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Saban: Right man, right place, right time

The University of Alabama coaching search finally came to a close Wednesday morning, after 38 days, and former Miami Dolphins and LSU coach Nick Saban was named as the school's 27th head coach.

Although in the days leading up to the announcement it appeared Saban's chance of arrival in Tuscaloosa was slim-to-none, University Athletics Director Mal Moore saved his tarnished legacy by signing the coach to the largest contract in collegiate athletics.

During the press conference to introduce the new coach, Saban said his heart had always been in the college game and, although he enjoyed the challenge of the professional game, he knew he had to return to his roots.

In Wednesday's column, I wrote how the gap between Auburn and Alabama was growing larger each day, but if the Tide signed Saban, that gap would immediately begin to shrink.

That gap just started shrinking.

Tuesday and Wednesday's media frenzy over Saban's signing was nothing short of The Beatles arriving in the United States and the non-stop media coverage gave the Tide the best public relations since the 1992 season.

Even former President Gerald Ford's death and funeral were overshadowed by the Saban hiring.

Now that's publicity.

After several years of scandals involving secretaries, strippers and flat-out losing, the Tide can finally hold their chins up and see promise in the future.

Saban's arrival brings immediate credibility back to the head coaching position at the Capstone and legitimate hope for a 2007 SEC Championship.

During his coaching career, Saban is 91-42-1 in the college ranks, including a BCS National Championship in 2003 at LSU.

Although Saban was just 15-17 at the Dolphins, he has produced at least one nine-win season at each of his college stops, including LSU, Michigan State and Toledo.

During his press conference, Saban spoke about his success at LSU and how he was able to achieve it.

What Saban didn't discuss, nor was he asked about, was the importance of beating Auburn and ending the five-game losing streak.

At Alabama, every coach since a little-known man named Paul &#8220Bear” Bryant was hired has won 10 games and that seems to be the standard.

However, Mike Shula won 10 games and was fired the next season.

The same goes for Mike Dubose.

What now seems to be the standard at ‘Bama for keeping your job is beating Auburn.

Had Shula beaten Auburn, he probably would still be the coach at Alabama.

At LSU, Saban never had to deal with the seriousness of an in-state rivalry like the Auburn-Alabama game.

At LSU, you practically recruit against yourself and the only rivals you have to deal with-Arkansas, Alabama and Auburn- are rivals for only one week a year.

Not 365 days a year like in this state.

A win over Auburn in his first season would solidify Saban's commitment to the Tide and the Tide's commitment to him.

But a loss would leave ‘Bama fans wondering what it is going to take to end Tommy Tuberville's dominance in the series.

Saban is just 2-3 against the Riverboat Gambler but a win in '07 would do wonders in closing the in-state gap.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor. He can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 382-7104 or by e-mail at austin.phillips@greenvilleadvcate.com