The sudden retirement of Alabama head coach Nick Saban rocked the college football world. Saban and the Crimson Tide were contenders for national titles every season. This year, the team once again reached the College Football Playoff, losing in overtime to the eventual champions, the Michigan Wolverines. Even at 72 years old, it seemed like Saban had more football in him.
Instead, he decided to call it quits. Alabama didn’t mourn its loss for long, though. It quickly found a replacement in Kalen DeBoer, who just led the Washington Huskies to a Pac-12 title and the national championship game. The Huskies also lost to Michigan, but it was clear that DeBoer was a quality coach, and Alabama wasted no time in signing him.
While DeBoer is going to perhaps the most prestigious job in college football, it’s going to cost him. In November, he signed a two-year contract extension that pushed his deal with Washington through 2028. Because he’s leaving for another school, DeBoer owes Washington a $12 million buyout.
This is quite an unusual reversal. Typically, it’s the universities paying coaches to go away. DeBoer’s contract details with Alabama haven’t been released yet, though ESPN senior college football writer Pete Thamel reported that Washington offered to double DeBoer’s base salary, which was at $4.2 million and increased by $100,000 each year. It’s likely his Alabama deal is around the same range, at least $8 million.
Washington hired DeBoer after an abysmal 4-8 season in 2021. After convincing quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to transfer from Indiana to Washington, DeBoer and the Huskies went 11-2 in 2022. This season, they finished 14-1, their lone loss coming in the national title game.
DeBoer has some enormous shoes to fill. Saban spent 17 years as head coach of Alabama, and the Crimson Tide went 201-29 during his tenure. The school won nine SEC titles and six national championships. From his first full season in 2008 until 2023, Alabama only finished outside of the top ten one time — in 2010, when they were 10th in the AP Poll and 11th in the Coaches Poll. The Crimson Tide finished 10-3 that year, which was also the last time the school lost more than two games in a season.
Expectations will be equally as high for DeBoer. He’s had an impressive coaching career to this point, amassing a 104-12 record at Washington, Fresno State, and NAIA’s Sioux Falls.
The SEC is a different beast, of course. If DeBoer can conquer it, he’ll write his own legend in Tuscaloosa.