Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne believed there was only one perfect candidate to fill the Alabama football head coaching vacancy, but that candidate didn't interview for the job.
Byrne appeared on "The Paul Finebaum Show" on Wednesday and told the host that Nick Saban was the only perfect candidate for the head coaching job. However, last Wednesday, Saban retired, leaving Byrne with the impossible task of finding a replacement for the legendary coach.
Byrne had been preparing for this day as he knew Saban's retirement would become a reality at some point.
"We had been looking and being prepared for a long time," Byrne said. "The old saying that the AD has a list in his top desk drawer, which I never have had. But what I've had is something that's a fluid list that changes in time. We had vetted, probably, a couple dozen coaches over the years that we thought, OK, could they make sense? Some made a lot more sense than others. We had criteria of what we were looking for."
"The reality is, none of them fit," he added. "There was not a perfect candidate that checked every single box — except for probably Nick Saban, that would have been it. Unfortunately, he didn't interview for the job this time. Tongue-in-cheek when I say that."
As soon as Saban finished meeting with his players to inform them of his decision to retire, Byrne acted swiftly in search of the next Alabama football coach. He immediately headed to the airport, calling as many former players and key contributors as possible for feedback and advice.
"I talked to Joe Namath and many others," Byrne told host Paul Finebaum. "Just to get some feedback and see if they had any thoughts that they'd like to give me. They've got great perspective. I talked to a few key contributors of ours. I told them, I said, after this point, it's going to be boots to the ground for me, and I'm going to be very focused on the task at hand."
Byrne eventually made his way to Seattle to interview Washington's head coach Kalen DeBoer, who, in less than 72 hours of Saban's retirement, would become Alabama's 28th head football coach. Byrne elaborated on the process of his list of candidates and how he has multiple plans, but it is not a ranking order.
"I know one of the things you hear out there is well, you had your first choice, second choice -- and I said in the press conference, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C," he told Finebaum. "But that's not necessarily the order that you have as far as who you want. I think it's irresponsible, on my part, if I walk into an interview and already say, 'Well, I think this is my third choice but I'm gonna talk to him anyways.' I want to be open-minded and thoughtful in the conversations that will take place. So in a lot of ways, you have multiple names on a list, but in some ways, it's bullet points. It's not even numbers, it's not even lettered. That was the approach I took on this one. As you could imagine, we had great interest in the job. It's a premier job."
DeBoer has been on the job for less than a week, and Byrne is confident with the job he is doing.
"I feel very confident, and even watching Coach DeBoer over the few days and working with him closely — we've been here, I think last night was the earliest night I got home. I think I got home at 9:30 last night," Byrne outlined. "We had been here. And his staff is starting to show up. Putting the staff together, working on the roster, meeting with kids."
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