It seems impossible now, but Texas had a legit chance to hire Nick Saban away from Alabama and blew it according to a former regent.
Once upon a time, after winning his third national title at Alabama in 2012, Nick Saban was apparently looking to move. The University of Texas, as Mack Brown’s tenure was reaching a bitter end, was apparently atop his radar among potential landing spots.
During a recent appearance on the podcast Your Turn With Corby Davidson, former Texas regent Tom Hicks said Saban was interested in bringing the Longhorns’ football program back to prominence. Hicks and another regent even had a conversation with Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton. After the Crimson Tide head beat the Longhorns in the BCS national title game to end the 2009 season, Texas regents as a whole became well aware of Saban’s prominence.
Here’s Hicks’ recollection of that conversation, which occurred over six years ago now.
"Another regent and I had the conversation with Saban’s agent and he said, ‘If Saban was a business guy, he’d be what you would call a turnaround artist. He’s not a longterm CEO. Fix it, win and go on. He knows he will never catch Bear Bryant’s legacy in Alabama, but he’d like to create his legacy that he’s won national championships at more schools than anybody else."
Hicks added that he approached Brown after Alabama had won that third title in four years, with a proposed transition plan involving Saban. That…did not go over well.
"We had lunch and I thought at the time he was ready to leave,” “He’d been telling people he was ready to leave. So I said, ‘Mack, I want to tell you about a conversation I had with Jimmy Sexton. If you want to retire, I think you can graciously have Nick Saban come in and take your place and have it be your idea.Mack Brown turned bright red. Steam started coming out of his ears, and he said, ‘That guy is not coming here to win a national championship with my players.’ I said, ‘Mack, I’m glad to see you have that passion. I didn’t think you had that passion left."
Brown was gone from Texas after the 2013 season. Charlie Strong was hired to replace him and went 16-21 over three seasons before being replaced by current coach Tom Herman. Herman has things moving in the right direction, coming off the Longhorns’ first double-digit win season since 2009. But Saban was won two more titles since then, with annual trips to the national title game in recent years, and Texas is left to wonder what might have been.