TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama athletic director Mal Moore can look back on his conversations with Nick Saban and feel good about keeping the three-time national championship-winning coach with the Crimson Tide even as rumored NFL opportunities arise.
Moore knows how Saban views the pro game and doesn't believe it's a place he'll return without a drastic change of heart.
"He's expressed to me on several occasions ... that he's happy here," Moore said. "He feels very comfortable, and I believe him."
Moore once was in a similar circumstance, jumping from the college ranks to become an NFL assistant with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986. The three years he spent with the franchise were some of the loneliest of his life.
"For years, when I was with the Cardinals, they'd ask me what it was like," Moore said. "I'd say it was a little bit different. When I'd go to work, I'd never see anybody. Nobody ever comes to see me. Nobody ever calls. I'd have to think up somebody to call. ... I used to tell people, nobody in St. Louis or Phoenix, nobody would ever come by to see us. You know why? Because nobody gives a damn.
"Here, brother, they love their university. It's important."
So when he heard Saban wanted out of the NFL, he understood.
Saban was still the coach of the Miami Dolphins when his representatives reached out to Moore in 2006, but they insisted the two could not speak until the season was over.
Alabama played its final game in the Independence Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 28, and Miami wrapped up its season against Indianapolis the following Saturday. Less that 24 hours later, Moore was on the phone with Saban for the first time. The following day, he was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., visiting with the Sabans at their home.
"He said, 'Mal, when I go to work I feel like I'm working at a damn factory.' He said, 'I never see a soul,' " Moore recalled. "I'm sitting there thinking, neither did I."
Moore chose Saban over a pool of candidates that included Steve Spurrier and Rich Rodriguez. Saban has won two national championships in his six years at Alabama and is poised to win another when the Crimson Tide face Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship on Jan. 7.
On Monday, speaking with Dan Le Batard on Miami station 790 The Ticket, Saban expressed regret regarding how he left the Dolphins.
"The big thing with me is not handling the way I left well," he told Le Batard. "That's always been a thing with me. I've never felt good about. I'll probably never feel good about it."
But Saban, 61, also talked about how much he enjoys Alabama and the college game.
"This has been a good thing for my family to be here," Saban said. "College football has been very good for us. The positive impact that you can have on these young men as players and as people, that's just something that we really enjoy and something that I learned about myself.
"I really enjoy what I'm doing here right now. I'm getting old now. I don't think we've got too many moves left in us ... Hopefully I'll be able to stay here for a long, long time."
Moore has tried to be proactive in retaining Saban. After Alabama beat LSU for the national title last season, the two agreed on a contract extension through 2020 that ended up making Saban the highest-paid college coach in the country at $5.6 million per year.
Moore said the two sides feel comfortable with the contract in place and the future they share at Alabama.
"I just hope that every year he enjoys what he's doing coaching, and I think he does," Moore said. "And I feel we support him and his coaches."