For some, especially those in close proximity to South Florida, it’s a quote that he’ll never live down. “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.” Nick Saban said those words on Dec. 21, 2006. By Jan. 3, 2007, he was the head coach at Alabama.
According to a new, unauthorized biography of Saban, entitled “Saban: The Making of a Coach,” by Forbes writer Monte Burke, the courtship between Alabama and the then-Dolphins coach began with Saban reaching out to, of all people, the man who remodeled his Georgia lake house. That homebuilder was named Chuck Moore, and just so happened to be the nephew of then-Alabama athletics director Mal Moore.
“During the last few weeks of the 2006 Dolphins season, despite his very public denials, Saban had called Chuck a few times to tell him that he was possibly interested in the Alabama job, knowing full well whom Chuck would call the minute they hung up the phone,” Burke writes.
Mal Moore began his recruiting process. He’d already missed out on South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez, and could not afford to return home to his starving hoards of Crimson Tide fans empty handed. “I told the pilots when they dropped me off in Miami that if I didn’t come back to this plane with Nick Saban, they should go on and take me to Cuba,” Moore said.
Saban refused to speak with Moore during the courtship process, though, instead funneling conversations through his wife, Terry, and agent, Jimmy Sexton. Eventually things crested with the Sabans taking simultaneous meetings with Moore (visiting inside the Saban’s home in Fort Lauderdale with Terry) and then-Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga (hosting Nick in his Davie home). Burke writes that Saban gave Huizenga a commitment to return in 2007 and phoned his wife saying he had no desire to meet with Moore, but she told him she’d already invited him to dinner.
“She made it clear to Moore that Saban was miserable in the NFL and dearly missed coaching in college,” Burke writes. “She also made it clear that she wanted out.” Much like a coach recruiting a player’s mother, Moore smartly zeroed his pitch on Saban’s wife. Wives are an important process of any decision to take a new job, and Terry Saban especially so.
By the next morning, Saban had changed his mind, and changed college football history in the process.