Why not Saban, as storm swirls around Mack?

Posted Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton Maybe they thought this might cheer everyone up.

Drop the name of the most successful college football coach in the land. Confirm a juicy Associated Press report that a University of Texas regent had talked in January to Nick Saban’s agent.

Make Mack Brown squirm the way all Longhorns fans have been squirming this football season.

It’s football. It’s bidness. It’s Texas. The end can always justify the means.

It wasn’t exactly breaking news Thursday to hear that somebody with a burnt orange blazer — current or former, officially or unofficially — had been thinking about Saban, a four-time BCS championship coach.

Texas doesn’t have to anoint some flavor-of-the-month young coordinator as its future head coach. They’re Texas. They’re on Channel 579.

If Brown is to be replaced, Texas can approach anybody without fear of being summarily rebuffed. Anybody.

Saban. Bill Belichick. Jon Gruden. Anybody.

But you already knew that. Where Associated Press reporter Jim Vertuno’s brow-raising story deftly plumbed deeper Thursday was not only in its details — UT regent Wallace Hall confirmed that he spoke with Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, in January — but also in the timing of the report.

It came five days after the latest Texas defeat, the Longhorns’ second in three games this season. And it came six days after another report on Orangebloods.com said that “two well-placed sources close to the situation” had told the Web site that athletic director DeLoss Dodds would be retiring at the end of the calendar year. (Dodds and UT officials quickly denied the report).

Rumors. Reports. Denials. How un-Texas of Texas.

But clearly, somebody wanted that story out. We can all take our guesses why.

Brown, meanwhile, has been trying to conduct business as usual this week, which probably isn’t easy with Longhorn Network cameras prowling the halls.

According to the AP story, Mack met with ex-regent, ex-Rangers owner Tom Hicks after the BCS championship game and affirmed his intentions to continue coaching. Brown’s contract with the university, which will pay him $5.4 million this year, runs through 2020.

And that had better be the end of the story, said Joe Jamail, Mack’s attorney and a major Longhorns booster.

Vertuno quoted Jamail as saying that if anyone outside the university attempts to pressure Brown into resigning, “Get ready for a lawsuit. Mack has publicly stated he wants to coach.”

What a mess. What a season.

But let’s not bury the lede here. Would Saban really leave Alabama to become the Longhorns’ head coach?

He has left Michigan State, LSU and the NFL. What would make anyone think Saban wants to spend the rest of his life in Tuscaloosa?

It isn’t the money. People who have worked for him and around him say that Saban isn’t motivated strictly by the cash, but rather by the acclamation that it represents.

He’s tried the NFL and found it lacking, and vice versa. So, no, his next great challenge will have to come from the most formidable restoration project in college football, Texas with its $133.7 million annual athletic budget and its entrée into the state’s recruiting hotbed.

Price should be no object. Belichick earns $7.5 million as coach of the New England Patriots. The New Orleans Saints’ Sean Payton is the NFL’s highest-paid coach at $8 million annually. Saban will earn $5.62 million this year with a scheduled increase to $6 million in 2017.

If Saban is available, Texas could offer him $9-10 million without blinking and make him the highest-paid football coach in the world.

It’s bidness. It’s Texas. The end can always justify the means.

Mack Brown has to know that as well as anyone.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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