BIRMINGHAM – The question has become an annual summer ritual for opponinets eager for a changing of the guard in Tuscaloosa: When is Nick Saban going to retire?
An accredited online sports book has put an actual betting line on it, with MyBookie setting the over-under time frame at 5½ years with more specific odds depending on the particular year of the Alabama head coach’s eventual retirement.
For the 67-year-old Saban, who’s still rehabbing after undergoing offseason hip replacement surgery April 22, the fact that fans can wager on when he’ll eventually step away from the game is comical.
“That’s the first I heard of that one, but it’s amusing,” Saban said with a smirk Thursday morning prior to the 13th annual Nick’s Kids charity golf tournament at the Old Overton Country Club in Birmingham.
For the venerable Saban, who is entering his 13th season in Tuscaloosa and 25th straight as a collegiate and NFL head coach, his recent – and brief – bout with idleness the day after returning home after his surgery was more than enough to inspire him to remained employed for the foreseeable future.
“That’s not something that I enjoy, and that’s not something I really want to do anytime soon, I’ll tell you that,” Saban said after repeating the joke about how his wife, Miss Terry, threatened to call the cops after she caught him up and walking around just six hours into his first day out of the hospital.
“I just enjoy so much being part of a team, I enjoy the relationships. To have (former Alabama receiver) Julio Jones come back the first two days I was doing rehab on my hip and he was there doing it (with me).
“Tua (Tagovailoa) actually came in (Wednesday) while I was doing rehab and gave me a medical examination. So some of these (experiences) are really special. No time soon. I don’t know what Vegas knows that I don’t know.”
Saban, who was awarded a contract extension through 2025 last summer, was infamously back in his office inside the Mal Moore Athletic Complex less than 48 after surgery, and has remained active throughout the entire rehabilitation process.
“I don’t know (if I’m back to) 100 percent, but (I’m) at least able to do everything that you need to do without hurting anything,” Saban said. “I still think it’ll take a few (more) weeks, probably, of strengthening to get back to normal or 100 percent.”
Saban hits the links
The coach might not yet “100 percent” healed from his offseason hip replacement, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking some swings on the golf course.
Saban was a somewhat-limited participant in Thursday’s annual Nick’s Kids charity golf event during a rain-soaked afternoon at the Old Overton Country Club course, where he remained relatively stationary on the 17th green while playing alongside each of the participating teams at that hole.
“It’s great,” Saban said of his hip. “(The doctors) still won’t let me hit my driver or 3-wood, just the 5-iron on up, but I’ve learned a lot about the game. It’s a target game, so it’s not about how far you hit it, (and) you actually play better when you hit it straight, so that’s been a good thing.”
Nick’s Kids has raised over $8 million to help children throughout the area since Nick and Terry Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007. Nick’s Kids completed its project with the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center this
The Nick’s Kids foundation, named in honor of Saban’s late father’s mission to provide assistance to children and families in need, has raised over $8 million for the Tuscaloosa community since his hiring in 2007, including recently completing a project with the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center.
“This is a great group of folks that’s been involved with Nick’s Kids, and of course our staff is going to be here, so it’s always good to spend some time with your staff, but I don’t get to see these folks that often,” Saban said. “So this is a day we look forward to. … We probably appreciate what they do more than they know and their relationships are really valued by Miss Terry and I.”
Coach hopeful for resolution
Saban has long been a proponent of collegiate sports maintaining its stringent amateurism status, and not losing its strong tie to academics.
Yet, as an NCAA working group begins to look into the ramifications of potential student-athlete compensation for name, image and likeness, the longtime Alabama head coach seemed hopeful the group is able to find some sort of common-sense middle ground that allows players to be compensated without losing what makes college athletics special.
“I think there are some ways – and I think we have some really good people that are studying the options – to be able to maintain some kind of amateur status,” Saban said, “kind of like they do with the Olympics, that reinforces a player’s brand, but still maintain the integrity of college football.”