Alabama Football: Crimson Tide Must Do Whatever It Takes to Keep Nick Saban

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2012

Dec 1, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and running back Eddie Lacy (42) celebrate winning the 2012 SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs at the Georgia Dome.  Alabama won 32-28. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide's focus may be preparing for their date with Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship, but there may be an equally pressing issue once the clock strikes zero at Sun Life Stadium on Jan. 7.

According to the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard, the school may have to worry about keeping Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. Per Bedard, there is a rumor surfacing that NFL Network's Mike Lombardi will be the next general manager of the Cleveland Browns and will likely target Saban to be his head coach:

There’s also the person Lombardi could deliver as head coach: Alabama’s Nick Saban. According to the NFL sources, Saban has let it be known that if he returns to the NFL — where he flopped, going 15-17 with the Dolphins from 2005-06 — it would likely be with Lombardi playing Pioli to his Belichick.

That sound you just heard was the hearts of Crimson Tide fans plummeting to the earth. Nonetheless, if there is some smoke to that fire, Alabama needs to expunge every resource humanly possible to keep Saban in college.

On the surface, that's easy to say. Of course, the school would want to keep a head coach that's already led the Tide to two national championship victories and three appearances in six years.

However, it's just as simple to assume that the Alabama name will live on longer than Saban or any other coach in the nation.

Recent history tells us that's a massive misnomer. 

Lest us forget what a ruin this program was in when Saban took over back in 2007. Wrought with a laundry list of NCAA violations and disappointing campaigns under Mike Shula and Dennis Franchione, Alabama was on the fringes of college football relevancy.  

Before Saban, the last time the Tide had consecutive seasons finishing in the Top 25 was during the Gene Stallings era. The Stallings era ended in 1996. 

It took Saban two years to resurrect the program to BCS bowl status and three to win a national championship. Now, he has Alabama on the precipice of winning consecutive national championships for the first time since 1979-80 and it would mark the first time neither of those titles was split. 

Essentially, there is no objective measure by which Saban isn't the best coach in college football. Nor is there much of an argument that Saban is the second-best man to lead Alabama, only behind the legendary Bear Bryant. 

Granted, it's hard to imagine the Tide falling back off a cliff once Saban leaves. The talent cupboard is filled to the brim with 5-star talent, and the program has the financial wherewithal to hire just about any coach in the world.

One could even argue that Alabama has already done everything in its power to keep Saban—at least financially. The school signed its head coach to an eight-year extension worth nearly $45 million in March, which makes him the highest-paid college coach in the nation at a little less than $5.5 million per season.

When Saban signed that deal, he said it would keep him in Tuscaloosa for the remainder of his coaching career. 

"From my standpoint, the acceptance of this extension represents our commitment ... to the University of Alabama for the rest of our career," Saban said (per ESPN). "We made that decision after the season when other people were interested."

That would make it easy for the school to vilify Saban if he skipped town or asked for a raise. (Of course, that would be forgetting how he arrived in Tuscaloosa.)

It doesn't matter. Send him a blank check, rename some buildings, whatever. Alabama needs to do whatever it can to keep Saban around and keep the good times rolling. Otherwise, the program is just one Shula or Franchione away from finding itself in the same situation rival Auburn is currently in right now. 

In the end, Saban may want to prove himself at the next level and may choose to go to Cleveland or whatever other NFL job opens up. If that's the case, at least Tide fans and the administration can sleep well at night knowing they did everything in their power to keep Saban.

Peace of mind may be a hollow victory, but at least it's something Alabama could hold onto.



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