When I heard that Nick Saban wanted to give some comments about his retirement at Alabama, my heart skipped a beat and I couldn't swallow for a moment. Could this really be true?
Then I learned that Saban merely wanted to reinforce the commitment he has to Alabama and to let the fans, players, future players and media all know, once and for all, that he'd never leave Alabama unless it's to take the Lake Burton handy man job at his and Terry's home in Georgia.
Sure, Tommy Tuberville said he'd leave Ole Miss in a pine box and other coaches have all alluded to staying put 'til the end and then left. But Saban wanted to make this statement in front of cameras so all could see the sincerity on his face and the emotion in his voice.
Opponents have long hoped that Saban could be lured back into the NFL, on to Notre Dame or anywhere other than staying put and making their lives miserable. They've often speculated such thoughts in blogs and bylines but now you may simply discard such rumors as just that.
While it's true that Nick Saban has never stayed at one place more than five years, he does start his fifth year this year in Tuscaloosa. He has had 13 jobs since deciding on this vocation and for Saban, 13 may have been his lucky number.
There is no school who could outbid Alabama for his services, but Saban insists that money is no longer an issue. Of course, with him already being one of the highest paid coaches in the country, why should it be?
The simple truth is that Saban, the consummate moving coach, has finally found a home.
Alabama provides him not only the financial security he desires, but an administration devoted to giving him the best facilities and educational venues to sell recruits as well. It also gives him a fiery fan base that is only matched by his own desire to win.
The other intangibles that Alabama gives Saban is a tradition and mystique to sell to recruits and a location right in the middle of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the United States.
The other thing the job in Tuscaloosa gives him is not just appreciation, but adulation. They've already erected a statue to the man in the famed Walk of Champions and here he surpasses even the governor of the state as not only the most important figure, but the most newsworthy.
Lastly, Saban turns 60 this fall and maybe he's just reached the age to not want to move again and start rebuilding a program. Alabama is the perfect place to end his career and leave a lasting legacy, joining the upper ranks of college football's almost mythical hero coaches whose names became synonymous with the schools they coached at, like Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama, Bo Schembechler at Michigan and Tom Osborn at Nebraska.
Of course, Saban has been telling us that for years, but many just weren't listening. Take his speech from the contract signing as a prime example of Saban being as clear as he can be.
In his speech at that news conference he said:
Terry [Saban's wife] and I are pleased and happy that the University of Alabama has offered us an extension to our original contract. Our acceptance of the extension expresses our commitment to the University of Alabama for the rest of our coaching career.
Dr. Witt and the university community have been tremendous in terms of their cooperation in rebuilding the football program. The outstanding support from (athletic director) Mal (Moore) and the athletic department have set the table for us to be successful. We greatly appreciate the time, effort and dedication of everyone involved with our football program, as well as the positive energy our fans have demonstrated since we've been in Tuscaloosa.
But even after reading this, there will be those who bandy his name around the next time a big NFL opening comes up. I guess Saban will just never convince some people.
But to Saban, he can finally know that he's at his final stop and the knowledge of that gives both him and Terry a chance to just enjoy the years they have left here without worry of the future.
Though Saban has a soft spot in his heart for each of the places he's coached, he will be a retired coach one day for the rest of his life, still wearing Alabama gear on the golf courses and still being an active member of Alabama Nation.
After all, this is now home and you never quit loving home.
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