Saban: No matter what I say, nobody believes I want to stay

Alabama's Nick Saban says he's happy at Alabama. (AP photo by Jeff Roberson)

Alabama’s Nick Saban says he’s happy at Alabama. (AP photo by Jeff Roberson)

This is my story for today’s print editions:

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Alabama football coach Nick Saban says he isn’t headed to the NFL, despite speculation for weeks linking him to the Cleveland Browns job.

After the Crimson Tide completed its first practice for the BCS National Championship Game on Tuesday, Saban said he isn’t sure how to make the speculation go away.

“I’m not sure, regardless of what I say, that anybody believes what I say, because I say it all the time,” Saban said. “This is what we’re happy doing. This is what we like to do. But nobody really believes that.

“So, you know, maybe it doesn’t matter. I don’t know what I have to say or do, but it’s kind of funny to me.”

Saban is linked to Cleveland because he served four seasons there as defensive coordinator in 1991-94. Also, his agent is Jimmy Sexton of Memphis, who is the agent of the man man who is believed to be Cleveland’s next general manager, Mike Lombardi. The Browns’ current coach is Pat Shumur.

In a report Tuesday, ESPNCleveland.com claimed to have three sources saying there is “zero chance” Saban would join Lombardi in Cleveland.

Saban likely will be haunted forever by a comment he made Dec. 21, 2006, while coaching the Miami Dolphins when reports linked him to Alabama, which had fired Mike Shula: “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach. … I don’t control what people say. I don’t control what people put on dot-com or anything else. So I’m just telling you there’s no significance, in my opinion, about this, about me, about any interest that I have in anything other than being the coach here.”

Saban has said privately he didn’t handle that situation well. But he insisted Tuesday evening he plans to stay at Alabama, which is aiming for its third national title under Saban. The Crimson Tide can clinch the crown by beating Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.

“We’re really, really pleased and happy to be here,” Saban said. “We’ve been able to accomplish a lot.

“But like I’ve talked about before this is a work in progress all the time. You’ve got to stay focused on the process to try to continue to make the next game the most important game, the next season the most important season, developing the team every year. We certainly look forward to those challenges.”

Alabama senior defensive end Damion Square, one of the Tide’s three team captains, said Saban hasn’t addressed any coaching reports with the players.

“We don’t talk about that,” Square said. “It has nothing to do with this team.”

Saban finished his thought on the NFL speculation by joking about who makes his career decisions: his wife.

“Y’all asked the wrong person,” he said, smiling. “Miss Terry makes all the decisions about all this stuff anyway.”

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