TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban and the football team are moving on.
Saban has put to rest the speculation that he would replace Mack Brown at Texas by striking a new deal with Alabama.
For the third-ranked Crimson Tide, the focus is on getting over the loss to Auburn and trying to finish the season strong in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl against No. 11 Oklahoma.
Saban had said Friday night after agreeing to a new contract reportedly worth about $7 million a year that he planned to retire at Alabama.
He said “there were no talks” between his representatives and Texas and pointed to comments on ESPN that he “never considered going to Texas.”
“I think I’ve already made a reaction to that,” Saban said. “Don’t you watch ESPN? Didn’t you see what they put down across the bottom line. That’s my reaction to it.
“I don’t have any more reactions to it. I think it’s kind of over so why do we want to talk about that? We look forward. I’m looking forward. I made a commitment to our players that are here and I’m happy to be committed to them and I want them to make the same kind of commitment to the program and to their future success.”
Brown announced his resignation at Texas on Saturday.
Several Texas regents and a former regent were involved in a meeting with Saban’s agent last January to gauge the coach’s interest in coming to Texas. Saban found the best way to quash that talk: Re-upping with the Tide.
Receiver Kevin Norwood never doubted it.
“I went home for the break or whatever, and everybody was basically talking about it,” Norwood said. “And I was like, ‘Coach Saban is not going anywhere.’ And whatever social media was saying, whatever was happening after that, I pretty much ignored it.”
Alabama (11-1) returned to the practice field on Tuesday for the first time since the Iron Bowl.
The game was tied until Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown on the final play to effectively end Alabama’s bid for a third straight national championship.
Now, the team is gearing up for a bowl trip that would be a prize for most teams, but could be viewed as a disappointment for the Tide.
“We’re fired up playing Oklahoma,” defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan said. “It’s not for a national championship or anything, but we’re going to go into it like it is.
“We’re going to try to finish this season as strong as possible.”
Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said Saban brought up the 2008 season when the Tide fell to Florida in the SEC championship game and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
“He was like we shouldn’t let this loss bring us down to the point where we just keep hang-dogging and keep our heads down going into the game and lose that game, too,” Kouandjio said.
On the field, Saban said guard Anthony Steen will miss the bowl game after having shoulder surgery.
Off the field, the coach had more to celebrate than even his new contract. His son, Nicholas, and daughter-in-law had a baby on Sunday.
The sometimes gruff Saban lit up talking about the experience that got him to the hospital in the wee hours.
“To have a healthy baby and a healthy mother and someone that beautiful come into your family is really something that you have to count your blessings on,” he said.
“They actually had a rocking chair over there so I was kind of happy rocking that baby a little bit. Since then, I haven’t been able to go back.
“I kind of miss the little bugger if you want to know the truth about it.”
TIDE BITS: Former Southern California and Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, a onetime rival, has been visiting with Tide coaches this week in Tuscaloosa. It’s a common practice for Alabama — even Oklahoma’s staff has come to town — and Saban said he’s not sure why that would cause any stir.
“Lane is a really good offensive coach, and I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Saban said. “Just to come in and brainstorm a little bit just some professional ideas with our guys, I think, is a real positive thing. And I don’t know why there’s any reaction to it. I’m really quite surprised.”
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