Following Michigan’s win over Washington in the College Football Playoff National Championship, the conversation immediately switched to Jim Harbaugh’s future

Harbaugh had just completed the turnaround in Ann Arbor, bringing a national championship to the football program for the first time since 1997. 

With Harbaugh having brought his alma mater back to the top of the sport, and the program under multiple NCAA investigations, many looked toward a return to the NFL for Harbaugh.

And while a second head coaching tenure in the NFL may very well occur for Harbaugh, there was another head coaching vacancy that was about to have an immense impact on college football.

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Nick Saban, the seven-time national champion, was about to make an announcement that would shock the sport and have a trickle-down effect on multiple programs other than the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Let’s dive into the events of the last week and how Saban’s retirement was felt from coast to coast.

The news out of Tuscaloosa on Wednesday, Jan. 10, shook the sport to its core.

Saban announced his retirement from college football after 17 years as head coach of the Crimson Tide.

Under Saban, Alabama has been the envy of college football, winning nine SEC championships and six national championships since 2007. The Crimson Tide were coming off a 12-win season and another appearance in the CFP with a returning quarterback who was the favorite to win the 2024 Heisman Trophy.

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But at 72 years old, Saban called it a career, saying that the grind of the 2023 season took a little more out of him than usual. 

With his departure, one of the top coaching jobs in the sport was suddenly open, and multiple programs and conferences were about to feel the aftershocks. 

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne reportedly told players he hoped to have a new head coach within 72 hours. 

The day after Saban retired, Oregon head coach Dan Lanning — considered one of the favorites for the job – announced he’d stay put. On Friday, Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian were working on a contract extension, as were Florida State and head coach Mike Norvell. 

But Byrne had his eye on the national championship runner-up. 

Kalen DeBoer, just two years after leaving Fresno State for Seattle, was named as Saban’s successor after leading Washington to the national championship game. 

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DeBoer led the Huskies to a record of 25-3 in two seasons, winning the Pac-12 Championship in 2023 and was expected to lead Washington into the Big Ten conference in 2024. 

The job in Tuscaloosa was simply too good to pass up for DeBoer, leaving a gaping hole in Seattle as one of the preeminent West Coast programs prepared for its major move out of the Pac-12. 

Arizona was coming off its first 10-win season since 2014, just three years after going 1-11. The optimism in Tucson was at an all-time high as quarterback Noah Fifita led Arizona to seven straight wins to end the season.

With Arizona heading to the Big 12 in 2024, and Texas and Oklahoma departing for the conference for the SEC, Arizona was expected to compete for the Big 12 title as they more than likely enter the 2024 season in the top 25. 

And then Jedd Fisch went back on his word.

On Jan. 4, Fisch said he had no interest in leaving Tucson.

“We want to be done here very soon, and we want to be a part of this program for a long time,” Fisch said on the “Jim Rome Show” of a possible contract extension, per the Arizona Daily Star.

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“I’ve moved a lot in this business to be able to be here today, to become a head coach of a Power Five program, to win 10 games, to be a top-15 team, hopefully top 10. … I have no interest in going anywhere,” he said. “I have a lot of interest in seeing if we can get to that CFP. There’s 12 teams in it next year, and I would love to have our team be a part of it.”

On Jan. 14, Fisch was introduced as the next head coach at Washington.

“When I first arrived at the U of A, I knew we could create something truly special because of the people at this university and in this community,” Fisch said in a statement. “Today, I am broken-hearted to leave not just Arizona, but the people who have given us so much and who believed so deeply in the magic we created.”

Arizona is now desperately hoping to avoid a transfer portal exodus as it makes its way to the Big 12.

Shortly after Fisch left Tucson, Arizona turned its attention toward San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan. 

Brennan has been the head coach of SJSU since 2017, leading the Spartans to back-to-back bowl games in 2022 and 2023. 

Brennan was a finalist for the Arizona job in 2020 when Fisch was hired and was a graduate assistant in Dick Tomey’s – the all-time wins leader at Arizona – final season in 2000. The Wildcats chose Brennan this time around, leaving San Jose State searching for its next head coach for the first time in eight years.

“I am so blessed and excited to come back to the University of Arizona,” Brennan said in a statement. “This incredible university is special to my family and I as it’s where I started as a coach as part Coach Tomey’s legacy. I can’t wait to meet the players, families, fans, alumni and supporters and build on the success the players and staff have started. Bear Down and Go Cats!” 

Brennan must get to work on keeping Arizona’s star players in Tucson with the 30-day transfer window open.