Christmas Eve came and went, and the Dolphins were still waiting for St. Nick. Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga and team president Eddie Jones flew to Baton Rouge, La., on Huizenga's private jet...

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MIAMI — Christmas Eve came and went, and the Dolphins were still waiting for St. Nick.


Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga and team president Eddie Jones flew to Baton Rouge, La., on Huizenga’s private jet yesterday morning with the hopes of signing Louisiana State coach Nick Saban to a multiyear contract, reportedly worth approximately $5 million a season.


Instead, Saban told Huizenga that he needed more time to decide whether he would become the Dolphins’ next coach.


“In the next 24 to 48 hours, we’ll make a decision regarding the head-coaching position of the Miami Dolphins,” Saban said in a statement issued by LSU. “We certainly appreciate everyone’s support, patience and understanding during this very difficult process.”


Saban, who will travel with the Tigers today to Orlando, Fla., where LSU will prepare for the Capital One Bowl against Iowa on Jan. 1, was first tendered the Miami job Wednesday.


Apparently, yesterday’s 90-minute meeting with Huizenga at Saban’s house, and then another two hours with LSU athletic director Skip Bertman in his office, wasn’t enough time to convince Saban to leave the best-paying coaching job in college football.


Bertman, who has repeatedly dismissed reports that LSU made Saban a counteroffer, didn’t return phone calls. Saban is in the first year of an $18.45 million, seven-year deal.


“This is a gut-wrenching decision for Nick and he needs, and deserves, the time necessary to make the right decision for him and his family,” Bertman said in a statement.


Saban, 53, who wants complete control of all football operations, will not be able to hire one of the NFL’s top talent evaluators. The Eagles signed Tom Heckert, their vice president of player personnel, to a contract extension through 2009.


Heckert, who worked in the Dolphins’ front office for 10 seasons, had been rumored to be a candidate to handle personnel decisions with Saban.


Saban’s uncertainty seems to be hinging on his family responsibilities to wife Terry and their two teenage children, Nicholas and Kristen.