Robert Witt was president of the University of Alabama in 2007 when the school signed Nick Saban to an eye-popping, eight-year, $32 million deal. Witt says that when he committed to that contract he had more in mind than improving the football program. Ten years later, Alabama has significantly boosted its enrollment and its academic profile.

Does that mean — to paraphrase a University of Oklahoma president of the 1950s — that Alabama has a university its football team can be proud of?

“I think we do,” Witt says, offering a smile wide enough to embarrass the Cheshire cat.

Today Alabama’s football team is No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll and its coach is tops too, at least as measured by the checks he cashes. Saban will make more than $11 million this season, including a $4 million bonus that the school prefers to call a "contract extension signing incentive." It’s by far the most money a coach has made in a single year at a public school since USA TODAY Sports began tracking college athletics compensation in 2006. It also might well be among the greatest amounts ever paid to anyone in higher education or public service.

Is Saban worth such a princely price?

“Probably not,” Saban says.

Just try to find anyone else in the state who’ll agree with that assessment.

“Roll, Tide” is a salutation around here, like hello or goodbye elsewhere. And the university is on a roll every bit as much as its football team. In 2006, the year before Saban arrived, Alabama reports it had an incoming freshman class of 4,404 students (2,926 in-state and 1,478 out of state). This fall’s incoming class, the school says, is 7,407 students (2,406 in-state and 5,001 out of state).

Alabama ensures the quality of much of its student body the same way that Saban ensures the competitiveness of his football team — with aggressive recruiting and liberal offers of scholarships. Alabama reports 41% of its incoming class scored 30 or higher on the ACT (versus 13% in 2006) while 34% had a GPA of 4.0 or higher in high school (versus 17% in 2006).