Saban to make Alabama decision sometime today

Updated: January 3, 2007, 10:45 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

A 10 a.m. deadline passed Wednesday morning without immediate word on whether Dolphins head coach Nick Saban would stay with Miami or accept an offer to be the next head coach at Alabama.

But the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale both cited sources who said they expected Saban would accept Alabama's offer and return to college coaching.

Saban's head coaching career
Nick Saban
Saban
Nick Saban signed a five-year contract with the Dolphins on Dec. 27, 2004, becoming the sixth coach in Miami's history.

COACHING RECORD:
With Dolphins: 15-17 (2005-present)
With LSU: 48-16 (2000-'04)*
With Michigan State: 35-24-1 (1995-'99)
With Toledo: 9-2 (1990)

* Won national title following 2003 season.

Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga gave Saban until 10 a.m. Wednesday after the two met Tuesday.

"The meeting went good," Huizenga said Tuesday evening. "We had a quick meeting. We had a nice conversation. Coach asked if we could defer the decision until 10 o'clock [Wednesday] morning. And then he went into several reasons as to why he wanted to do that. I agree 100 percent with his reasons. I understand more now what he's thinking about."

A Miami team source told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Saban informed the Dolphins' coaching staff earlier Tuesday that he was "struggling with the decision," but the staff got the distinct impression that Saban was likely to take the Alabama job.

Another team source told Mortensen that Huizenga has been in frequent talks with Saban in an effort to keep the coach from accepting the job in Tuscaloosa. Saban was seen leaving the Dolphins' facility at 4:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday. He smiled and waved at reporters but didn't stop to talk.

Huizenga remained optimistic Tuesday that Saban would return to Miami.

"I'm hoping he's leaning on staying," Huizenga was quoted as saying in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I like Nick a lot and hope he's going to stay. I'm not upset. You just have to play this thing through."

Pasquarelli's take
 Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli expects Nick Saban to stay at Miami because he has not been successful there yet. Saban still could be, but he has to stay to finish the job.

To hear Len's analysis of the situation in Miami as well as his picks for Wild Card weekend, click here Insider

Alabama made its formal offer to Saban on Monday after rumors swirled for weeks that the Crimson Tide were pursuing the former LSU coach. The offer, believed to run from eight to 10 years, is worth $35 million to $40 million, and includes many variables, Mortensen reported Monday.

The offer does not contain a provision for a signing bonus. In general, colleges don't pay signing bonuses.

Saban and Alabama athletic director Mal Moore had a lengthy phone conversation Monday night.

Saban has three years left on his Dolphins deal worth approximately $4.5 million a year. Huizenga would likely have to bump Saban's salary considerably to keep him, because the long-term financial security gap would be significant between the Dolphins and the Crimson Tide.

Huizenga can be persuasive when dealing with coaches. He talked Don Shula into retirement in 1996, talked Jimmy Johnson out of retiring three years later -- Johnson lasted one more season -- and was able to lure Saban to the pros in 2004 after other NFL teams had failed.

Clayton's take
 John Clayton
It will be an upset if Nick Saban doesn't take the Alabama job by Wednesday morning. Even though he has vehemently denied he would leave for Alabama, it's probably the right choice -- for several reasons.

To read more of John Clayton's Quick Hits, click here. Insider

Saban weighed the relative merits of the NFL and college in a November interview.

"I really like coaching pro football," he said. "The relationship with the players is great and being in the most competitive league in terms of competitive balance is fantastic.

"There is a great spirit and sense of community that you get in college football because of people's ties to the school. There is a lot of gratification gained from making an impact on young men 18 to 22. I really enjoyed that.

"I really couldn't choose one over the other. I've enjoyed each experience."

Dolphins cornerback Eddie Jackson said Saban's return next season would be good news.

"It's hard to start over," Jackson said. "It's going to be hard to build on this season with a new coach.

"I know it's a hard decision for him to make. We'll just see what's going to happen. It's a business, and anything can happen."

Huizenga has said he received repeated assurances from Saban late in the season that he would return in 2007. And Saban issued frequent public denials of interest in moving to Tuscaloosa, such as on Dec. 21, when he said: "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

Alabama began looking for a coach after Moore fired Mike Shula on Nov. 27. The Tide finished the season 6-7, losing to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. NFL Insider Chris Mortensen appears on Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown and SportsCenter.

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