Contract starts at $2.3M a year

Updated: February 20, 2004, 3:32 PM ET
Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU football coach Nick Saban has signed a seven-year contract that guarantees him at least $2.3 million this year, grows by about $100,000 annually -- and makes him the highest paid college football coach in the country, according to university officials.

The new deal was approved Thursday by a panel of the LSU governing board and received final approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors on Friday.

Saban can earn an extra $400,000 based on postseason game appearances and team graduation rates, similar to the incentives included in his previous contract. Under the incentives built into the contract, Saban could make up to $2.7 million this year and up to $3.4 million in 2010, the final year of the contract.

The coach signed his new contract a few weeks after ending speculation that he would leave for an NFL team after leading the Tigers to the Bowl Championship Series title, their first national championship in more than four decades.

"Nick Saban is the finest coach in America, and we were committed to paying him accordingly," said LSU Athletics Director Skip Bertman. "He has brought unprecedented success to this university and has built a program of championship caliber both on and off the field."

The new contract grows from the $1.6 million he earned in 2003, which had a stipulation that required him to make at least one dollar more than the highest-paid college coach in the country if LSU won the national championship.

LSU beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4 for the Bowl Championship Series national championship.

In the current year, Saban will get a $400,000 base salary, $1.45 million for appearing in radio, TV and Internet programs and $450,000 in "additional revenue" from the Tiger Athletic Foundation, shoe and equipment contracts and other deals, according to the contract released Thursday. The base salary and radio and TV appearance money will grow over the life of the contract.

He also can earn up to $350,000 more a year depending on LSU's postseason game appearances and up to $50,000 extra a year if the football team is among those college teams with the highest graduation rates.

The seven-year contract is retroactive to Jan. 1.

Both LSU and Saban can end the contract with 30 days written notice.

Saban doesn't have to pay LSU if he leaves, but LSU must pay him his annual minimum if they terminate his contract "without cause" through 2008 and significantly less if they terminate the contract in the final two years.

LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert credited Saban not only with improving the team's record, but also with improving the academics side of the football program, saying it was one of the finest programs in the country.

Emmert said four years ago, LSU had 47 football players with a grade point average under a 2.0.

"This fall we had three, and Coach Saban was really unhappy with those three," Emmert said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press