Alabama wasted little time in finding Nick Saban’s successor, hiring Kalen DeBoer away from national runner-up Washington.
DeBoer signed a deal with Alabama on Friday to replace Saban, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither school had announced DeBoer’s decision. The agreement was first reported by ESPN.
The 49-year-old DeBoer is a former NAIA coach who led Washington to the national championship game in his second season. Now, he takes over a program where Saban made that kind of success an annual expectation.
While not confirming that DeBoer had been hired, Alabama athletic director posted on X: “The plane has left Seattle.”
Saban announced his retirement Wednesday after leading the Crimson Tide to six national championships in 17 seasons. The 72-year-old coach leaves massive shoes to fill and outsized expectations at the program Paul “Bear” Bryant helped build and Saban took to even greater heights.
Saban also won a national title at LSU and his seven championships are a major college record. The Crimson Tide have been in national title contention just about every season since winning their first in 17 years back in 2009, Saban’s third season.
The task of maintaining that standard falls to a coach with just two years of experience leading a Power Five program.
The fast-rising DeBoer led the Huskies to a 14-1 record this season. Washington won the Pac-12 championship, beat Texas in the College Football Playoff semifinals and lost to No. 1 Michigan 34-13 in the national title game. DeBoer was named The Associated Press coach of the year.
DeBoer led the Huskies to a 25-3 record in two seasons after taking over a program that was 4-8 in 2021. He also has won national titles, albeit a few levels down in college football.
DeBoer led his alma mater, Sioux Falls, to a 67-3 record from 2005-09 and won three NAIA championships at the small, Baptist-affiliated school in South Dakota’s largest city. He later had immediate success at Fresno State, going 12-6 from 2020-21, with nine wins in his second season.
That’s a career mark of 104-12 at all levels, or 89.7%.
Alabama’s short-term expectations won’t change with a team led by quarterback Jalen Milroe and a roster fortified by a string of highly rated recruiting classes.
DeBoer coached Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix Jr. last season and brings an offensive track record to replace Saban, a former NFL defensive coordinator. He was Fresno State’s offensive coordinator in the 2017 and 2018 seasons and held the same job at Indiana for a year before replacing Bulldogs coach Jeff Tedford.
DeBoer was an All-America receiver at Sioux Falls who helped the Cougars win their first national championship in 1996. He then stayed on as receivers coach, returning in 2000 as offensive coordinator after a stint as a high school coach in Sioux Falls.
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo and AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.