My last post is now somewhat confirmed, as Skip Bertman has said that Michigan officials have asked for permission to speak to Les Miles. Skip has given them that permission, so long as they wait until after Saturday. I'm now almost unwilling to even consider the possibility that Miles is not leaving.
That leaves us wondering, who is going to be the next head coach at LSU. Right now, the message boards are lighting up with 3 names above all: 1) Jack Del Rio, 2) Nick Saban, and 3) Steve Spurrier.
Wait, what was that second one again? Nick Saban? Surely I jest?
No, I do not. In fact, I would say that the Saban name has been the most mentioned among supposed insiders with supposed inside information.
The most common story is that there are several important LSU people in the process who are pushing for us to pursue Saban. This is allegedly not exactly being discouraged by Saban's agent Jimmy Sexton. The fact also remains that Saban has no buyout in his contract with Alabama, and he did this by negotiation. Meaning, he really wanted the option of an easy way out of Bama.
When this first started surfacing a couple weeks ago, I thought it was absolute foolishness. It seemed ludicrous on multiple levels. LSU fans weren't that fond of him any more, and such a move would further hurt Saban's reputation as an unprincipled mercenary. But now I'm thinking it's just crazy enough to be true. After all, did anything that's happened this year in college football really go by the book?
Now, just because there is some outside possibility that it's true does not mean it's a good thing. While I'm not willing to take the Saban-to-LSU rumors seriously enough to discuss them, my discussion will focus on why I think it's a bad idea.
First, correct or incorrect, Nick Saban has a reputation now for being an unprincipled mercenary, as mentioned above. He is, therefore, damaged goods. He simply does not have the cachet he had when he left LSU, but we'd have to pay him a lot more to get him now than we did to keep him then.
Second, while I think Saban is a very good coach, I do not think he is an exceptional coach. I think there are many people around who are just as good at being head coach as is Nick Saban. In fact, I think Saban's the 2nd best coach in the state of Alabama. He's the highest paid coach in college football, but not the best coach in college football, and we'd have to give him a raise to hire him.
Third, Saban's reputation for being difficult to work with is legendary. In an age when coordinators are at least as important as the head man who hires them, I think Saban is going to have a problem moving forward, wherever he is, with hiring quality coordinators. This is a problem that Bama is having right now, according to many. At LSU, he found stability with Jimbo Fischer and Will Muschamp, but those guys aren't returning. I'm not sure he can find coordinators that good anymore who will stay with him for more than a year or two. He also ran through position coaches like a man runs through socks and underwear. This takes a toll on a program.
Fourth, it is well reported that Saban lost the team during the 2004 season, one which can be characterized as a major disappointment. Reports are the team spontaneously erupted in applause when it was announced that he was leaving. There are still a few players from that team here now. Not to mention, the Saban personality traits that caused him to lose that team still exist. I think he's the kind of coach whose life span at any particular place is limited. He can whip a program into shape (I think), but he will also kill the morale around the football offices and eventually wear the whole program out, including the players, who will tire of his shenanigans.
While there is a certain amount of deliciousness in thinking about this (it would, after all, be a great story), I really hope LSU does not seriously pursue this. I would prefer going in another direction.