When Will Tide Have New Football Coach?

Nick Saban has all the cards, and care must be taken not to force his hand. Still, the virtue of patience has its limits. If Saban is not going to leave one good job for another good job, Bama probably needs to know this week. After all, the Crimson Tide intends to stay in the football business.

Alabama isn't issuing any timetables for having a new head football coach in place. It has been six weeks since Mike Shula learned he was not being retained for a fifth season as head football coach of the Crimson Tide. Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore didn't say when he would have a replacement, only what the criteria—notably prior success as a head coach--would be.

Had Bama secured a head coach from another college and that team happened to be in a bowl game, it is possible the new man wouldn't be in Tuscaloosa yet. And it's not critical, but it is cause for anxiety in the Alabama camp.

Almost everyone agrees that Bama made a play for West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez, that Rodriguez (or his representatives) agreed to the deal, and then Rodrguez got a sweet deal from West Virginia, his alma mater, that the school had not been able to make until it had to fend off the Alabama offer. And so Rodriguez reneged on the deal.

And almost everyone agrees that since then (perhaps before), Moore has had his eye on Miami Dolphins Coach Nick Saban, best known in these parts for having resurrected LSU football from middle-of-the-road to national champion.

To say that Saban is qualified is an understatement.

That is not to say that Saban is straining at the bit to be at Alabama, although some regarded as NFL insiders think that is the case. It is hard to get a clear read from the Saban clues. It is understandable that he has denied interest in the Bama job while in in the employ of the Dolphins. It is also understandable that he misses the college game, which while very much a business is far different than the business of pro football.

It doesn't take much work to find reports regarding most of those who will be on Saban's Alabama staff. One problem: first Saban has to be offered the Alabama job and then he has to take it.

It cannot be overlooked that at least through this evening, Saban has a very good job.

So how good a job is that of head football coach at Alabama?

Some think it is not so hot. And they are so convinced of that fact that they say it over and over and over, perhaps believing the mantra will make it so.

Even as he played the role of runaway bride, Rodriguez had nothing but good to say about Alabama. Rest assured, there is a long, long line of qualified football coaches who would love to be running the Crimson Tide. One as qualified as Saban will be handsomely rewarded-- in the three and a half million dollars range.

Alabama fans aren't the only ones anxious about the next Bama head football coach. So are the coaches of other SEC teams, who know that the right man in Tuscaloosa can quickly restore the Tide to a place of dominance.

Alabama has what it takes for a nationally competitive football program, including facilities, solid recruiting territory, and the right name. A Crimson Tide head coach doesn't have much difficulty attracting good assistants, who know the value of having "Alabama" on the resume. And, most important, those teams that have been feasting on a scholarship-depleted Tide will be facing the full quota in crimson in years to come.

Although Moore didn't disclose a deadline for getting this important work done, it is not unreasonable to suspect that time is becoming a factor. One rumor has it that the deal will be made Thursday and announced Friday. It seems hard to believe that all the principles could keep such a deal quiet for two or three hours, much less the better part of a week, particularly with every local, state and national sports outlet desperately seeking news. (That includes those who say over and over and over that the job is over-rated.)

A number of names—some predictable, some intriguing, some ridiculous—have made the rounds for the so-called "Plan B." The calm around Alabama athletics the last few weeks could be the prelude to a storm, but it seems more likely that Moore is confident he will have his man.

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