Nick Saban has a new contract extension, which is good for Alabama football and bad for everybody else | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama football fans rejoiced Monday morning when the university announced that Nick Saban’s contract had been extended, this time through February 2029. 

Saban called it “another contract extension that will keep us in Tuscaloosa through the end of our career,” which is probably true given that he will be 77 years old when this extension runs its course.

He will make more money, although his tenure in Tuscaloosa – including yet another College Football Playoff championship in January – has been so successful that there is really no way to measure his value. Should he be paid double what any other college coach is paid? Triple? Even at $9 million-plus a year, he generates far more for Alabama, both the athletic department and the entire campus, than he is paid. 

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So why now? Long before this extension, the Sabans seemed settled in as part of the Tuscaloosa community. Extension or not, he could coach for as long as he wanted. Maybe he was getting questions from recruits and recruiting does drive his thinking at times, but it hasn’t seemed to be a front-burner issue as the top-ranked classes have kept rolling in.

Perhaps, intentionally or subconsciously, Saban was responding to the recent retirement announcement from Mike Krzyzewski, the nearest equivalent in college sports, the dean of basketball coaches who announced last week that the 2021-22 season would be his last at Duke. That decision seemed inevitable, though. Krzyzewski deserves tremendous respect for his achievements. But, and I use this word cautiously, he seemed to be headed for burnout over the past couple of years.

Saban seems to be the opposite. John Prine probably said it best: “Old trees just grow stronger and old rivers grow wilder every day.” The contrast was between the forces of nature and the average human, but to this point, Saban seems like a force of nature.

Earlier this week, Nick Kelly of The Tuscaloosa News had the chance to ask Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director, a timely question about the Krzyzewski retirement as it relates to Saban. 

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban spoke in the Naylor Stone Media Suite about the 2020 signing class Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

“As I’ve said since the day I got to town, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we continue to re-invest in our success as a program and keep Coach Saban knowing that we’re continuing to move forward so he continues to coach for as long as he physically wants to do it,” Byrne said. “I’m still very optimistic that he has a lot of years left in him.”

Does that mean precisely after the 2028 season? Not necessarily. By the time he turns 75, in 2026 or so, maybe he will grow weary. On the other hand, he might be feeling spry enough when this latest extension runs out to say he wants to keep going until 2032 or so. The fact is that, extension or not, Saban has had the power to stay or go at the time of his choosing for a long time now. This extension means more money, but that seems to be more of a reward than a lure. 

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban celebrates after beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One good thing for college football in general: if Saban indeed stays through 2028, and there is no reason to think he won’t, he will be coaching in some of the most high-profile series of the coming decade: Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, a high-profile return to West Virginia, his home state. He personally needs no more spotlight, but there will still be an air of spectacle around those games that will enhance the regular season.

On Monday, though, Alabama fans weren’t so concerned about the details as they were the headlines indicating that the end of an era seems to be growing more distant just as every future opponent wants it to come as soon as possible.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt .