Alabama Football: Why Nick Saban needs to hold on to Steve Sarkisian

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Alabama Football: Steve Sarkisian is on another list for a head coaching job. Why Saban must keep him.

It is easy to forget some things about the Alabama football run under Nick Saban. Some of it, like the loss to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007 and tough losses in 2010, 2013 and 2014 are best tucked away, hidden from frequent memory. There other bits of the Saban-Era history that demand attention.

From the period that went from Gene Stallings to Mike Dubose, to Dennis Franchione to almost Mike Price, to Mike Shula, the Alabama football program should have strong institutional memories. Stallings chose to leave because his bosses either wanted to de-emphasize football or were clueless how to run a program.

What followed was ten years of mistakes, which even good men like Mal Moore and Mike Shula struggled to remedy. Had it not been for Moore’s sound judgment and patience, along with a desire of Terry Saban for Nick to return to college football, Rich Rodriquez would have replaced Mike Shula.

All who follow and participate in Alabama football know now, what should have been known before; there are very few Championship coaches. Nick Saban saved Alabama football as Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant had done before him. Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas and Gene Stallings also achieved championships but it has been Bryant and Saban who have made the Crimson Tide college football’s greatest program.

In this most unusual season, Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide marching toward another championship. Other than Saban, the primary contributor to 2020 success has been Steve Sarkisian. There should be no question how well Sark has performed and now others are asking him to listen.

It happened last season with Mississippi State and Colorado. Moving on from Will Muschamp, South Carolina wants to heal its ills with an offensive coach. A search firm will apparently pursue several candidates, one of which is Steve Sarkisian.

According to betting odds, published in South Carolina’s The State, Sark is currently not the lead candidate. Billy Napier, Hugh Freeze, Jeff Monken and the Coastal Carolina head coach, Jamey Chadwell are more likely choices. Billy Napier would be a good hire. The other three will have support for being a good choice.

The smartest move by the Gamecocks would be to hire Sarkisian. And that is something Nick Saban and Greg Byrne should not let happen.

‘Next man up’ does not apply to football coaches. Nick Saban, the ultimate tactician in all things, has not always succeeded with Offensive Coordinator hires, Major Applewhite was a mistake. Doug Nussmeir was better, but not good enough. Brian Daboll and Mike Locksley benefitted more from talented rosters than their offensive schemes. Dan Enos was selected by Saban for a key offensive role but when the opportunity arose was quick to make an abrupt split from Saban. The considerable offensive, coaching talents of Lane Kiffin worked wonders in Tuscaloosa; until suddenly he damaged Crimson Tide title chances.

Nick Saban has a great mind for defensive football. He needs on his staff an OC with an equal mind for the other side of the ball. He has it in Steve Sarkisian. In addition, Saban trusts Sark and Nick knows his own fingers in play-calling adds no value.

Sarkisian wants to be a head coach again. Who knows in 4-5 years that might happen in Tuscaloosa. He probably does not want to wait that long. But the Tide needs to ante up big to the $3.5 million range and try to hold onto him for another couple of seasons. Sark got a big raise to $2.5 million just months ago. Due to COVID, money is tighter now, but the Crimson Tide can afford another million. Sarkisian is worth it.

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To balance dishing up huge dollars in tight times, Greg Byrne could negotiate a three-year extension with a buyout. Make any program that wants Sarkisian during the contract term pay $10 million.