What the New Alabama Contract Means for Nick Saban's Legacy

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 14, 2013

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Will Nick Saban ever eclipse Paul W. "Bear" Bryant in the minds of Alabama fans?

He's certainly going to give himself every shot.

Alabama announced late Friday night that Saban had agreed to a long-term extension to remain the head coach of the Crimson Tide.

"This agreement allows us to continue to build on the tremendous success that we have enjoyed to this point - successes that have transcended the football field," Saban said in a release. "We are excited about the future and the University of Alabama is where I plan to end my coaching career."

Length and terms of the agreement were not disclosed by Alabama, but Cecil Hurt and Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com reported that the deal will pay Saban between $7 and $7.5 million per season.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide walks the field during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/G
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Saban had been linked numerous times as a possible successor to Mack Brown at Texas if and when he stepped aside. With a contract reportedly sitting on Saban's desk for a week and Brown's status up in there air until Friday afternoon, rumors persisted on the next steps for both legendary coaches. 

Saban's reluctance to sign the deal with Alabama could be viewed as a possible leverage ploy, but with Brown sticking around and the recruiting dead period starting on Monday, it was more likely a product of his program-first priorities.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 09:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates their 38-17 win over the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

So, what does this do for Saban's legacy?

It provides closure. 

Closure to speculation that he'll ever leave Tuscaloosa, despite his nomadic resume. Closure to the idea that, if and when Texas starts throwing stacks of cash at him, he'll take them and run to Austin. 

It also allows Saban to put his name side by side with Bryant as the top coach in Crimson Tide history.

Bryant won six national championships and 13 SEC championships as the head coach of Alabama from 1958-1982, and if you created a Mt. Rushmore of college football coaches, he'd surely be on it.

Saban might be as well.

Under his leadership, Alabama won three of the last four BCS National Championships prior to this season and established itself as the first true dynasty of the BCS era. Is that impressive enough to get in the conversation with Bryant?


The age of scholarship limits and parity within the SEC makes Saban's accomplishments remarkably impressive.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 26:  A fan holds up a sign for head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Im
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Now he has an even bigger challenge.

The four-team playoff that starts following the 2014 season is ready-made for a team like Alabama—which thrives on preparation—to establish a new dynasty in the new landscape. 

The SEC has cannibalized itself in each of the last three seasons. Alabama in 2011 and 2012 and Auburn in 2013 have all been very fortunate to catch the breaks they needed to play for the crystal football. Access will open up following next season, and a power team from a power conference like Alabama will be hard to keep out if it's legitimately in the playoff discussion.

Saban is 19-5 with more than a week to prepare for an opponent at Alabama, which is exactly what he'll get in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff. That makes it easier for Alabama—or any SEC team, really—to claim college football's ultimate prize.

Would a dynasty in the BCS era and another in the College Football Playoff be enough for Saban to surpass Bryant?

That's a subjective discussion, and there's no way to measure. But one thing's for certain: It's a legitimate discussion that Alabama fans will debate forever.

One will be "1A," the other will be "1B." 

For Saban, fighting Bear to become the greatest coach in Alabama history is a "rich man's problem."