College Football awash from Saban's tsunami effect

By Frank Cooney,


The retirement of coaching icon Nick Saban created a tsunami effect that continues to keep college football awash in repercussions.


Former opposing coaches who paid a price for his dominance are now reaping rewards of the domino effect caused by his departure.


His Alabama team, however, is having mixed results. The Tide hired former Washington coach Kalen DeBoer but had to cover his buyout to the tune of $12 million in addition to his salary of more than $11 million a year. Other coaches are also benefitting financially. Back to that later.


At Alabama Saban’s departure is causing some player departures. As of Friday (Jan. 19), 10 players decided to go elsewhere (see list at bottom).


Quarterback Julian Sayin, a five-star quarterback from Carlsbad and Hall of Football’s top-rated quarterback in the 2024 class, opted to enter the transfer portal. He became the subject of intense national focus last season. A handful of elite programs kept recruiting Sayin after he committed to Alabama on Nov. 2, 2022, including Ohio State, where he is expected to land this time. (Update, Jan. 21; Sayin selects Ohio State).


"It's such an elite program. Ohio State always has a great quarterback," Sayin said last January. "I always try to respond to the coaches I built relationships with out of respect for them. They're all good dudes, and you never know where college football can go; it changes so much."


Sayin also kept in touch with Miami after his pledge to Alabama. More on Sayin later. Let's look at the impact of Saban's departure on other coaches and schools.


After DeBoer’s exit, Washington pounced on Arizona coach Jedd Fisch, spending $5.5 million to buy him out and committing $54 million in salary over the next seven years. The Wildcats then hired San Jose State coach Brent Brennan, who has a buyout fee of $1 million, to replace Fisch.


The financial impact of Saban stepping down extends beyond Alabama and Washington. Florida State coach Mike Norvell and Texas coach Steve Sarkisian—potential options to replace Saban—leveraged their situations with contract extensions. Their raises reportedly pushed them each past $10 million in annual salary. Norvell had been making $7.3 million a year; Sarkisian brought in $6 million.


Here's a snapshot of the Saban tsunami effect:


—Alabama > Washington: $12M DeBoer buyout

—Alabama > DeBoer: $11M+/year

—Washington > Arizona: $5.5M Fisch buyout

—Washington > Fisch: 7 years, $54M

—Arizona > San Jose State: $1M Brennan buyout

—FSU/Texas > Norvell/Sarkisian: $3-4M raise


And that's not counting pay increases that inevitably trickled down to coordinators and other assistant coaches in such a competitive invironment.

Meanwhile, we won't know the true measure of importance in Sayin's decision to enter the transfer portal. Sources say that top quarterbacks are fetching up to $2 million a year in NIL money, which certainly was part of Sayin's curiousity as he entered the portal.


Of course, he says it is about the football and the coach and not about the money. And we know the truth about whenever somebody says it is not about the money, that is exaclty what it IS about. Right?


Sayin was sayin’ great things about Ohio State.


"I have a relationship with coach (Mario) Cristobal and coach (Frank) Ponce," Sayin said. "Coach Cristobal used to be on the 'Bama staff with coach Saban back in the day. He's a great guy and a really good recruiter."


Sayin's rise up the recruiting rankings reflected a stellar senior season and strong camp performances. He led Carlsbad to a 9-1 record in 2023, completing 74.5 percent of his passes for 2,347 yards and 24 touchdowns with one interception. He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in California and later participated in the Elite 11 finals and earned MVP honors.


"Sayin quickly silenced critics as he proved to be the most consistent passer all three days (of the Elite 11)," 247Sports director of scouting Andrew Ivins wrote. "Sayin then shined just hours later at the Overtime OT7 Championship. There was a time when we viewed Sayin as more of a high-floor prospect with maybe not a ton of developmental upside, but that is no longer the case. He's got clean mechanics and showed in a competitive setting that he can make a variety of different high-level throws while some of his peers struggled."


