Since the surprise retirement announcement from Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban on Wednesday, Longhorn Nation has been waiting with bated breath for news of his replacement, hoping that Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian isn’t going to head back to Tuscaloosa, where he spent two stints working under Saban, including a year as an analyst that helped resurrect his flagging coaching career.
The positive indicators are all there for the Longhorns except for the conclusive news, starting with social media activity from Sarkisian and his wife on Thursday evening.
TEXAS— Loreal Sarkisian (@LorealSarkisian) January 12, 2024
On Friday morning, the Texas football account posted a video captioned “Just getting started” with a clip from Sarkisian’s introductory press conference about his goals of winning championships on the Forty Acres, capped by his Friday evening tweet.
Sarkisian himself had an early morning on the recruiting trail, visiting Bastrop High School, home of top-100 2026 prospect Tiki Hola, a defensive lineman, and 2027 quarterback Weston Nielsen, who already holds an offer from Oregon.
If all that sounds like Sarkisian is staying at Texas absent an officially official announcement, the two sides are reportedly close to finalizing a contract extension and a raise for the Longhorns head coach that was in the initial stages of negotiation following the College Football Playoff semifinal loss to the Huskies.
#Texas and Steve Sarkisian are “close” to finalizing a contract extension and raise, a source involved in the process told @Horns247. The #Longhorns won the Big 12 and reached their first CFP in 2023.https://t.co/ojXT9dCGyV— Chip Brown (@ChipBrown247) January 12, 2024
When the Texas administration hired Sarkisian three years ago, it was on a modest six-year, $34.2 million deal with a buyout decreasing from $6 million after his first two seasons to $5 million currently and then to $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026.
At $5.6 million in 2023, Sarkisian’s contract was a bargain for the Longhorns compared to the returns of a 12-2 season with a Big 12 championship and the program’s first CFP appearance and less than half of what Saban made with the Crimson Tide. And it was also No. 32 nationally, behind Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, Minnesota’s PJ Fleck, and South Carolina’s Shane Beamer, among other coaches at much less high-profile jobs.
So the well-deserved raise and extension is coming for Sarkisian as Alabama’s search reportedly narrowed to Washington’s Kalen DeBoer, Florida State’s Mike Norvell, and Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. On Friday morning, DeBoer cancelled a radio appearance in Seattle, sparking speculation that he might be close to taking over the Crimson Tide program.
While it’s not clear whether or not Sarkisian was offered the Alabama job, Fox college football analyst Joel Klatt laid out on Thursday why it makes sense for him to stay at Texas.
“Now that he’s at Texas, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go back to Alabama because he’s his own man at Texas. He has built this in his own image. He’s not in the shadow or footsteps of anybody else. This is Sark’s program. If you go to Alabama, you will be in Nick Saban’s shadow. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. He’s the greatest college football coach of all time. So for that reason — even though they have to start with Sark, and they like him, and clearly Nick liked him enough that he wanted to promote him from within a couple of years ago — I don’t think Sark is wanting that job,” Klatt said.
It looks like Klatt was right, and Sarkisian’s work will remain all gas and no brakes on the Forty Acres.