In 2014, Nick Saban had meetings about potentially leaving Alabama to work for ESPN.
That’s according to the new book, The Leadership Secrets of Nick Saban, by John Talty, senior sports editor at Al.com.
Those who have heard Saban slam the media for spreading “rat poison” may be surprised to learn that the legendary college football coach, 70, once considered joining the world leader.
Ahead of the 2013 season, Saban met with Nick Khan, who was then a sports media talent at CAA and represented Kirk Herbstreit, Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, Mike Greenberg and numerous others, Talty reports.
Towards the end of the season, however, Alabama’s national championship aspirations ended in a devastating loss to rivals in Auburn State. The game, often referred to as the “Kick Six,” saw Auburn’s Chris Davis intercept a short field goal attempt by Alabama kicker Adam Griffith, which he ran back for a touchdown to lead the Tigers 34-28 to the to bring peak.
When the season ended, Saban reportedly “empowered Khan to reach out to ESPN with the message that Saban was considering the next chapter in his career and whether the media should be a part of it.”
Khan, now co-CEO of WWE, then apparently arranged a meeting in Pasadena, California, with Saban, his coaching agent Jimmy Sexton (also of CAA), and Syracuse athletics director John Wildhack, who was then an executive at ESPN.
Saban reportedly “explored” the opportunity to attend ESPN’s “College GameDay” and “asked” Wildhack about a series of questions about life at ESPN, the organizational structure, and whether it was like “working on a team” – a quality that was of great importance to Saban.
Saban, of course, chose to stay in Alabama, but his interest was apparently very real at the time.
“Not because we didn’t have a good chat and not because he wasn’t fascinated by television, because he was fascinated and interested,” Wildhack said in the book. “If he wasn’t interested, he never would have done it. But I didn’t think he was ready to step down as coach either.”
Khan reportedly told Wildhack, “The coach really appreciates the meetup, found it very informative and has great respect for GameDay and ESPN, but at this point in his career he still has a desire to become a coach.”
It’s likely Herbstreit got wind of the talks, given curious comments he made about Saban’s future in 2014. When the topic of Saban’s return to the NFL came up, the ESPN analyst said, “Nick Saban will be with us on set before he becomes a coach in the NFL. I really think that after he’s done in Alabama, whenever that time comes, whether it’s a year, five years or whatever it is, I really think there’s an itch to be an analyst.”
The college football landscape over the past decade would have been amazingly different if Saban had shifted gears professionally. Between Alabama’s three national titles in recent years (2015, 2017, and 2020), not to mention the countless star players who have been part of the Crimson Tide program, who knows if the athletes would have gone elsewhere if Saban wasn’t there would have been helmet. Additionally, Saban’s departure likely would have created an epic coaching carousel that could have created a new world order in esports.
“Nick Saban’s Leadership Secrets” will be released on August 9th.