MURPHY: Saban-Bama Marriage Proceeds

The prenuptials have been signed and now Alabama football and Nick Saban have walked down the aisle.

Will this be a match made in heaven?

Or is it a marriage of convenience?

Obviously we'll need time to provide those answers.

In the interim, it is intriguing to ponder the series of events -- Alabama's befuddling home loss to Mississippi State following listless home showings against the likes of Duke and Ole Miss -- that has brought us all to this point.

If you're like me, you're still having trouble comprehending that the same Nick Saban who transformed the lackluster LSU program into a huge winner, the same Saban who was on the end of Dennis Franchione's heated words at Tiger Stadium in 2002 will actually be working the home sidelines at Bryant-Denny Stadium this fall.

In our not-so-distant past, could anyone have imagined Steve Spurrier trucking to the NFL for a couple of years then resurfacing at Tennessee? Could a Charlie McClendon have bolted LSU then come back at Auburn?

I mean, Bo Schembechler bailing on Michigan and bouncing back at Ohio State has this same ring.

But Saban does not have family ties to the Deep South and he's an interesting study.

He's maniacally driven to succeed and to win football games and to drive those who work with him and for him to the same ends.

If you're Nick Saban and you've spoiled on the NFL game and its salary cap and other headaches, and you yearn to return to the college ranks, perhaps Alabama is a prime destination, even if you worked at its third-most heated rival just three years earlier.

We'll probably never fully understand all the processes of thought Saban endured while making the decision to accept Mal Moore's offer.

What we do know is that Alabama opened its vaults and spread its trust thickly on this complex man.

Yes, Saban held all the cards. He came at a steep price and he dictated the terms, like no buyouts and restricted appearances for glad-handing. They don't call him the Nick-tator for nothing.

Alabama fans are accustomed to seeing their head coach hawking cola and chips and foods and vehicles and phone service to a point bordering on absurdity.

One person familiar with the Alabama-Saban marriage said Mike Shula was a walking billboard, which Saban refused to do. Another person of some influence at Alabama said the coach commercials are really silly anyway, so what's the big deal if Saban isn't doing them.

Most everyone associated with the University of Alabama is extremely pleased to have a national championship coach guiding the Crimson Tide.

Saban expects to win at Alabama and the people who walk the corridors of power here are of like mind. They made a huge investment in him and they desperately need this move to pay off.

Is it a gamble?

In some respects, yes.

Saban wasn't a miracle worker at Michigan State, though he did clearly strengthen the program. He had it rolling smoothly at LSU, but that is a fertile state for recruiting with the Tigers having no natural rivals inside its borders.

Saban is starting from behind against an Auburn program that is in full stride under Tommy Tuberville.

We know Saban is volatile, and we know that five years has been his maximum length of stay during his time in the major college or professional ranks.

A friend of mine gives the Alabama-Saban marriage four years to produce a championship of the national variety. That's a tall order.

A state, a region and the nation will be watching.


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