Saban leaves Miami Dolphins for top job with Alabama


Published: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 11:35 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 11:35 a.m.

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) - Nick Saban is 'Bama bound.

Ending five weeks of speculation and two days of deliberation, Saban decided to accept a job from Alabama and abandon his bid to rebuild the Miami Dolphins after only two seasons.

He informed Miami owner Wayne Huizenga of the decision Wednesday morning. Huizenga announced the departure at a news conference, without Saban.

The Crimson Tide first approached Saban shortly after they fired Mike Shula in late November. Huizenga said he received repeated assurances from Saban that he would return in 2007, and the coach issued frequent, angry public denials of interest in moving to Tuscaloosa, such as on Dec. 21, when he said: "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

But when the Dolphins' disappointing season ended Sunday, Alabama sweetened an offer that reportedly would make him the highest-paid coach in college football. He has three years remaining on his Miami contract at $4.5 million per year.

A preference for the college game may have also swayed Saban. He won a national championship at Louisiana State and is 15-17 with the Dolphins. They went 6-10 in 2006, his first losing season in 13 years as a head coach.

In the past, Huizenga has been persuasive when dealing with coaches. He talked Don Shula into retirement in 1996, talked Jimmy Johnson out of retiring three years later _ Johnson lasted one more season _ and was able to lure Saban to the pros in 2004 after other NFL teams had failed.

But this time, Huizenga failed to change Saban's mind.

After Saban turned down the Tide in early December, they offered the job to Rich Rodriguez, but he decided to stay at West Virginia. Alabama lost last week to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl to finish 6-7.

Possible candidates to replace Saban include Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow and Pittsburgh Steelers assistants Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhut.

The Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons are also seeking a new coach.

The Dolphins' next coach will be their fourth in nine seasons, a big change for a franchise that had the same coach _ Don Shula _ for 26 years. Miami has failed to make the playoffs the past five years, a franchise record.

The Dolphins are coming off their third losing season since 1969 and face a likely roster overhaul. With Daunte Culpepper still struggling to recover from reconstructive knee surgery in 2005, Miami remains unsettled at quarterback, a troublesome position since Dan Marino retired seven years ago. The team needs upgrades in almost every other area for a feeble offense and aging defense.

Saban leaves behind the NFL's largest staff of assistants and general manager Randy Mueller, who might be given more responsibility under a new coaching regime.

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