When Nick Saban announced his retirement in January, the Alabama football head coaching job that Saban had occupied and excelled in for nearly 20 years instantly became vacant.

The accolades and resources that Alabama can provide make the position one of the most attractive and exclusive possible in college football, and the rumors about who exactly would replace Saban were relentless.

Popular names thrown out included former Alabama graduate assistant and current Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, as well as Steve Sarkisian, the current Texas head coach, and Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, the latter two of whom served as Saban's offensive coordinators in Tuscaloosa. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who played at, graduated from, and began his coaching career at Alabama in the 1990s, has also been a common replacement candidate due to his connection to the university.

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne told ESPN's Chris Low, however, that his top two picks to replace Saban were Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer, who ended up taking the job, and Florida State's Mike Norvell.

“Byrne said there were conversations in his circle about a handful of candidates, but sources told ESPN that neither Swinney nor Kiffin was seriously in the mix,” Low wrote. “Texas' Steve Sarkisian, who, like Kiffin, is also represented by Sexton, was another prominent name mentioned in media reports, but Alabama's leadership knew Sarkisian wasn't going to leave Texas, especially with the Longhorns moving to the SEC next season, sources said.

“As expected, Sarkisian sent out a social media post at 11:50 p.m. ET that Thursday saying it was a great day to be a Longhorn with a “Horns up” image. A day later, ESPN reported that Sarkisian was nearing a deal for a contract extension with Texas.”

Nick Saban potential Alabama replacements' contract extensions

Photo: Nick Saban as TV analyst with mic in his hand

In addition to Sarkisian's extension, which runs through 2030, Lanning inked an extension in the summer of 2023, Swinney signed a 10-year, $115 million contract with Clemson back in September 2022, Kiffin had agreed to an extension with Ole Miss less than a month before Saban's retirement, and Norvell agreed to an eight-year, $80 million extension on the same day DeBoer was announced as Alabama's new head coach.

DeBoer reportedly declined two offers of extensions from Washington, the first in November and the second a day before DeBoer's hiring at Alabama. Both contracts would have doubled his annual salary, although that is almost certainly the case at Alabama now too.

In two seasons at Washington, DeBoer compiled a 25-3 record and led the Huskies to the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game, which they lost to Michigan. The Wolverines had defeated Saban and Alabama in the semifinal to advance to the national title game.