"I'm just too damn old to start all over some place else."
-- Nick Saban, on his radio show, after the Associated Press reported that his agent met with a Texas booster in January.
There are a lot of ways to interpret the above comment. You can say Saban is telling Alabama fans what they want to hear. You can say he selected his words carefully so he can leave without being called a liar. After all, this is a man who famously said, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach," and if you have checked his bio lately, you will notice that he is, in fact, the Alabama coach.
Me, I interpret it this way:
He is too damn old to start all over some place else.
Saban will not leave Alabama for Texas. Forget it. He won't leave Alabama for Texas because he is not stupid, because he already has the best program in the country and because Alabama will give him enough money to stay. He will not leave because he will be 62 years old next month, and he is right: He is just too damn old to start all over some place else.
Sure, 62-year-olds start over sometimes. But what 62-year-old would start over just for the hell of it?
Saban may talk to Texas. He may keep Texas' interest going just long enough to iron out a new enormous contract. Saban is a serial job-interviewer. This is well chronicled, going back to his Michigan State days, when the Spartans had to re-recruit their coach to stay seemingly every year.
But if you look back at the career moves Saban actually made in his coaching career, this much is clear: Every one of them was football-related. Every one. It's true. He left the University of Toledo to be the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick. He left the Browns to be a major-college head coach at Michigan State. He left Michigan State for a better chance at the national title at LSU. He left LSU for the challenge of winning in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. He left the Dolphins because he realized he would be happier, and more likely to win championships, at Alabama.
Did he make more money for himself along the way? Of course he did. The man is smart and likes money. But he did not make any of those moves simply because of money. Why would anybody expect him to do it now?
It is telling that Saban, when asked about Texas on his radio show, did not pledge his allegiance to Alabama with a big "Roll Tide, roll!" or say he could never leave his precious student-athletes. He gave a very practical, emotionless reason: It would not be smart for him to start over at this age.
Does he feel some genuine love for Alabama? Gosh, you would hope so. Saban has won three national titles there. He is the second-most popular coach in the history of a school, and the No. 1 spot is permanently unavailable. He is also already hated at another school, LSU, where he previously won a national title. If Saban left Alabama for Texas, he would be telling Crimson Tide fans there is a better program out there than theirs. I don't know if they'd hate him for it, but I believe they would take it under consideration.
In some ways, in some decades, Texas would be the better job. The resources in Austin are superior, though not in any meaningful way. The in-state talent is better. The Big 12 is easier to win than the SEC, no matter what Oklahoma's Bob Stoops says, so you could argue that, for many coaches in many circumstances, winning the national title would be easier at Texas than at Alabama. But that argument won't go very far with a guy who has won three national titles in four years with the Tide.
Right now, Alabama is a better job, and it's not close. Saban is not going to leave Alabama just so he can spend three years getting Texas to the position where Alabama is now, at a time when he'll be 65 and almost ready to get out of this racket anyway.
I'm sure he'll get a raise out of all this, though. So, uh ... congrats on that.