The Financial Dominoes of Nick Saban’s Departure
Last week, legendary head coach Nick Saban left Alabama for retirement. It was a move that sent shockwaves through the college football world, and those waves continue to reverberate today.
Football online sportsbooks reacted immediately, dropping Alabama from the second-most likely national champion a year from now, to tied for fourth. BetUS.com currently has the Crimson Tide +900 to win the championship, which ties them with Texas, and has them behind both Georgia (+340) and Ohio State (+550).
The potential exchange of money from those changing odds is also met by the very real money that universities are paying right now, as the head coaching carousel goes round.
Alabama’s Financial Cost
In 30 of 50 U.S. states, the highest-paid public employee is a college football head coach. Last year, Nick Saban made $11.1 million. The next-highest public salary in Alabama was the $834,034 earned by the CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama. So we know that all states, and Alabama in particular, spend a lot of money on their highest-profile employee.
Saban’s retirement doesn’t result in a buyout by the university, unlike a firing. When Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher in November, the university’s governing board agreed to pay him $75 million to buy out the remainder of his contract. Saban walked away from the job, and the $71.8 million left on his contract that was set to run through 2030.
His replacement, Kalen DeBoer, is making more than $10 million annually. So the savings there for Alabama is minimal. It becomes an outlay when you factor in the $12 million that Alabama had to pay to buy DeBoer out of his current contract at Washington.
And that monetary loss for Alabama is just in football head coach salary. Losing someone like Saban is also assured to cost the university in other ways. During Saban’s tenure, enrollment at Alabama went up from 25,580 to 39,623, and it is estimated that the growth in out-of-state students resulted in an extra $1 billion for the university. Alabama Chancellor Robert Witt said, “Nick Saban is the best investment this university has ever made.”
Washington Loses a Coach and $5.5 Million
Two weeks ago, the future for Washington couldn’t have been brighter. In its final game before moving to the Big Ten for the 2024 season, they were playing for a National Championship. A young and inspiring head coach was in place, and Washington football was at its zenith.
That young head coach is now in Alabama, and his chosen replacement, Jedd Fisch, cost them a contract buyout of $5.5 million. The former Arizona head coach is making $7.75 million annually at Washington, nearly double what the Huskies were paying DeBoer. Overall, the contract is for seven years and $54.3 million.
Visitors to Washington brick and mortar sportsbooks were looking forward to the Huskies being one of the national champion favorites heading into the 2024 season. Now, they are a longshot at +8000.
Other Coaches That Saban Got Paid
After losing Fisch to Washington, Arizona needed his replacement. That came in the person of Brent Brennan, who was at San Jose State. He cost the Wildcats a $1 million buyout and a new five-year contract.
Prior to Alabama hiring DeBoer, there were reports that the two biggest names on their wishlist were Mike Norvell of Florida State and Steve Sarkisian of Texas. In order to keep Norvell happy, Florida State signed him to a new eight-year contract extension that pays him more than $10 million a year – an annual raise of $2.7 million.
Texas also shelled out extra money to keep Sarkisian happy in Austin. Last year, he made nearly $6 million as the coach of the Longhorns. His new contract is for four years, and it pays him nearly $10 million annually.
BetUS.com has Texas at +900 to win next year’s National Championship. Florida State is at +2200, which are the shortest odds in the ACC.