Nick Saban finally turned pro yesterday, accepting an offer to coach the Miami Dolphins.
The LSU coach, courted repeatedly by the NFL in recent years, mulled over the deal for three days before announcing his decision shortly after the Tigers arrived in Orlando, Fla. for their Jan. 1 bowl game against Iowa.
"It's a tremendous challenge for me," Saban said, "and a great opportunity for me and my family."
Saban will coach LSU in the game before taking over a long-proud Dolphins franchise enduring its worst season since the 1960s.
He becomes the sixth coach in team history, and the fourth since Wayne Huizenga took over as owner in 1994.
Touted as NFL material even when he was at Michigan State in the late 1990s, Saban has turned down previous overtures from at least five pro teams, including Atlanta and Chicago a year ago. He has been considered the favorite to become the Dolphins' coach since Dave Wannstedt resigned last month after they started 1-8.
Saban first interviewed for the job last week at his home in Baton Rouge, La., hosting team owner Wayne Huizenga and president Eddie Jones for dinner. He met with them again Friday.
Even though the Dolphins are 3-11, the job has appeal because of a winning tradition and Huizenga's apparent willingness to give Saban full authority over the football operation. That could mean the demotion or departure of general manager Rick Spielman
Saban, 53, is 9-2 this season and 48-15 in five years at LSU, taking his team to a bowl game every season. "It's the most self-gratifying experience I've had as a coach," Saban said. "But I've always been driven by challenges -- the next challenge that makes driven people want to take advantage of the next opportunity."
Kansas City (AL): Signed P Jose Lima.
Tulsa: Basketball coach John Phillips resigned; named assistant coach Alvin Williamson interim coach.
Miami (AFC): Named Nick Saban coach.
New York (NFC): Placed DT Norman Hand on injured reserve; signed OL Morgan Pears off practice squad.