How Much Was Texas Willing to Pay Nick Saban?

Even before re-signing with Alabama last night, Nick Saban was already the highest paid coach in college football. How much more was one rival university willing to pay him?

According to The Tuscaloosa News, Saban and Alabama came to terms on an extension that will boost Saban's salary to between $7 million and $7.5 million per year and further extend the length of the contract. The deal needs to be approved by the school's board of trustees.

But last week, a reputable source stated the Alabama head coach was considering a 10-year, $100 million deal from the University of Texas. Texas has the nation's richest athletic program, and Saban's agent has said in the past that it was the only school he would consider bolting Alabama for.

It has also been reported that Saban's offer from Texas included a 1% stake in Longhorn Network, which Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) and ESPN operate under a $300 million, 20-year agreement. That would have sweetened the deal quite a bit.

It's all about the W's
It's really all about the wins in college football. Saban's career record at Alabama is 74-14 since taking over as head coach in 2007. His three BCS National Championship titles in the past five years make him the active leader.

At first glance, Saban is deserving of the $5.6 million annual salary he made under his previous deal at Alabama, which is 22 times the lowest paid D-I head coach, and four times the average. 

Image via Matt Tosh, Flickr.

Does this picture change when we normalize the data by wins?


Value per win in 2013

Entire D-I


10 highest-paid coaches


SEC Conference


Big 12 Conference


National Championship Winners*


Nick Saban, Alabama


Nick Saban, Texas**


Value per Win compiled by author. Win data via ESPN. Salary data via Coaches Hot Seat. *Coaches who have won the D-I National Championship at least once. **Assuming a 12-win season.

According to the data, the entirety of D-I college football pays about $250,000 per win, and the 10 highest-paid names make nearly twice this much. Looking at individual conferences, the Big 12, which houses Texas, is willing to pay 12% more per win than the SEC, which is home to Alabama. 

As you might expect, National Championship winners like Saban also make more than the D-I average. Under his old deal, Alabama paid Saban a premium of 10% over his peers, which makes sense -- he's won multiple titles.

The real insight comes when we compare Alabama and Texas. If the media reports are to be believed, Texas was willing to pay over 60% more per win than Saban's current contract. This is a 230% markup over an average D-I head coach.

What's this data tell us?
The data tells us two things: (a) National Championship winners are paid a premium per win, and (b) the Big 12 pays significantly more than the SEC per win.

The exact premium it was willing to pay, though, comes down to factors that really can't be measured. It's tough to put a value on someone who's already the highest-paid coach in college football with multiple titles in his career. Not to mention the inherent shock-and-awe factor that any offer to leave Alabama must have required.

The future
It's clear the Big 12 is willing to compete with the SEC when it comes to their collective checkbook. In the future, I wouldn't be surprised if more schools like Texas attempt to lure SEC head coaches to change conferences. The Big 12 is simply a more rewarding environment from a value-per-win standpoint. Baylor is a spot to watch, particularly if Art Briles leaves for the NFL's Washington Redskins.

Ultimately, Nick Saban chose to stay with what he knows, and for a whole lot of money. Money that Alabama was happy to pay because the man really has no peers. That's why Texas was willing to break the bank to get him.

A comfortable retirement, even if you're not Nick Saban

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