Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What price an excited community?

$4 million a year, $32 million over 8 years.

The contract amount for Alabama's new football coach Nick Saban isn't just gaudy, it's unprecendented. Saban's $4 million a year easily makes him the highest-paid college football coach ever. And many people say it will be impossible for Alabama to recoup that massive expenditure, including many of the Crimson Tide's own fans.

But President Robert Witt saw the hefty price tag to land Saban as an investment in the football program, and the school as a whole.

"It's an investment, not an expense," Witt explains. "And it has a public relations payback that is even more important."

What it has also done is light a fire under an already rabid fanbase. Each year Alabama opens its final spring football practice, dubbed 'A-Day' to the public. The practice is held at Bryant-Denny Stadium and is designed to be as close to an actual game environment as possible, down to splitting the squad into two teams, and having the team's regular radio announcers call the game on the radio. The event is free to the public, and the largest crowd the practice has ever attracted is thought to have been around 35,000.

Expectations are for 70,000 this year. Again, to watch a football practice.

"The hiring of Nick Saban has created a buzz across this state and the Southeast like nothing I've ever seen," Witt said.

And it's a classic case of appealing to and energizing your evangelists. The excitement among the Alabama fanbase over Saban's hiring has been infectious, converting casual fans into rabid supporters. Another reason why Witt wanted Saban was because he knew that added excitement statewide would result in a spike in student-interest in enrolling at the University of Alabama.

"A strong sports program is an invaluable asset in getting us on the radar screen of gifted students," Witt adds.

Still, many college football fans say that it will be all but impossible for the school to recoup this $32 million investment. Saban's $4 million salary makes him the highest-paid college football coach, moving him ahead of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, who makes a shade under $3.5 million a year. Oklahoma's athletics program generated $26.1 million the year before he arrived in Norman, and $64.6 million in 2005.

Ah the power of exciting your community.

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Anonymous said...

You're right. Alabama fans, at least the ones in my office, are super excited about getting Saban.

You're also right when you say there is power in exciting your community. Take Apple as an example. They excite their loyal fan base on an almost constant basis. As a result of that - and the fact that they don't let them down with garbage products - Apple's stock price has increased over %2,000 since the 90's.

Acquiring Saban is a great investment... if he brings home the national championship!

Anonymous said...


If Saban beats Auburn and wins and SEC Championship, the Alabama community will feel the money is well spent. If he doesn't, he won't last long.