Nick Saban left bowl-bound Michigan State on Wednesday for LSU, a job that will nearly double his salary and make him one of the country's top-paid coaches.
He signed a five-year contract for about $1.2 million annually, joining a select group of millionaire coaches that includes Bobby Bowden of Florida State, Steve Spurrier of Florida and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee.
Saban succeeds Gerry DiNardo at a football-mad school that just completed a 3-8 season for its second straight losing year. DiNardo was fired with a game left.
"I liked the challenge of this football program," Saban said. "I think there is great tradition. I think the Southeastern Conference is a very competitive, outstanding football conference. There's a challenge to being part of that conference that kind of intrigued me."
Saban, a former NFL assistant, guided No. 10 Michigan State to second place in the Big Ten. The Spartans are headed to the Florida Citrus Bowl, their first Jan. 1 game since the 1989 Gator Bowl.
Saban earned $697,330 a year at Michigan State. His contract at LSU calls for a base salary of $250,000, with the balance coming in radio, TV and Internet appearances, plus other pay.
"Security is always something that's important to you and to your family," Saban said. "But it's not the reason I came here."
Michigan State spokesman Terry Denbow said there was "absolutely no bidding war" to keep Saban.
Michigan Gov. John Engler, a Michigan State alumnus, said he had hoped that Saban was going to become "part of the MSU family for a very, very long time."
Saban, with tears in his yes and his voice shaking, recalled speaking to his Michigan State players earlier in the day.
"I like college football because when I talked to my team today, the effect that you have on some of the players, their lives, means something," he said.
Saban said he had two previous offers to leave Michigan State from the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts. But he did not consider leaving untiLSU called.
The school is redesigning its stadium in which its capacity will be raised to 91,700, making it the fourth-largest on-campus stadium in the nation.
At LSU, Saban will run the state's top college football program. At Michigan, he was always in the shadow of Michigan.
"It was always UM this or that," he said. "If I'd gone to Ohio it would have been Ohio State; Indiana it's Purdue; Chicago it's every other school in the Big Ten. In the East it's Penn State. Wherever you go you're looking at someone else when you're recruiting, trying to catch up, trying to convince someone you're up there."
Saban was at Michigan State for 10 years, first as the defensive coordinator and for the past five years as head coach. He has a 43-26-1 record as a college coach and a 34-24-1 record at Michigan State
"Everywhere I turned his name kept coming up," athletic director Joe Dean said. "He's a high visibility guy from a good program who had a great season. I think what we saw there is what we'll see here but to the next level."
He inherits a squad beset by trouble off the field players arrested and suspended, and players who have quit the team.
"This is the players' team," Saban said. "I'm the coach and I want the players to take some responsibility and ownership for all the areas that are important in building the team. How they play is just one of those areas."
Saban plans to stay in Louisiana for at least a day or two. He hopes to meet his new players and the assistants from DiNardo's staff. He is not sure if he will bring any Michigan State assistants with him or retain any of the LSU staff.
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