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By Simon Evans
MIAMI, Jan 8 (Reuters) - University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, showered with acclaim after a fourth national title, said on Tuesday he has no desire to return to the National Football League and that the college game is where he belongs.
Saban's Crimson Tide won their second successive national title on Monday and third in four years with a 42-14 hammering of Notre Dame.
The win confirms the 61-year-old as the most successful active coach in college football -- he captured his maiden title with Louisiana State University in the 2003 season.
Then came an unhappy two seasons with the NFL's Miami Dolphins that ended in 2006, but despite his well documented disappointment there has remained speculation that Saban could be tempted back into the pro game.
With five NFL teams currently having vacancies for a head coach that speculation, not surprisingly, re-emerged following Alabama's second consecutive championship.
"How many times do you think I've been asked to put it to rest? And I've put it to rest, and you continue to ask it. So I'm going to say it today, that you know, I think somewhere along the line you've got to choose," he said.
"You learn a lot from the experiences of what you've done in the past," added Saban, before reflecting on the two seasons he spent in Miami after being tempted out of the college game by then Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga.
"I came to the Miami Dolphins, what eight years ago for the best owner, the best person that I've ever had the opportunity to work for? And in the two years that I was here, had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or the way that I was able to in college," he said before highlighting some of the reasons he prefers working with student athletes.
"It was very difficult for me, because there's a lot of parity in the NFL, there's a lot of rules in the NFL. People say you can draft the players that you want to draft; you can draft a player that's there when you pick. It might not be the player you need, it might not be the player you want.
"You've got salary cap issues. We had them here (in Miami) You've got to have a quarterback. We had a chance to get one here; sort of messed it up," he said, referring to the missed opportunity to sign Drew Brees, later a Super Bowl winner with New Orleans.
Saban enjoys a huge amount of personal control over the entire football program at Alabama and clearly did not enjoy the more devolved power structure in the NFL.
"I didn't feel like I could impact the team the same way that I can as a college coach in terms of affecting people's lives personally, helping them develop careers by graduating from school, off the field, by helping develop them as football players, and there's a lot of self gratification in all that, all right," said Saban.
"I kind of learned through that (Dolphins) experience that maybe this (college) is where I belong, and I'm really happy and at peace with all that. So no matter how many times I say that, y'all don't believe it, so I don't even know why I keep talking about it." (Editing by Frank Pingue)