Friday, January 05, 2007

Nick Saban – Not good enough to coach in the National Football League

Men of honor, leaders on and off the football field, Nick Saban will NEVER be confused as person with any of those attributes. Men of respect tell the truth, they are men whose credibility is never in doubt – Nick Saban will NEVER have any of those qualities. Thursday, the University of Alabama announced that Saban was the Crimson Tide’s new football coach. The great Paul “Bear” Bryant rolled over in his grave, wondering what happened to a football program Bryant built from the ground up into one of college football’s proudest programs.

Saban agreed to an eight-year contract worth an estimated $32 million. With bonuses, incentives, endorsements, media opportunities Saban’s contract will easily pay him $40 million. Nick Saban won’t be the first and he won’t be the last coach to believe honor and integrity (and his signature on a contract) are worth the paper it’s printed on. The sheer obscenity of Saban’s contract, coupled with his consistent denial regarding the Alabama opportunity have cast a terrible light on football coaches. Nick Saban is an embarrassment to the coaching profession.

A partial list of coaches who along with Saban have brought disrepute to the college coaching profession (thanks to ESPN’s Pat Forde for the list):

Butch Davis wasn't leaving the Miami Hurricanes for the Cleveland Browns -- until he did.

Tommy Tuberville told Mississippi fans the only way he'd leave the school was "in a pine box" -- before leaving for Auburn days later.

Louisville's Bobby Petrino denied a meeting with Auburn that had indeed taken place. The next year he signed a contract extension and said, "This is the place I want to be." He interviewed with LSU within a week of that statement.

Dennis Franchione convinced his players to stay at Alabama after enduring NCAA sanctions -- then fled himself for Texas A&M after two years on the job.

The dollars associated with the contract attracted a great deal of media attention. ‘Bama football fans may be dancing in the streets, but the program has agreed to a contract that isn’t going to well received in many quarters around the Alabama campus.

"What are we about as a university?" UA Trustee Emeritus Garry Neil Drummond told The Birmingham News. "Football is a big part of it, but paying the dollars we are talking about here is more than anyone else is getting."

"This is CEO pay," said Drummond, an Alabama graduate who was a trustee from 1983 through 2001. "I think it is one of the worst things we have ever done."

If there was a line in the sand that separates big time college athletics from academic excellence at America’s institutions of higher learning, the University of Alabama obliterated that line Thursday.

"This has nothing to do with if Nick Saban is worthy of this money or not as a football coach," Peter Roby, director of Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society told The Birmingham News. "It's about the role of athletics on college campuses, and the trend suggests there is no limit to what universities are willing to do."

"It's incredible," said Drummond, president of Birmingham-based Drummond Co., his family-owned coal mining and real estate development firm with $2 billion in annual revenues. "It's OK for sports to be important. But this is disproportionate."

Drummond hasn’t been directly associated with Alabama University since 2001. Needless to say those who directly had a hand in paying Saban a King’s Ransom believe a contract that guarantees a college football coach at least $32 million makes perfect financial sense.

"The president and athletic director have recommended this salary because of the impact athletics has on student recruiting, donor giving and the overall mission of the university," UA Trustee Finis St. John IV said. "This is consistent with the plans and goals for the university."

Another current trustee made it clear to The Birmingham News its all about winning at Alabama.

"Our fan base expects the university to compete at the highest levels," said UA Trustee John McMahon. "We have not done that, and if you ever lose your fan base, it is very difficult to get it back."

People like McMahon like to spin paying football coaches as being good for business, believing that a University with a winning football program will attract greater alumni support and more students interested in enrollment. Two classic misnomers.

"It's irrelevant if athletic departments are profitable," said Roby, who served six years as the head basketball coach at Harvard University, after a distinguished playing career at Dartmouth College. "The message to the athletes is that they are willing to do anything in order to win. That is what athletes may infer, and you just hope that doesn't spill over into academic life."

There are more than a dozen current college football coaches being paid in excess of $2 million annually. Buckeye Nation may be waiting with baited breath for Monday night’s BCS Championship game against Florida, but Ohio State officials may not feel the same way.

"I think that the market has been extraordinary for a long time," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel told reporters in Arizona, where he's preparing the Buckeyes to play in the BCS national title game against Florida on Monday. "I don't think it will have a ripple effect."

"I think the market has been extraordinary for a long time," Tressel said. "When coach (Earle) Bruce came to work here, he was making $40,000 (in 1979), and it wasn’t that long ago. But will this have any particular new bump on it? I doubt it."

According to the USA Today, if the Buckeyes claim their second national championship under Tressel Monday, a win hands Tressel the combination of the vault at Ohio State.

"If Coach ... wins such game," a clause in his contract reads, according to a USA Today study of football coaching salaries, "Coach and the University agree to begin negotiating, in good faith, the terms for a new employment agreement that would supersede this agreement."

