Tuscaloosa, Ala. should be a gridiron Camelot. But as the No. 1 Crimson Tide prepared for this weekend’s tilt against archrival Auburn, there were indications that Alabama head coach Nick Saban might not think the climate there is perfect all year. Sharon Terlep has written about the potential trouble in paradise for the Wall Street Journal.
BL: Sharon, tell us, what did Terry Saban recently say that might indicate that the Sabans could be on the move once again?
ST: She said that they’re getting to the point, as they have at other places that they‘ve been, that they feel like the fans are spoiled by success somewhat—that they don’t appreciate the hard work that goes into the game. The standards are just too high for her husband right now.
BL: Nick Saban’s annual salary is about $5.5 million. That says appreciate to me, but anyway, he’s the nation’s most highly paid college football coach, and he enjoys almost complete control of the program. Why would he want to leave a position like that?
ST: Well, you know, one of the things that Terry said is that they don’t want to leave. But they certainly are making some of their dissatisfaction known. I think, for them, they see things—sometimes people leave the game early. And the coach has talked about, you know, if you’re gonna go to a game you should stay for the whole game or give someone else your ticket. And just other signs of fan apathy that, I think, frankly bothers them more than anything that could be related to compensation.
BL: In your article, which is titled, “The Other Half of Team Saban,” you make the case that Nick Saban makes his decisions in tandem with Terry, but does her influence extend beyond 50-50?
ST: You know, that’s a good question. When it comes to things like where they live and how they interact with the community, I think there’s a really good chance that it does. I mean, she really is the public face of the couple, and he said in other interviews that if she ever asked him to give up coaching, as important as it is, that he would do that. So I mean she definitely is a big force in that relationship.
BL: Gee, I hope they’ve put enough money away so that if he does retire they could do that. $5.5 million a year doesn’t go that far, I guess.
ST: Certainly you would hope he could retire when he wants to.
BL: Now Nick Saban has coached at Michigan State and LSU. He coached the Miami Dolphins, all this before coming to Alabama. Terry Saban has said that the couple plans to end their career in Tuscaloosa despite rumors that the Sabans will head to Texas. I guess they could head to Texas and then come back to Tuscaloosa to finish their career. Maybe that’s what they’re planning?
ST: Technically, then, she would still be telling the truth. You know, it’s hard to say. Certainly, Nick Saban has said before, he’s not going to leave. He’s said it publicly, and he’s gone anyway. It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t listen to other offers. But at the same time, they are in their 60s now. He does get really whatever he wants from that school and that community. So it’s not crazy to think this might be it for them.
BL: Maybe this is all just a ploy to convince people who go to games in Tuscaloosa to stay for the whole game and shout really loudly and wear red.
ST: Well certainly I’ve gotten a lot of emails from Alabama fans asking for contact info for the Sabans so they can let them know just how much they’re appreciated.