It occurs to us that it might be helpful to corral all the factors we could think of that might figure into the question of whether Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban will be named the next Texas Longhorns football coach after current head coach Mack Brown's seemingly imminent retirement.
We present these in list form as a simple exercise in laying it all out there, with the hope that you will add to it or call us idiots and explain why in the comments.
We have included every type of factor we could think of, and can roughly divide them into three groups: first, there is the information (misinformation?) floating around out there on the Internet and by word of mouth. Second is what you might call "cumulative" information -- i.e., what might be gleaned from the sum of what's being said. Third is the set of underlying factors that are knowable to anyone, and do little more than simply inform and educate speculation.
Note that, based on our list, there are the same number of factors on the "he's coming" side and the "he's not coming" side. But it's obviously not just a numbers game; some factors are obviously far more important than others, and as far as we know a single factor could be the only one that matters.
Here are things that make us think he is coming:
1. The sheer number of people claiming it's going to happen per "inside sources." If it was just one site, or even two, it would be easy to brush off. But there are several sites reporting it, and even some mainstream media types cautiously suggesting it might happen.
And then there's Paul Finebaum, who is generally believed to be plugged in with all things Bama, but seems to have suddenly come off his scoffy attitude toward it and become more ambivalent.
2. Saban's own behavior. The only thing we've heard from him since the level of speculation got this high was through AJ McCarron and one recruit. Yes, he has denied it many times, but not in the period since it became clear Mack is done.
3. Saban's past behavior. This isn't an unknown quantity like Kevin Sumlin who doesn't have a history with the manner in which he does or doesn't leave jobs. Saban has such a history, and it's consistent with his current behavior. If all of this were really a ploy to get more out of Bama, shouldn't that have ended with the new contract offer? Why drag it out this far?
This completely tracks how he's left other places, except for one thing. He said he regretted being so adamant about not going to Bama and then leaving a week later. Notice the silence in the last two weeks or so -- the lesson of Miami may not have been that you shouldn't ever say you're not leaving if you are, but not to lie in such close proximity to leaving. The only way to leave without lying is to do what he's doing.
4. The money. The money always matters -- let's be real here about that fact.
5. The challenge of winning national titles at three schools. We've heard it going around that the Sabans have a grandchild living near Austin. Is that true? If it is, that may well be a bigger factor than most think. There's no real reason to believe Saban has any particular loyalty to Bama, or any other place he's coached. It's a job, and one he's really good at, but he may or may not have the kind of institutional feeling that an alum would. ("But they built him a statute!!!" Don't think that matters).
6. Austin > anything within 100 miles of Bama. If he's ever going to make one more jump, now is the time since he still has 5-10 good years left in him. Then he gets to retire in Austin rather than Alabama. Any suggestion that he would never leave the SEC West because it is the highest level of college football right now (see below) is valid. But the counter-point is that he went from Michigan State to LSU when the Big 10 was probably the best conference and before the SEC's run of dominance. He then leapt to the Miami Dolphins, who are the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. His move to Alabama came when the Tide hadn't been elite for quite some time, and the SEC was just beginning its run of titles.
Going to Texas actually may fit his pattern of going somewhere to help it become the best (except the Dolphins). It wouldn't take a lot to dominate the Big 12 from Texas, as the recruiting class isn't bare and the conference is much weaker right now.
Here are the things making us think he isn't:.
1. The comments from AJ McCarron. He told AJ McCarron he isn't leaving Alabama, so coming to Texas would mean he lied to at least somebody for whom he, in theory, has human friendship emotions.
2. He's won at Bama and is set up to win much, much more there. Why would any reasonable person leave that situation after having worked so hard to get it to that point? Alabama can make him the highest paid coach in the country. Maybe he'd rather stay at Bama and make a truly amazing sum of money than rock the boat and take somewhat more money from Texas.
3. The University of Texas leadership is dysfunctional right now. A guy like Saban (whatever that means) may want nothing to do with that.
4. How much does the extra money matter? It's not clear exactly how much more than Alabama is offering Saban would actually get from Texas, as the Horns probably do not want to be the school that plunged the coaching market into eight figures. However, that's where rumors of off-the-books compensation come into play.
5. Saban probably only has 5-10 top-form years left. Meaning each year matters. He's poised at Bama, especially with the new playoff and therefore increased forgiveness for losing a game, to compete for the national title every year in the foreseeable future.
6. The Longhorn Network is a dissuading factor. Saban notoriously hates the dog-and-pony show part of being a major college head coach, particularly with respect to media appearances, etc. Would he even consider going to a place with its own ESPN-run network that wants to interview him all the time? Beyond that, would the famously secretive coach even consider allowing LHN cameras onto the practice field? It all seems unlikely.
As you can see, many of the factors are speculative. Still, we thought it might be helpful to lay out all the theories and thoughts in one place. Obviously, we must have missed several considerations. What do you think?