Nick Saban talks to Paul Finebaum Jul 15, 2015; Birmingham, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban (right) talks to Paul Finebaum (left) on ESPN during SEC media day at the Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The Paul Finebaum Show is appointment listening whenever news breaks in the SEC. And when reports surfaced last week that Nick Saban would be retiring as the Alabama Crimson Tide’s head coach, Finebaum’s famed callers went through every stage of grief.

Finebaum had been anticipating the moment. Following the SEC Championship game, he received a phone call from one of Saban’s staff members who expressed how exhausted the legendary head coach was. In the days that followed Alabama’s semifinal loss to Michigan, Finebaum described the defeat as Saban’s “swan song.” However, he faced strong opposition from both Marcus Spears and Stephen A. Smith.

And despite that pushback, Finebaum’s instincts were correct. He knows Saban well, and perhaps nobody in sports media is better suited to talk about his prospects of joining ESPN. During a recent appearance on the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch podcast, Finebaum said, “I think we all know he’s probably going into TV,” before making it known that it was a “fait accompli.”

“Absolutely,” said Finebaum in response to Deitsch’s question about the possibility of Saban being his colleague at some point. “And I’ll tell you a story that’s been reported, primarily because I told a friend of mine that wrote a book, and you’ll recognize the story. 10 years ago in May of 2013…I had just agreed to the deal with ESPN, but it had not come out yet, and I get a call from Nick Khan. He goes, ‘I’m coming to Alabama next week. If you have time, I’d like you to pick me up from the airport and drive me to Tuscaloosa.’

“I drive him down — and he tells me what’s going on — I drop him off at the University (of Alabama) Athletic Department where he’s met by Jimmy Sexton, who is his equal. And they have dinner that night with Saban, and they offered him whatever they offered him; I was not privy to that.”

Six months passed, and Finebaum was at the Rose Bowl, covering his first National Championship game. He had gone out for lunch with Khan, then a well-to-do CAA agent, and Finebaum described the occasion as a scene reminiscent of The Godfather. They had approximately 30-40 minutes before more company arrived in the form of John Wildhack, John Skipper, and Nick Saban. When Saban arrived, Khan gave Finebaum a look that indicated it was time for him to leave.

“Saban was considering at that moment, 10 years ago, Richard,” Finebaum told Deitsch. “He was fed up with football, and he was considering (a move to TV). That was the genesis of the dance that had been going on in the years that Saban didn’t play for the National Championship.”

We already know that the Alabama coach infamously had preliminary discussions in 2014 about retiring and joining GameDay, though nothing came to fruition. In the years since, the seven-time national champion coach has joined the GameDay crew several times for national title broadcasts, including last year when he got a first-hand taste of the Pat McAfee experience.

Saban has also become a fixture on The Pat McAfee Showappearing weekly during the college football season.

After announcing his retirement last weekGameDay’s Rece Davis stopped by McAfee’s show to discuss what’s next for Saban and made it clear that he wanted to remain a fixture in the college football world, with broadcasting as the most logical next step.

While it’s the most logical next step, GameDay is a traveling circuit requiring Saban to travel across the country for the entirety of the college football season. It’s a fair question to see if it would interest Saban, who retired partly because he was tired of the grind of coaching.

“He’s always been fascinated by being part of things,” said Finebaum. “In the million times I’ve asked him about retirement, he’s always said, ‘I’ve been a part of a team my whole life,’ so that fills some of that need. And I’ll leave it to the critics to decide whether being on the GameDay set is part of a team or not. But the thing that I wonder about, as you know, Richard, you’ve been around television, there’s a great deal of excitement, but there’s mostly boredom waiting to go on.

“I wonder how he would handle that. I know from talking to Rece and others Saban was out there last year for two days for the national title game because he was staying in the room next to me; I was watching him come and go. I think he would like it to a degree, but I don’t know if he wants to sit around and have somebody say, ‘Hey coach, do you mind? We need somebody on the 8 o’clock SportsCenter.’ That does not seem like him.

“I think he would probably — not to be a programmer — enjoy doing games more where, ‘OK, I got Alabama-Georgia this week. I get to look at film all week and dig down. On Friday, I’ll talk to the coaches.’ As opposed to GameDay, which is totally unorthodox at times.”

Finebaum stated that he is not privy to any exclusive information but is simply offering an opinion based on his familiarity with both Saban and ESPN.

“He’s going to be great; he’s analytical,” Finebaum said. “I’ve seen him be very funny. He’s just not a patient person…Is he gonna want to hear anyone else’s opinion?”

[Sports Media with Richard Deitsch]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.