Lack of Buyout in Saban's Contract Much Ado About Nothing

Douglas WebbCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on before taking on the Utah Utes during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Recent word that the University of Alabama had begun work on a contract extension for Head Football Coach Nick Saban brought back discussion on the subject of there being no buyout in his current contract. The lack of a buyout was Saban's idea and one that University officials had no problem with when the original deal was put in place.

Saban has never been a fan of the buyout clause and Mal Moore knew that when he contacted him at his previous job with the Miami Dolphins. Expensive buyout clauses have become standard fare in the coaching world these days.


Buy outs were originally designed in an attempt to make it harder for coaches to jump ship to greener pastures while under contract. They also served the purpose of making it far to costly for a school itself to just replace their Head Coach without paying a stiff price.


The truth of the matter is though a buyout has never stopped a school from either hiring or firing a coach if they wanted to make it happen bad enough. To big-time college boosters, they're really nothing more than a financial speed bump.


Take the Tommy Tuberville and Auburn University situation for example. Now we all know the official press releases claimed that Tuberville himself had opted to step down as Head Coach of the Tigers after leading the team to a 5–7 record in 2008.


Be that as it may, it was Tuberville and not the school who walked away with over $5 million with which to soothe his injured pride.


That same situation would be handled differently with Saban at the helm. If Saban decided to move on to some other job or perhaps take an early retirement after just one or two seasons at the helm of the program then he would be free to go.


In that regard, it was a gamble for University officials—but one they felt comfortable taking. The risk was there but the odds seemed to low, and the potential benefits far too lucrative to worry about them.


Instead of using a buyout in his contract as something to motivate their coach to stay University officials opted instead to offer him complete control of all football related issues. This was something Saban felt he needed to turn the program around quickly. A single-minded approach to how things would be run making for limited distractions.


Three years into his original contract, things have gone about as well as can be expected with the team performing beyond expectations so far. Saban has produced back-to-back top ranked recruiting classes, which has allowed the team to re-stock a depleted depth chart with talent levels it hasn't seen in quite some time.


It isn't uncommon after a program has had such a successful season for it to reward those involved. Saban has expressed his happiness right now with running the program so why not look to make sure he stays that way by updating his contract?


Once again though contract talks have brought up the subject of the buyout clause. Talk radio shows and Internet message boards almost immediately began to discuss the same tired arguments that were used previously. Somehow though they don't seem to have the bite they did before Saban was originally hired.


When Saban arrived the team had little or no depth. Now it has to turn away talented kids searching for a scholarship. When he first stepped on campus the Tide was a program with little confidence it could compete. Now it's players and fans are back to expecting to compete for and win championships.


Bryant Denny Stadium is once again in the midst of expanding. Upon completion of the addition of an upper deck to the south end zone, it will seat over 100,000 for every home game.


So if Saban did decide to leave he'd be doing so having accomplished the task he was hired to perform which was to resurrect a program that had been on life support when he arrived. With the condition in which he would leave the program, highly qualified and successful coaches with proven track records would be lining up to take the job.


Buy out or not.