Earlier this week, news broke that Nick Saban inked an extension with the University of Alabama that would keep him coaching at the powerhouse through 2028. Saban will be 77 years-old by the end of that deal. The man would probably coach forever if he could, so it's no real surprise.
It was also reported that Saban's salary would stay the same for this upcoming season at $8.425 million but would increase annually over the life of the deal. This is, admittedly, a surprisingly low number for most successful college coach in the modern era and one of the greatest of all time. It prompted Paul Finebaum to take the soapbox on Get Up this morning and declare that Saban is the most underpaid and undervalued coach in the history of sports.
After some consideration, I get the "underpaid" aspect of this. Having Saban under contract for less than $8.5 million is a great bargain. He's one of the greatest coaches across sports history, hard stop. He'll make less money in 2021 than Cedi Osman, who averaged 10.4 points per game for the Cavaliers. I can even get on board with calling Saban the most underpaid coach of all time. In a vacuum, a coach with his resume could make an easy nine digits annually and not one person would bat an eye.
That is not the same thing as being undervalued. I think everyone on Earth knows that Saban's monetary value cannot be nailed down. It's simply whatever he wants. If Saban wanted $30 million a year from Alabama, they'd give it to him and thank him in the process. If he wanted to make $1 million in salary and donate it all, they'd happily agree to that too.
Finebaum's argument to back that up is that if Saban were on Wall Street he'd make 20 times his current salary. My best guess as to what that actually means is that if Saban were to be in an open market, his value would skyrocket. But even that doesn't really make sense because Saban is in an open market. Saban is not legally obligated to stay at Alabama forever. They don't own his rights. Nor is Alabama limited in what they can offer him, like how LeBron James is always worth more than his contract but can only make so much because of salary cap restrictions. If Saban left the Crimson Tide and tested the free-agent head coaching market, every school in the country that could meet his asking price would meet his asking price and then some.
Saban is underpaid relative to his accomplishments because that's what he wants. But he is not, in any way, shape, or form, undervalued. Even non-sports fans know he's invaluable to Alabama. The school knows better than everyone what Saban brings to the table as a coach and a brand. To imply otherwise is downright silly.