TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban isn’t planning to leave The University of Alabama anytime soon.
And he indicated this would be the last stop of his coaching career.
Now entering his third season with the Crimson Tide, the coach signed a deal to stick around three years longer than his original contract stated. The new agreement announced Saturday afternoon extends Saban’s stay in Tuscaloosa through at least 2017.
“Our acceptance of the extension expresses our commitment to The University of Alabama for the rest of my coaching career, no doubt relative to how old I am and how long it is,” Saban, 57, said after Saturday’s practice. “I’ve been very pleased and happy with everything that has happened since we’ve been here.”
Later in his news conference, Saban reiterated his commitment to the school.
“This is an indication that we want to be here for a long, long time,” the coach said.
Final approval is still needed from the compensation committee of the board of trustees — a seven-member group that includes Paul W. Bryant Jr., son of Tide coaching legend Bear Bryant.
Financial terms were not released pending the final approval of the deal that extends the original contract that was the richest in college football history when completed in 2007. That first contract called for the coach to be paid $32 million over eight years, but several coaches have surpassed that dollar-figure including Florida’s Urban Meyer.
Wearing the label of highest paid coach, Saban has said, was not something he was hoping to reassume.
Terms of his current contract call for Saban to be paid $3.9 million in 2009. That number is scheduled to go up in each of the following three seasons to land at $4.2 by 2012, where it was to stay through 2015.
According to a list of college coaches’ salaries compiled by the Orlando Sentinel, Saban’s 2009 pay is the fourth highest nationally behind USC’s Pete Carroll ($4.4 million), Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis ($4.2 million) and Meyer ($4 million).
“Coach Saban has impressively led the Alabama football program back to national prominence in a short period of time,” Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore said in a news release. “That success has been evident in all facets — on-field results, his embrace of Alabama’s athletics and academic culture, recruiting and community service. In every way, coach Saban has positioned our program among college football’s elite.
“This contract extension is a clear statement of our mutual commitment to building on the foundation he has established.”
Should Saban coach to the end of the current plan, it will be the longest period he’s stayed in one job during his 36-year career. Each of his last two college head coaching gigs lasted five years, first at Michigan State then at LSU. His most-recent former employer, the Miami Dolphins, had Saban for two seasons before he left to coach the Crimson Tide in January, 2007.
In his two seasons, Saban re-energized the Alabama fan base by improving a program that had fallen into the middle of the Southeastern Conference pack. Saban’s first season ended with a 7-6 record, but last season’s 12-game winning streak and appearances in the SEC Championship Game and a BCS bowl has expectations high in Tuscaloosa once again.
Saban said the administration including Moore and President Robert Witt “have done everything to set the table” to turn around the football program that had suffered lean years before his arrival. NCAA sanctions and coaching scandals added to sagging winning percentages and low morale.
Expectations, which Saban has asked fans to keep reasonable, will only continue to mount as back-to-back recruiting classes have been ranked among the best in the nation with another group of 21 players already committed to sign next February.