One athletic director suggested it made perfect sense in keeping with the tradition established at schools like Alabama and Oklahoma, "something that affects the identity of a large number of people in the state," said Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione, formerly AD at Missouri. "I know that sounds a little bit dramatic, but it has some truth to it as well.

"Turning around a franchise name like Alabama is important to that school and state. What kind of value they place on that, that's something only those people close to the institution can do."

When did the term franchise become synonymous with college football teams? Are sports franchises and football franchises not the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers and the other 30 NFL franchises? Not according to Castiglione.

How many of these college football coaches have returned the monetary commitment these schools have made:

Pete Carroll USC $ 2,782,320

Mack Brown Texas $2,664,000

Charlie Weis Notre Dame $2,500,000

Tommy Tuberville Auburn $2,231,000

Jim Tressel Ohio State $2,012,700

Dennis Franchione Texas A&M $2,012,200

Phil Fulmer Tennessee $2,050,000

Frank Beamer Virginia Tech $2,008,000

"I think most of us have kind of become numb to these salaries," said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association in a Birmingham New report. "It's sort of beyond imagination, yet it's reality. You just sit back and say, `Wow,' you know? It is what it is."

"Years ago, a college simply could not compete with NFL salaries," said Russ Campbell, a Birmingham-based sports agent. "Now there's enough revenue being pumped into big-time college programs, and this demonstrates some schools can compete with the NFL."

Alabama a state run school generated $68.6 million in athletic department revenues in 2005 (figures for 2006 have not been totaled yet).

"I think this is one that caught a lot of people by surprise just by the magnitude, probably like it did when coaches reached the $2 million level," Georgia Athletics Director Damon Evans said in the Birmingham News report.

"I'm not going to say colleges have never been able to compete with the NFL," Evans said. "It does cross that line of where some institutions may be more able to do that. Alabama happens to be one, based on its budget and amount of revenue."

"I don't know if we anticipated salaries to go to this level at this point in time, but they have," Evans said. "Each institution does what it feels is appropriate. We have our coach at what we feel is a good salary."

Saban for his part suggested Thursday said he never misled anyone regarding his recent on the record comments that he wasn’t going to leave the Dolphins after two years with three years left on his contract.

"I really do regret that I was pinned into the corner," Saban said. "I regret that there was not some kind of way that I could answer a question that I'm not focused on, not thinking about and not considering at the time ...

"And if I answered that question any other way but that, how would that have affected our team? ... So I didn't know what else to do."

Saban - who said publicly Dec. 21, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach" and assured players that he would stay - said he is disappointed that he is being portrayed across the country as a liar.

"If everybody looked at it from my perspective, they would not say that," he said. "I'm disappointed that I'm being victimized a little bit here. That's really not the person I am.

"If you look at 35 years of work that I've done in this profession and my marriage and everything else, that's not who I am. That's not what I've done. I've never been a guy to lie, cheat and steal anywhere. Never. Ever. But now all of a sudden, I am.

"I'm a little bit of a victim ... I get asked questions that I really shouldn't answer. You should have the opportunity to weigh those options and I didn't have the opportunity to do that. I was never afforded the opportunity to do that."

Saban as a ‘victim’ you have to be kidding. Saban’s agent kept the charade going suggesting to The Palm Beach Post as late as Monday evening Saban wasn’t even prepared to meet with Alabama officials who were in Miami.

"I had to talk him into talking to Mal Moore Monday evening," Sexton said. "I'm like, 'Look, Nick, they have another college guy they want to talk to who's down there but they've really waited for you to talk to them.

"Nick said, 'Let me talk to (my wife) Terry about it and I'll see. I will not meet with the guy. I will talk to him on the phone, out of courtesy."

One amusing antidote that emerged Thursday, suggestions that the Dolphins AFC East opponents were ready to make a counter offer to Saban, hoping he’d stay with the Dolphins. Clearly with a 15-17 record in his two years as an NFL coach Nick Saban provided he didn’t have the metal toughness nor the abilities to coach at the next level.

George Allen, Paul Brown, Guy Chamberlin, Jimmy Conzelman, Al Davis, Weeb Ewbank, Ray Flaherty, Joe Gibbs, Sid Gillman, Bud Grant, George Halas, Earl "Curly" Lambeau, Tom Landry, Marv Levy, Vince Lombardi, John Madden, Chuck Noll, Steve Owen, Fritz Pollard, Don Shula, Hank Stram and Bill Walsh – all men who coached football teams and are now enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame. Clearly the only way Nick Saban will ever be admitted to the Football Hall of Fame is if he buys a ticket. The NFL is better off without ‘boys’ like Nick Saban trying to coach in a man’s league.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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