Louisiana State coach Nick Saban finally turned pro yesterday, prompting a celebration at the home of Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga. "My wife and I high-fived each other,"...
ORLANDO, Fla. — Louisiana State coach Nick Saban finally turned pro yesterday, prompting a celebration at the home of Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga.
“My wife and I high-fived each other,” Huizenga said.
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The billionaire businessman watched from Fort Lauderdale as Saban held a televised news conference in Orlando to announce he would accept an offer to coach the NFL Dolphins. Although no contract has been signed, Saban agreed to a five-year deal reportedly worth $4.5 million to $5 million per year.
“It’s a tremendous challenge for me,” he said, “and a great opportunity for me and my family.”
Saban, courted repeatedly by NFL teams in recent years, considered the offer for three days before disclosing his decision shortly after the Tigers arrived in Orlando to continue preparing for the Capital One Bowl. LSU plays Iowa on Saturday.
Saban, 53, will coach the Tigers in the bowl game.
He said he agreed in principle to a deal with the Dolphins on Friday after a meeting with Huizenga and team president Eddie Jones. But Huizenga said he was unsure they had an agreement until the news conference.
“If somebody held a gun to my head 10 minutes ago, I couldn’t tell you,” Huizenga said moments after Saban’s announcement. “I had a good feeling, but I really did not know.”
A long-proud Miami franchise is enduring its worst season since the 1960s. Saban becomes the sixth coach in team history.
Touted as NFL material even when he was at Michigan State in the late 1990s, Saban has turned down previous overtures from at least five pro teams, including Atlanta and Chicago a year ago. He has been considered the favorite to become the Dolphins’ coach since Dave Wannstedt resigned last month when they were 1-8.
Upon arriving in Orlando, Saban met with LSU players to inform them he was leaving. Accompanied by four uniformed Louisiana police officers, he then walked through a nearly deserted hotel lobby to a huge ballroom, where he spoke to about a dozen reporters and cameramen.
Saban said the Dolphins’ job carried special appeal even though the team is 3-11.
“I have a lot of respect and gratitude for everybody who has been interested in me through the years,” he said. “I just felt like this opportunity, with this organization, was one of the best that’s ever been presented to me in terms of how you can control your destiny in the organization, the commitment the organization has to winning and the tradition that they have in winning.”
Huizenga’s willingness to give Saban full authority over the football operation could mean the demotion or departure of general manager Rick Spielman.
Saban is 9-2 this season and 48-15 in five years at LSU, taking his team to a bowl game each season. He led the Tigers to last season’s Bowl Championship Series national championship.
The highest-paid coach in college football, Saban is in the first year of an $18.45 million, seven-year contract with LSU. His deal has no buyout clause penalizing him for taking another job.
“You look around and say, ‘OK, who’s out there that’s better than that?’ ” Huizenga said of Saban. “I couldn’t find anybody.”