Sayin has the natural abilities and polish to play early and produce at whichever school he chooses, according to 24/7 national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins.


"He's a pure thrower and might be the most ready to step in and play early of all the signal callers in the '24 class," Biggins wrote. "His football IQ is very high, and he has an advanced feel for the position. He has excellent pocket mobility and short-area quickness. He's very accurate to all three levels of the field, has a tight release and throws exceptionally well off-platform and with different arm angles. He has all the tools to be very good early on in college."


Here is a chronological list of Alabama players who entered the transfer portal since Saban's announcement on Jan. 10:


Isaiah Bond, Sophomore, Wide receiver

Entered portal: Jan. 12

New school: Committed to Texas on Jan. 14

Bond, who has since transferred to Texas, was probably the biggest reason Alabama made the College Football Playoff in 2023. His 31-yard TD catch on a 4th-and-goal against Auburn propelled the Crimson Tide to a 27-24 win in the Iron Bowl. He led the team with 48 receptions to go with 668 yards and four scores.


Shawn Murphy, Redshirt freshman, Linebacker

Entered portal: Jan. 13

New school: Committed to Florida State on Jan. 15

Murphy played 13 games for Alabama last season and recorded three tackles (two solo). He was 37th overall in the 2022 ESPN 300 and that cycle's top inside linebacker.


Desmond Ricks, Redshirt freshman, Cornerback

Entered portal: Jan. 13

New school: Committed to Texas A&M on Jan. 16

Ricks, who was 19th in the 2023 ESPN 300 (No. 2 CB), redshirted during the 2023 season. The IMG Academy product reclassified into the 2023 cycle on Oct. 22, 2022, and signed with Alabama during the early signing period.


Antonio Kite, Redshirt freshman, Defensive back

Entered portal: Jan. 13

New school: Committed to Auburn on Jan. 17

Kite was 119th overall in the 2022 ESPN 300 when he came out of Anniston High School (Alabama). He played in seven games in 2023, seeing time mostly on special teams.


Trey Amos, Senior, Defensive back

Entered portal: Jan. 15.

Amos attended Louisiana Lafayette for three years before transferring to Alabama ahead of the 2023 season. He played in all 14 games last season, starting in a 24-21 win over Arkansas. He had 12 tackles (six solo).


Amari Niblack, Sophomore, Tight end

Entered portal: Jan. 14

New school: Committed to Texas on Jan. 18

Niblack was No. 298 overall in the 2022 ESPN 300 when he joined the Alabama program out of Lakewood High School (Florida). He appeared in all 14 games (four starts) in 2023 and caught 20 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns.


Caleb Downs, Sophomore, Safety

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Entered portal: Jan. 17

Downs' 107 tackles not only led the Alabama defense but finished fourth in the SEC. He earned a starting job at strong safety out of fall camp and arguably was the Tide's best player on defense, helping the unit finish third in total defense in the SEC (313.3 YPG).


Kadyn Proctor, Sophomore, Offensive tackle

Entered portal: Jan. 17

Proctor, who was 10th overall in the 2023 ESPN 300, surprised some by initially committing to in-state Iowa before flipping to Alabama before the early signing period in the 2023 recruiting cycle.


Jameer Grimsley, Freshman, Cornerback

Entered portal: Jan. 18

Grimsley, who was 267th overall in the 2024 ESPN 300, was one of 17 ESPN 300 players to sign with Alabama in this latest recruiting cycle. He attended Tampa Catholic High School (Florida).


Julian Sayin, Freshman, Quarterback

Entered portal: Jan. 19

Julian Sayin, No. 3 overall in the 2024 ESPN 300, was one of two five-star prospects to sign with the Crimson Tide last month, along with cornerback Jaylen Mbakwe. Sayin threw for 2,369 yards, 24 touchdowns and just one interception as a senior for Carlsbad High School (California) in 2023. Sayin had already started classes at Alabama, which is why he had to use the portal.

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