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How Nick Saban & Texas Nearly Changed the College Football Landscape

Recently, reports have surfaced on how close Texas was to actually signing Nick Saban as their new Head Coach in 2013. If you are unfamiliar with what transpired in late 2012 and 2013 here’s an overview.

According to the New York Times, in December 2012 Texas Regent Wallace Hall received a phone call from an unidentified friend that had strong connections with Texas and Nick Saban’s agent Jimmy Sexton. This came right before Alabama captured its 3rd national championship in 4 years.  After that conversation, Hall learned that Saban had “wanted to come to Texas”. Hall made this aware to the “higher ups” of the University and was able to get Steve Hicks, a prominent Texas regent, to call his brother Tom Hicks. You may remember Tom Hicks as being the owner of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars. He personally volunteered to see if there was any traction to the notion of Saban jumping ship and coming to UT.

There was a common sentiment that it might have been a money ploy by Saban’s agent in order to receive a contract extension with a pay raise worth millions from Alabama. However, Saban might have had more of an itch than first reported back in 2013. Saban was said to have an interest to coming to Texas because of his own personal coaching philosophy. He saw himself as more of a “turn around artist” and he liked to rebuild a program rather than maintain. In his past you can see this trend, such as when he left Michigan State after stating to former players (Plaxico Burress) he would stay, to go to LSU.

He also left the top of the pinnacle of coaching with the Miami Dolphins to take on the Alabama coaching gig, which was a program in turmoil. This wouldn’t be a move that would totally shock anyone after his previous relocation history. The dynasty he established at Alabama created an atmosphere of National Championship or bust. According to an email written by Hicks, Saban felt like there was “too much expectations and pressure” at Alabama. He was also reportedly irritated with the fans for their perceived lack of appreciation for what the program had accomplished (he had a tirade in 2013 chastising the fans for leaving home games early). It tickled Saban’s fancy when thinking about winning at another school. Hicks stated that Saban thought winning a national championship at three different schools would be a “real legacy”. There were many factors involved that sparked Saban’s interest in a potential move to UT. The proverbial smoke was on its way to becoming fire.

At the time, it made sense for Texas to make the move, benefitting almost every aspect imaginable for the University. They would be attaining a coach with a championship pedigree and a resume of turning around stagnant and stale programs. They would also see major financial positives from the move. The Longhorn Network had not lived up to expectations and had not reaped the benefits Texas had hoped upon its creation. With Saban in the fold, they would be able to market the network with ease, having more affiliates and cable companies picking up the network with a person of Saban’s caliber in tow. Unfortunately for Texas, they already had a big name coach synonymous with winning: Mack Brown. According to reports, Brown wasn’t interested in stepping down and retiring. He felt like he had more in the tank and wanted to end his career on a high note while riding off into the sunset. Brown and Saban are long time friends, and reports say Saban would only come if the University made it look like they got Brown’s approval and it was his idea to begin with.

The proposed marriage made so much sense for both parties. Texas had the largest athletic budget in the nation at the time, with 163 million dollars at their disposal. They also had one of, if not the best recruitment hot beds in the country. Saban would get the financial stability he wanted and have the best resources available to assemble a team that would have championship aspirations for years to come. The face of college football would have completely turned upside down. Texas probably would have become a national powerhouse once again and competed for championships every year after Saban was able to establish himself. The Big 12 might have became the new SEC. Schools would have adjusted to the new found success of Texas and rivalries would have been renewed. Maybe more of the player talent pool would have resided in the conference instead of the SEC. Maybe top notch and up and coming coaches would have flocked to the schools encompassed by the Big 12 in order to compete at the highest level of college football. The facts of the matter are the conference hasn’t won a national championship since 2005. The SEC has won 7 in that same time span. With people beating the drum to have two SEC teams in the current playoff format, I can only wonder if the same would be said for the Big 12 if it was seen as the toughest conference. The Big 12 could have seen an influx in revenue immediately. The hiring of Saban could have completely altered the scenery of college football as currently constructed.

Football wise the University of Alabama has been far superior to UT. Since 2009 Alabama has produced 41 NFL draft picks, including 16 first rounders. They have also amassed 17 consensus All-Americans compared to Texas’s 5 in that same time span. Texas has only had 43 victories, while Alabama has accumulated 72. Lastly, Alabama has the most important statistic in all the land. They have won three national championships, beating Texas in 2009, to Texas’s big fat zero. Texas hasn’t even been close to sniffing a title contention since they were defeated by Alabama in ’09.

As we know, the move was much ado about nothing. Saban eventually signed a contract extension on December 13, 2013 with Alabama that pays him 6.9 million dollars a year through Jan 31, 2022. Ironically, Brown resigned from Texas the very next day. It was a pipe dream landing Saban for Texas, but one that could have changed the landscape of college football and the Big 12 as we know it.

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