Beating Notre Dame for Title Adds $400,000 to Saban’s Payday

University of Alabama coach Nick Saban will collect a $400,000 bonus on top of his $5.9 million salary with a Crimson Tide victory over Notre Dame in the Bowl Championship Series title game tonight.

Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly made $2.38 million in 2010-11, the most recent figures available from the Catholic school, which isn’t required by law to make coaches contracts available to the public.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whose undefeated team might have been facing Notre Dame for the title if it weren’t banned from the postseason by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, risks losing a $250,000 bonus because his team wasn’t eligible for the championship game.

“These bonuses are nice, but they play second fiddle to what winning the national championship does to building a coach’s legacy and how it affects his next contract negotiation,” Scott Minto, director of the Sports Business MBA program at San Diego State University said in an interview. “For Nick Saban, who’s making almost $6 million, the extra 8 percent would just be icing on the cake. But another national title could mean millions in salary down the road.”

Saban, 61, a four-time Coach of the Year, led Alabama to its second national championship in three seasons a year ago when the Crimson Tide routed Louisiana State University 21-0 in the Superdome in New Orleans. In tonight’s game, which starts at 8 p.m. New York time in Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Alabama is favored by 9 1/2 points.

Fourth Title?

Alabama is 12-1, its only loss coming against Texas A&M, 29-24 in November, and is ranked No. 2 behind Notre Dame in the latest BCS poll. Saban is seeking the fourth national title of his career. His previous victories were with LSU in 2003 and Alabama in 2010 and 2012.

Bloomberg acquired Saban’s contract by filing an open records request with the university in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The school wouldn’t make Saban available for an interview.

Kelly meanwhile, took over an unranked Irish program from Charlie Weis in 2010 and reached the postseason his first season. After back-to-back 8-5 seasons, the Irish this year went undefeated for the first time in 24 years. The South Bend, Indiana, school, winners of 11 national championships in its 125-year history, haven’t won the title since Lou Holtz was coach in 1988 -- before anyone on the current team was born.

Kelly’s contract figures were available on the school’s nonprofit tax return, which requires the school to list its executives and their compensation. The school didn’t make Kelly available.

Buckeyes’ Ban

While Saban has a potential championship and hundreds of thousands in bonuses at stake tonight, that might not have been the case if the NCAA hadn’t banned Ohio State from the postseason.

Meyer accepted the Buckeyes’ job in November 2011, about a month before the NCAA banned it from postseason play this season. He still led the team to its first undefeated season in 10 years. Even though Ohio State had the best record in the Big Ten and was the only major team other than Notre Dame to go undefeated, they were banned from the conference championship game and bowl games.

He still has a chance of collecting as much as $250,000 if Ohio State finished No. 1 or 2 in the Associated Press poll, which is a vote of 60 sportswriters. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 3.

“It’s highly unlikely they will wind up No. 1 regardless of what happens in the championship game, because there is a justified bias that they would have had two more opportunities to win or lose, and without them they shouldn’t be considered a national champion,” former college coach Gerry DiNardo, now a Big Ten Network analyst, said in an interview.

Tattoo Trade

Ohio State’s ban stemmed from violations under former coach Jim Tressel. Eight players took cash and tattoos in trade for jerseys and other memorabilia. Meyer took the job when the school was awaiting the NCAA to decide on sanctions. Ohio State did not make him available to be interviewed for this story.

Meyer’s six-year contract paid him $4.21 million in 2011-2012, excluding benefits. He earned a $50,000 bonus for winning the Big Ten conference Leaders division, but missed out on a $100,000 bonus and one-year contract extension for winning the Big Ten Championship, because the sanctions prevented Ohio State from playing in the title game.

He could still earn a bonus of $150,000 for finishing No. 3 through No. 10 in the final AP poll; or $250,000 for finishing No. 1 or 2.

In 2013, he will receive a $150,000 bonus for playing in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game or $250,000 for playing in the BCS national championship game.

Unconvinced DiNardo

Though the Buckeyes will likely be a preseason favorite to compete for the national title next season, DiNardo said he has to be convinced.

“When a new coach comes in, everyone buys into what he is selling and they pull together,” DiNardo said. “The second year, there are guys, particular juniors and seniors, who see they are not a fit for the offense or defense and aren’t part of the plan and they become dissatisfied. There will also be expectations and complacency that, ‘This was easy, we’ll be this good every year.’ Urban will have to manage all that. So he’ll have a different set of problems in year two.”

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