Over the last six years, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has propelled the Crimson Tide into the nation’s preeminent college football powerhouse. The top-ranked Tide have captured three of the last four national championships, and are seeking their fourth in January.
Saban is the first coach to win a national title with two different schools in the AP era, and only two other coaches have won more championships, which includes Alabama legend Bear Bryant. Prior to Saban's arrival in 2007, Alabama had failed to win a national championship since 1993 and struggled under several coaches following the resignation of Gene Stallings in 1996.
But Saban's time in Tuscaloosa is his longest tenure with any team, after successful four-year stints at the helm of Michigan State and LSU.
Coaches of nearly all sports have shown a tendency to switch allegiances behind an itch for a new challenge, or the opportunity to sign a more lucrative contract. It’s that itch, along with numerous rumors swirling around Texas head coach Mack Brown, that has fueled speculation about Saban heading west to Austin next season.
In 15 years, Brown has led the Longhorns to a 156-45 record, one national championship and two Big-12 conference titles. But three losses this season, including two early meltdowns at BYU and home against Ole Miss, along with several missed recruiting opportunities, have pegged Texas as a team perhaps seeking a new head coach. On Nov. 16, Texas lost a home game against Oklahoma State, 38-13.
Earlier this season, Saban denied a report that said his agent had fielded a call from Texas after Alabama’s national title victory over Notre Dame, asking if the 62-year-old would be interested in taking over should Brown step down.
"Nothing went on that I know of. I don't know about any of this stuff," Saban said to AL.com back in September. "I haven't talked to anybody about that particular situation. They have a coach there."
Saban respected Brown’s status and pointed to the yearly cycle of rumors that last season insisted a move to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns was all but done. He also said that he and his wife Terry were happy in Alabama, while cracking wise about his age.
"And, quite frankly," Saban said, "I'm just too damn old to start over somewhere else."
Fans and the media have heard Saban’s denials before. He repeatedly denied a move to the NFL while at LSU, only to leave the Tigers and agree to a deal with the Miami Dolphins in 2004.
There have also been several signs Saban could move on from the Capstone. Texas governor Rick Perry pointed out how much money the Longhorns could offer Saban. Already the highest paid coach in college football at $5.54 million per season, Perry suggested Texas might put up $12 million a year, as reported by the Dallas Morning News.
Brown is right behind Saban in terms of salary, raking in $5.45 million. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a Longhorns program that last season pulled down $77.9 million in profit, the most of any school in the country, according to ESPN.
There was also a report last month of Terry house hunting in Austin, which didn’t help Saban’s case and only whipped up more rumors.
It’s unclear what Saban’s plans are, but he has used speculation to his advantage before. In March of last year, Alabama extended his contract another two years to run until 2020, with $100,000 annual raises over the next six years.