Is Nick Saban Using Texas Job as a Pawn in His Financial Game?

By Scott Page

If you thought the conversation about the conversation between Nick Saban’s agent and a Texas official regarding interest in the Alabama coach leaving Tuscaloosa for Austin ended with the “Nicktator” saying he’s “too old” to start over, think again.

Tuesday, the internet was flooded with reports that Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, told Longhorns officials in January that he would only consider leaving Alabama for Texas, and the Crimson Tide’s three national titles in the past four years had put him under “special pressure.”

Tom Hicks recalled the phone call with Sexton:

“Sexton confirmed that UT is the only job Nick would possibly consider leaving Alabama for, and that his success there created special pressure for him.”

Saban never elaborated on that, but you can’t help but wonder what he would expect as the Longhorns’ head coach.

With an administration and fan base so totally committed (perhaps addicted) to winning at any cost, there’s no question being head coach at Alabama is one of the most pressure-packed jobs in any profession. But would Saban really be under any less pressure to win at Texas?

With an equal level of financial, administrative and fan support – not to mention the prying eyes of the Longhorn Network – coaching the Texas football team would be far from a lax endeavor.

As previously mentioned, Saban responded to the initial reports in September by (not so definitively) saying he was not interested in starting over. That directly contradicts what’s been reported this week, but let’s take ole Nicky’s word for it and presume he’s not interested in leaving Alabama. It’s not clear who initiated that fateful conversation in January, but let’s assume it was Sexton (on Saban’s behalf).

If Saban truly isn’t interested in the Texas job, perhaps there was some other end in mind when Sexton picked up the phone and called up those Longhorns Regents – money.

In September, I wrote this: 5 Reasons Why Nick Saban Won’t be Texas Longhorns’ Next Coach. Although Saban is already the highest-paid head coach in college football, I didn’t list money as one of the reasons why he wouldn’t leave Alabama because Texas is likely the only other school in the country that could increase his current $5.6 million salary.

But maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe Saban is trying to turn the tables on Alabama. Maybe he’s sparking rumors of interest in another school to put some “special pressure” on the university to bump up his pay now instead of in 2017, when his salary will increase to $6 million.

If this is all in fact just a money grab by Saban, he isn’t the only one using Texas as a pawn for his financial gain.

The AP reported late Tuesday that Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, the chairman of the new 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee, got his second raise in 13 months because Texas had him on a short list of candidates for the AD job, which eventually went to Steve Patterson.

Because of this interest from the Longhorns, Arkansas gave Long a new contract that will raise his annual salary to $1.1 million by next summer. He also gets a one-time $100,000 bonus and an increased buyout of $1.3 million through June 30, 2015.

In the revised contract, Arkansas officials said they were aware Long had received interest from ”another institution of higher education with significant resources.” The agreement said the raise was awarded ”in exchange for [Long’s] agreement to remove yourself from consideration for another position and to retain you at the University of Arkansas.”

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the same “process” is in motion in Tuscaloosa.

Aside from a confession, there’s no way to know the truth about the phone call. But one thing’s certain: Alabama fans don’t want Saban to go anywhere and they’d likely be willing to do anything to keep him. Maybe they’d even stay at the Tide’s blowout games for 60 minutes, as Saban recently commanded them to do.

Scott Page is a college football writer for Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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