Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Nick Saban’s agent told Texas officials that the only school Saban would consider leaving Alabama for is Texas, and that success with Alabama put him under “special pressure.”
The story might fly under the radar in St Louis, but it is fascinating to me. The highest paid, most successful and most powerful coach in college sports (and maybe all of sports) is connected to the biggest, most powerful job in college sports (and maybe all of sports.)
Let’s set aside the issues that stick out on the surface of the story. Namely, the fact that the AP obtained the information through an open-records request, and that Texas officials would be as reckless (or just not care) as to email about such a sensitive (and controversial) subject in emails that are subject to the FOIA.
Let’s just ignore all of that for a moment and simply allow ourselves to consider why Nick Saban would leave Alabama for Texas. Or leave Alabama for anywhere. I think it’s pretty simple. It’s because Nick Saban isn’t like all of the people who say he should never leave.
Nick Saban is at the top of a food-chain of people that aren’t like us. Elite athletes and coaches, aren’t necessarily motivated by what motivates you and me. It’s the same reason that you shouldn’t be shocked when your favorite player, at the college or pro level, makes a decision to move on.
You can ask, “How could Nick Saban ever leave Alabama? He has all the money in the world, all the success in the world, and is a God in Alabama.”
That draws the assumption that Nick Saban is motivated purely by money, satisfied purely by a consistent level of success, and content with his status in the state of Alabama and within collegiate sports.
Maybe he isn’t.
Maybe what motivates Nick Saban is a new challenge. Maybe he fears that success and continued tenure at Alabama could lead to complacency. Maybe the money is ENTIRELY irrelevant because he knows that wherever he goes, he will draw whatever check he commands. Maybe it’s a combination of all of that.
Let’s take college athletes. You may ask yourself why a player would leave school early, to head to the professional ranks, even if what looms is a free-agent contract or a trip overseas. “But he could have been Big Man on Campus for another year!”
Maybe that’s not what they want.
The point is, that we don’t all have the same motivations. Let’s stop pretending like we do. Just because you may not see the benefit, or challenge, or opportunity in a jump from Alabama to Texas, or Mizzou to the NBA, or one job to another, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.
Nick Saban may not ever leave Alabama. He might coach there for another decade. Or, he might pack up and leave. And whether it is to head to Texas, the NFL, or simply out of football entirely, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.