In the deepest, darkest, most cynical corners of college football, Mack Brown already has stepped down at Texas and Nick Saban is on his way.
If that really happens over the next few weeks, if Saban does decide to take the Texas money and run, the last lines of his Alabama resume would read something like this: "In one of the most bizarre endings in college football history, Auburn defeated Alabama when a missed Crimson Tide field goal was returned 109 yards for an Auburn touchdown on the game's final play, ending the two-time defending national champion's bid for a third straight title. It was the last time Saban's Alabama team faced bitter rival Auburn. He left the Southeastern Conference soon after."
That's how the story of Saban's career in the SEC would end, not with a bang, but with a sprinter.
Is that really what the 62-year-old Saban wants, to step away from his illustrious career in the toughest league in the game on a stunningly preposterous, once-in-a-lifetime blunder? Does he want that fiasco of an Alabama field-goal attempt to be what people remember as his walk-off SEC moment? Does a Broadway star want to close a long-running show with the set crashing down around him?
Anything is possible when as much as $10 million a year is being tossed around, but you can't help but think that the way the Auburn game ended will motivate Saban to come back to Alabama to try to right this season's last, final wrong.
Think of it this way: Had he won that game, and gone on to win the SEC championship and a third consecutive BCS national title – and fourth in five years – perhaps that would have been the time for Saban to leave for Austin. But not now. Not when the best college football coach in the land has, for the first time in a long while, left something undone.
Even though Saban said earlier this season that he's not leaving, and his wife said it recently, one can understand the tug of Texas. In addition to the money, it would be a fresh start and thrilling challenge for the guy who has always loved the newest new thing, moving as he has between head coaching jobs so quickly that his seven seasons at Alabama are the longest he has stayed anywhere since his days as a player and then assistant coach at Kent State.
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The words longevity and Nick Saban don't often share the same sentence, but they would if he ended up staying in Tuscaloosa. Other than trying to win the next 152 Iron Bowls, what else could Saban accomplish? No one seems to talk about this, but he could actually try to pass Bear Bryant's record of six national championships at Alabama.
Saban currently has one at LSU and three at Alabama. The quest to get three more to tie Bryant, and a fourth to pass him at the school, might not get as much publicity as Tiger Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' total of 18 major championships in golf. Then again, perhaps it would, especially if Saban inched closer with a couple more titles in the next four or five years. People are way crazier about their football, especially in the South, than they are about their golf, even at the majors.
And who could resist the whimsical parallel of Saban chasing Bear while Tiger tried to catch the Golden Bear? (Even if you're not a Saban fan, you have to give him this: being around sports for all these decades, he has somehow successfully avoided receiving an animal nickname.)
We might surmise that Saban is more concerned about his legacy and body of work than reacting to the feeling of the moment, even if it is that gut-wrenching sensation he experienced at the end of the Auburn game. Some might argue that the greatest career challenge facing Saban in the "body of work" category is winning another national title in a new conference with a different school.
I don't buy it. Escaping the SEC would be the easy way out. Continued dominance at Alabama would be the best way to take Saban's already-legendary status to historic new heights.
College football in these most competitive and athletic of days has never seen a conference like the SEC. Up to this point in this generation, it also has never seen a coach like Nick Saban.
The two wouldn't be the same without each other.