National Columnist

Time for Alabama to call Saban's Texas-sized bluff

If I'm the University of Alabama, I'm not scared about all the noise coming out of Texas that my football coach, Nick Saban, would consider leaving for the Longhorns. Scared? Not scared. There's another reaction, another emotion, I'd be having:

Furious.

This has reached a ridiculous level. One leak about Saban's potential interest in the Texas job was unseemly, and we had that leak six weeks ago. Want an opinion on that leak? Here's what I wrote in late September, saying Nick Saban isn't leaving Alabama for Texas, because Alabama is a better job (at this moment) and Saban is too old to devote the time it would take to pull Texas up to (and then beyond) Alabama's level.

Why would 62-year-old Nick Saban leave Alabama for Texas? He wouldn't. That was my opinion then and it's my opinion now, and it'll be my opinion until I see Saban behind a podium in Austin, wearing burnt orange and awkwardly waving the hook 'em sign at Texas fans watching on the Longhorn Network.

That's me as a sportswriter: Incredulous. Disbelieving.

This would be me as an Alabama chancellor or trustee: Furious.

Because Saban isn't leaving, which means this is pointless middle-school posturing. If these leaks are coming from Saban's camp -- there are only two camps here, Saban's camp and Texas' camp -- then I'm furious at my coach for letting it happen. If they're coming from Texas, I'm furious at my coach for not stamping it out with both feet and blasting whoever at Texas is doing this to him.

Don't be confused over the location of the leaks, either. They're coming out of the state of Texas, so therefore the leaks are originating from the University of Texas? That's a naïve way of looking at the transmission of information in the 21st century. Don't be naïve. A reporter can be tipped off to emails by anyone. Sure, a Texas trustee could have tipped off the Associated Press reporter who broke this story. Saban's agent could have tipped off the reporter just as easily.

Whatever the case, this is Saban's fault because he's the one whose camp was talking to Texas in the first place.

And if I'm Alabama, I'm furious. Because I'm Alabama, for the love of God. I'm not Michigan State or even LSU, and no offense to those two fine schools and football programs, but there's only one program in America that has won three of the last four national titles, and is poised to win a fourth in five years. And that same school has been winning titles for decades with other coaches.

Saban has the best football job in America, college or pro, and for some reason the Texas stuff won't go away?

Furious. Not scared. I'd be furious if I'm Alabama, especially if I'm Alabama chancellor Robert Witt, who just last week called Saban the "best financial investment this university has ever made. We have made an investment that's been returned many fold."

And now it looks like those words are being used against Witt by someone in Saban's camp, who wants Alabama fans to know that Texas is flirting. To me, it looks like Saban's camp is saying this:

You think you got a bargain? Saban's not a thrift-store find, he's a diamond. Treat him as such.

To be fair to Saban, the leaks could be coming from Texas. But even if they are, even if Saban and his people have had nothing to do with them, one fact has not been disputed:

Saban's agent, Jimmy Sexton, has talked with Texas about Saban's interest in the Longhorns.

If that's not true, Saban has to say it. Sexton has to say it. They could end this right now, but they're not. Why? Because Sexton did talk to Texas. Or worse, he didn't, but wants that misperception out there to scare Alabama into giving his man more money, more control over admissions, more 45-pound plates in the weight room, more something.

Saban and his people want more from Alabama. One way or another, they're using Texas to try to get it. If this were a hand of poker, this is what we would call a bluff.

And if I'm Alabama, I'm calling the bluff. Because nobody bluffs Alabama.

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