After repeated denials, Saban takes Bama job
ESPN.com news services
Nick Saban has accepted an offer from Alabama, leaving the Miami Dolphins two weeks after declaring "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."
Saban's agreement with Alabama is for eight years and a guaranteed $32 million, according to ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli. Saban can earn an additional $700,000 to $800,000 annually in bowl-game bonuses.
Saban told team owner Wayne Huizenga of his decision in a face-to-face meeting Wednesday morning. Saban then informed all of his coaches by speakerphone that he was leaving the franchise to coach Alabama.
In a news conference at the Dolphins' facility, Huizenga told reporters he was not upset by Saban's departure.
"It is what it is. We have to move forward," Huizenga said. "We want the best for Nick and [his wife] Terry. I like Nick a lot and think he could have won here. I'm a Nick Saban fan."
As of late Wednesday morning, Saban was not yet headed to Tuscaloosa for a formal introduction.
"All indications are that he's coming, but I know they're not in the air yet," an Alabama athletic department official told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach.
Saban repeatedly had issued denials that he was interested in coaching Alabama, one of the most high-profile and high-pressure college coaching jobs in the country. After he turned down the Tide in early December, the school offered the job to Rich Rodriguez, but he decided to stay at West Virginia.
Alabama made a formal offer to Saban on Monday after rumors swirled for weeks that the Crimson Tide were continuing their pursuit of the former LSU coach. Saban, who spent five seasons in Baton Rouge before leaving for the NFL, was 48-16 at LSU and won the 2003 BCS national championship.
He walks away from the Dolphins with three years left on a deal worth approximately $4.5 million a season.
In the past, Huizenga has been persuasive when dealing with coaches. He talked Don Shula into retirement in 1996, talked Jimmy Johnson out of retiring three years later -- Johnson lasted one more season -- and was able to lure Saban to the pros in 2004 after other NFL teams had failed.
But this time, Huizenga couldn't change Saban's mind.
"First of all this was never about money," Huizenga said. "It's never been about money. Nick never talked to me about money. Nick never talked to me about an extension. I honestly believe this was not about money."
Saban was 15-17 without a playoff appearance in his two seasons as Dolphins coach.
"In my opinion, the Dolphins have always been about winning. I just want everyone to know that it's really all about winning now," Huizenga said. "I don't care what it takes or what it costs, we're going to make this a winning franchise -- sooner rather than later."
Alabama began looking for a coach after firing Mike Shula on Nov. 27. The Tide finished the season 6-7, losing to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl.
On Tuesday, Saban asked for and received more time from Huizenga to make a decision, yet Huizenga remained optimistic that Saban would remain with the Dolphins. Saban was given until 10 a.m. Wednesday to make a decision.
Huizenga said his team's front office began the process of examining a search for a new coach, but he did not provide further details.
Possible candidates to replace Saban include Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow and Pittsburgh Steelers assistants Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhut.
The Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons are also seeking a new coach.
The Dolphins' next coach will be their fourth in nine seasons, a big change for a franchise that had the same coach -- Don Shula -- for 26 years. Miami has failed to make the playoffs the past five seasons, the worst stretch in franchise history.
The Dolphins are coming off their third losing season since 1969 and face a likely roster overhaul. With Daunte Culpepper still struggling to recover from reconstructive knee surgery in 2005, Miami remains unsettled at quarterback, a troublesome position since Dan Marino retired seven years ago. The team needs upgrades in almost every other area for a feeble offense and aging defense.
Saban leaves behind the NFL's largest staff of assistants and general manager Randy Mueller, who might be given more responsibility under a new coaching regime.
ESPN.com college football writer Mark Schlabach and NFL senior writer Len Pasquarelli contributed to this story. Information from The Associated Press also was used.