The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 18, 2014

Saban, family happy at Alabama

MORGANTOWN — Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

What’s more, the Fairmont native with four national championships to his credit said that if he had to do his career all over again, he would have stayed in one place and established a great program.

Saban, who has coached at 13 different places on both the collegiate and NFL level, did not name the place where he should have stayed.

Saban was speaking at the Southeastern Conference Media Day in Birmingham, Alabama.

The talk of Saban to Texas raged this past off-season as Mack Brown retired under pressure from the Texas job and was brought back up this week when popular Alabama radio talk show host Paul Finebaum revealed that his upcoming book, to be released Sept. 1 in conjunction with the start of the new football season, says Saban rejected the rumored offer and put the $100 million price tag on it.

“I didn’t have any conversations with them. Nobody offered me anything. I guess if I didn’t have any conversations with them, I didn’t have very much interest,” Saban answered.

But he was just warming up.

“I think the University of Texas is a fantastic place and they have a lot wonderful people there and it’s a great institution, but this is about the station in my life where we are. You know, we moved around a lot. If I had it to do over, I’d try to stay in one place and establish a great program and not have all these goals and aspirations of things which eventually you weren’t happy doing.

“I’m very happy at Alabama; Miss Terry is very happy at Alabama. We certainly enjoy the challenges we have there and the friends we have established and this is where we choose to end our career someday.

“It wasn’t anything about any other place. It was about where we are and what we want to try to do with the rest of our career.”

A couple of things to note here. First, in discussing the Texas “offer,” Saban used the words “I” and “me” and did not refer to his agent, Jimmy Sexton, who earlier this year admitted having a conversation with former Texas regent Tom Hicks and current regent Wallace Hall.

“Sexton confirmed that UT is the only job Nick would possibly consider leaving Alabama for, and that his success there created special pressure for him,” Hicks wrote in an e-mail obtained then by the Associated Press.

Saban, however, signed a contract that will pay him $6.9 million a year for the next eight years at Alabama.

Saban’s question and answer session, which lasted just beyond a half hour, was far-reaching, touching upon his family life and the addition of new granddaughter and his daughter getting engaged to his current team and how he plans to have it attempt to bounce back from two stunning losses at the end of last season to the rush of collegiate players to the NFL to his radical view to change the post-season bowl set up in college football even beyond the four-team playoff that begins this year.

“We had a lot of excitement in our family with a new grandbaby, my daughter getting engaged. With the addition of these folks in our family, I just seem to continue right on down the totem pole,” he said at the start.

“I’ve always been behind the two dogs, but the line is getting deeper and deeper when it comes to Miss Terry.”

On the football side, he acknowledged question marks at a number of places, including quarterback, and denied that Florida State transfer Jake Coker has the job, even though that is the public perception.

“That’s really not internally the perception by me, our staff or our players. Jake Coker has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position,” he said, saying that Blake Sims, who quarterbacked this spring, and some young players will be involved.

As to the incredible loss to Auburn on a 109-yard return of a missed field goal on the game’s final play, followed by an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, Saban admits his team is going to have use it as inspiration.

“We have to re-establish our identity as a team at Alabama. It’s going to take every player to have a tremendous amount of buy-in for us to be able to do that,” Saban said.

“I think you basically need to check your ego at the door, all of us in our organization: players, coaches, everybody in our organization. You know, really trust and believe in the things that have helped us be successful. Have enough humility to understand our role, what we need to do to help the team be successful, and certainly have the willingness as a family and a group to serve each other and help each other so that we have the best opportunity to accomplish this.”

Saban also called for the bowl system to be revised to have the committee selecting the six top bowl participants to select teams for all bowls “like they do it in basketball” to try and keep teams from scheduling six wins by playing weak teams.

In fact, he said he wanted the power conferences to play only teams from power conferences, but added he understood this is not a popular position to take.

“I know some fundamental changes would have to be made before anyone would be interested in that,” he said. “I know everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I think that every player that comes to an SEC school should play every team in the SEC, which means you have to play two or three teams on the other side.

“That would mean you can’t expand the conference unless you expand the number of games you play. I’m the only coach interested in doing that, so obviously … people should make those decisions beyond us. They should do it based on what’s in the best interest of our league and college football in general.”

Saban did enjoy taking a playful jab at the media, who picked his Crimson Tide to win the SEC championship in their pre-season poll.

“I know you all pick a winner in the conference every year. I’m not saying who you picked this year, but last year you’d actually been wrong, you know, like 17 out of 21 times. (After last year) you’re wrong 18 out of 22. But you’ve also not picked the right team the last five years in a row.

“I know if I lost that many games, you’d be on me. Well, every year that we’ve been fortunate enough to win the championship, you picked somebody else to win it. This is just to let you know that we’re evaluating you.”

As they say, “Leave ’em laughing.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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