TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Like everyone else around college football, outgoing Alabama athletic director Bill Battle read some of the stories about Nick Saban’s rumored interest in becoming the head coach at Texas back in 2013.
Battle described that period of his four-year tenure as “probably the one that kept me up the most at night.” Battle shared the story Thursday during a meeting with reporters prior to the introduction of Greg Byrne as Alabama’s new athletic director.
“They were very intense,” Battle recalled. “He never told me he had any interest in going. But I was reading that he was offered $10 million and a percent of the Longhorn Network.”
The reports were rampant, but Battle decided to check directly with the person who knows Saban best: his wife Terry Saban.
“I called Terry, and she said ‘Well I don’t know about that. He’s out recruiting, and he’ll be home soon,'” Battle said. “I talked to him and he said, ‘Look, I’m recruiting and trying to get ready to Oklahoma.’ I said, ‘That’s what I want to hear, that’s what I said and that’s what I thought.’ But you never knew. I didn’t want to lose Nick Saban under my watch. So until it got done, it was tense.”
Alabama eventually lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl that postseason. The Crimson Tide finished the year 11-2 after dropping its final two games.
Alabama gave Saban a substantial pay raise, pushing his annual salary to $7 million. Despite the yearly rumors of him leaving for other jobs, Saban has remained firm in his commitment to Alabama and the Tuscaloosa community.
Saban has led Alabama to three straight College Football Playoff appearances (2014-16) and a national championship (2015) since the Texas talk ceased.
Outside of the Saban-to-Texas rumors, Battle said firing former basketball coach Anthony Grant was also one of the tougher moments of his stint as Alabama’s athletic director.
Battle said he “loved” Grant and wanted to keep him around, but the two sides ultimately decided that it was best if they parted ways. Grant currently is an assistant coach for Billy Donovan with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Battle hired former NBA Coach of the Year Avery Johnson, who is in his second season as the Crimson Tide’s basketball coach.
“Hiring Avery was a very difficult challenge because everybody knew what I was doing before I did it, and that makes it difficult,” Battle said. “Those were probably two of the most challenging things. You always wake up in the morning with 500-and-something student athletes and 300 employees and hope nobody has done something bad the night before.
“There were some days when some had. Those aren’t very good moments, but that comes with the territory. (Saban’s contract and firing Anthony Grant) were probably the two things I lost the most sleep over for the most period of time.”