence of all that Saban isn’t pondering retirement. Sure, cashing a big paycheck helps but Saban clearly deserves to be the highest-paid coach in the game. When you look closely, though, the real story is that he is still thinking, considering every angle, doing everything possible to stay ahead of the competition. For Alabama fans, that says more than all the dollars you can put in a contract.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.
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