Alabama recently gave Nick Saban a contract extension through the 2019 season that averages $5.62 million a year in compensation. The contract came with the added bonus that Saban said of he and his family, “We’re staying at Alabama and we’re not interested in going anyplace else.” The Tide has their head coach for the foreseeable future.
The figure of $5.62 million is truly astronomical. Only one other coach makes north of five million per year; Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown. Only a handful of coaches make over four million. The numbers beg the question: Is that much money really worth it? The answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”
In terms of pure money, the point is inarguable. According to an article by Forbes, the Crimson Tide was valued at $72 million and posted a profit of $31.8 million during the 2007 season, the first under Saban. By comparison, Forbes most recent analysis was published on December 22, 2011, before Alabama’s 14th national title, and it values the Tide at $93 million with a $45 million profit. Given a legitimate expectation for some form of revenue bump surrounding the national title, those numbers may turn out to be low. Alabama was shown by BusinessofCollegeSports to have earned the highest net income of any athletic department in the country, with football earning the lion’s share of that income.
Dollars and cents aside, there is a psychological boost that Nick Saban provides to Alabama fans that is essentially unquantifiable. During Saban’s tenure, the nation has been convulsed by an economic downturn. Many people from all walks of life lost their jobs as companies were forced to cut back. Alabama’s meteoric rise began as the worst of the downturn hit Alabama and the rest of the United States. In the 2006 movie Invincible, a story about a local boy walking onto the Philadelphia Eagles, there is a memorable scene where a character utters, “You know how I used to tell you about Van Buren scoring that touchdown back in ’48? That touchdown got me through 30 years at that factory. Got me through all those times your mother being sick.” Substitute “Ingram” for “Van Buren” and I can think of no better way to explain what Saban and the Tide have done for the people that cheer for the team.
The balm surrounding economic hardship is only half the story. On April 27, 2011, tornadoes essentially bisected the city of Tuscaloosa, leaving death and destruction in their wake. The Alabama football team, led by Saban, responded to the tragedy by opening their arms to the beleaguered people around Tuscaloosa. Much like the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, the Alabama Crimson Tide played the 2011 season for the battered Tuscaloosa community and used their positions as a panacea for Alabama fans adversely affected by Mother Nature.
Is Nick Saban worth $5.62 million? Absolutely. The monetary gains are readily apparent. The effect of the mythical ethos surrounding Saban’s Crimson Tide teams is far less apparent, but it is more important than the economics. The culture of the Crimson Tide, personified by Nick Saban, has not only brought Alabama back to national relevancy, but has had far-reaching positive effects for the fans. The real question is: Is $5.62 million enough?