Washington‘s Kalen DeBoer, who guided the Huskies to a Pac-12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship game this past season, was named the next head coach at Alabama, the school announced Friday night.
DeBoer, 49, inherits one of the most coveted jobs in college football — and one of the most difficult — in replacing Nick Saban, whose teams won nine SEC titles and six national championships in his 17 seasons at the school. Saban, who had a 206-29 record at Alabama, retired Wednesday.
“I have always had an incredible respect for Alabama football and its commitment to excellence,” DeBoer said in a statement released by the school. “The tradition-rich history of this program is unmatched across the landscape of college athletics, and I look forward to continuing that moving forward. Following Coach Saban is an honor. He has been the standard for college football, and his success is unprecedented. I would not have left Washington for just any school. The chance to lead the football program at The University of Alabama is the opportunity of a lifetime. My family and I feel truly blessed and look forward to becoming a part of the Tuscaloosa community.”
DeBoer had informed his Washington players and staff Friday afternoon that he was leaving for Alabama, and he arrived in Tuscaloosa by plane Friday night, when he was expected to meet his new players.
A news conference to introduce DeBoer is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET Saturday.
Kalen DeBoer greets fans after landing in Tuscaloosa
Check out new Alabama head coach Kalen DeBoer greeting the fans as he lands in Tuscaloosa.
Washington athletic director Troy Dannen made an aggressive pitch to keep DeBoer with a new contract that would have made him one of the 10 highest-paid coaches in the FBS and more than doubled his annual salary of $4.2 million, sources told ESPN’s Pete Thamel.
But DeBoer turned it down for Alabama and the SEC, meaning he will owe Washington a $12 million buyout after signing a two-year contract extension through the 2028 season in November.
DeBoer had emerged as the Crimson Tide’s top target even before three other possible candidates — Oregon‘s Dan Lanning, Florida State‘s Mike Norvell and Texas‘ Steve Sarkisian — withdrew from the search and affirmed commitments to their current schools over the past two days.
“Coach DeBoer has proven he is a winner and has done an incredible job as a head coach at each of his stops,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “One of the things I told our team the other day is we are going to get someone who is not only a great coach with the Xs and Os, but also someone who cares about his players and someone I’d want my sons to play for, just like I would have wanted them to play for Coach Saban. We got that in Coach DeBoer. He is ready to get to work, and we look forward to him leading the Alabama Crimson Tide football program for years to come.”
Washington hired DeBoer to resurrect its program after the Huskies went 4-8 in Jimmy Lake’s second season as coach in 2021. With Indiana transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. orchestrating Washington’s high-flying offense, the Huskies more than doubled their victory total during an 11-2 campaign in 2022.
This past season, Washington went 12-0 during the regular season and defeated rival Oregon for a second time 34-31 in the Pac-12 championship game to reach the CFP for the second time in school history. The Huskies beat Texas 37-31 in a CFP semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Washington lost to No. 1 Michigan 34-13 in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T.
“Kalen DeBoer has been an outstanding leader of our football program and what he accomplished in two seasons on Montlake will forever be a part of our storied history,” Dannen said in a statement. “We are sad to see him leave and we did all that we could to keep Kalen at UW. But ultimately, he made a decision that was in the best interests of his family and furthered his professional goals.”
DeBoer’s hiring at Alabama is the apex of his meteoric rise in coaching over the past few seasons. A record-setting receiver at the University of Sioux Falls, an NAIA program in his home state of South Dakota, DeBoer became head coach of his alma mater in 2005. Over the next five seasons, his teams went 67-3 and won three NAIA national championships (2006, ’08, ’09). The Cougars went 17-2 in the NAIA playoffs during DeBoer’s tenure.
After working as an offensive coordinator at Southern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Fresno State and Indiana, DeBoer replaced Jeff Tedford as Fresno State coach in 2020. The Bulldogs went 3-3 in the COVID-19-delayed season that year then improved to 9-3 in his second season, which included upsets over nationally ranked UCLA and San Diego State.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.