Instead of relaxing with a quiet getaway to Gasparilla Island as he often does during his summer vacation, Nick Saban decided to take a blow torch to the college football world. Twice.
Last week, he went on The Paul Finebaum Show and claimed that “everything in college football has always had parity.” That was met with an eye-roll from Tacoma to Fort Lauderdale. Even though Saban was referencing the equal distribution with scholarships, health care and academic support, it still came off as a head-scratching way to voice frustrations about the use of NIL. Why? Well, because nobody wants to hear about an even playing field from the guy who dominated the sport like nobody ever has in the post-integration world of college football.
But of course, that comment was an afterthought by the time Saban spoke at a 50-day countdown event for the World Games in Birmingham.
“I know the consequence is going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players,” Saban said on Wednesday night (via AL.com). “You read about it, you know who they are. We were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness.
“We didn’t buy one player. A’ight? But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future, because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”
Watch the entire answer that Saban delivered and you’ll get an even deeper understanding as to why this wasn’t as simple as the Alabama coach wanting to call out his former assistant after the way in which he signed a historically loaded class:
If you’re an Alabama fan, you heard Saban’s comments and probably said “yeah, go get those cheaters, Coach!”
If you’re an A&M fan, you heard Saban’s comments and probably said, “yeah, of course he’s got a problem with Jimbo now.”
Honestly, though, it doesn’t really matter if Saban is right or wrong about A&M paying every player. It’s not like he and Fisher are about to go to court to get some sort of ruling on this. The lack of federal rules regarding NIL and the lack of enforcement from the NCAA into any sort of pay-for-play scenarios are why we’re here.
If we’re being honest, Saban and Fisher are both probably wrong to a certain extent. Saban saying A&M “bought” every single player it signed implies that Fisher was like a bidder at an auction doing something illegal. At the same time, Fisher denying that NIL played any sort of impact on signing the highest-rated class of all-time in the first NIL recruiting cycle implies that Saban is wrong.
This isn’t a micro issue here. Even if there’s a part of Saban that’s bitter about losing to Fisher on the field and on the recruiting trail, this isn’t just sour grapes, despite what Fisher said in response to that claim (more on that later). The macro issue that Saban addressed — albeit in petty fashion — is with enforcement.
Saban’s gripe is that there’s nothing stopping programs from offering guaranteed contracts before recruits arrive on campus. In that 7-minute answer, Saban said there were 25 players on Alabama’s roster who made a total of $3 million off NIL last season. We can’t fact-check that, nor can we fact-check his claim that every single player who signed at Alabama had to earn their NIL opportunities upon arrival.
Well, let me back up. In Saban’s world, he’s saying he would welcome an actual enforcement group to investigate how his program used NIL compared to how A&M or even co-Aflac spokesperson Deion Sanders perhaps used NIL money to sign No. 1 overall recruit Travis Hunter at Jackson State (Sanders called Saban’s claim a lie).
Would Saban welcome an enforcement group to investigate a claim that all of his players got Dodge Chargers throughout the 2010s when he signed No. 1 classes in 8 of the 10 years? There’s nobody to fact-check that, either.
For what it’s worth, Saban is pro-NIL. Watch the 7-minute answer and you’ll hear why he has no problem with players monetizing their value to work, and he advocated for businesses to help support the program. He’s even pro-collective … but only if it’s an equal system.
“I told our players that we’re gonna have a collective, but everybody’s gonna get the same amount of money from that collective. Now you can go earn however much you want, and I tell the recruits the same thing,” Saban said on Wednesday. “Because our job is not to buy you to come to school here.”
Saban repeated the words “I don’t know how you sustain a model like that.” That’s his macro gripe.
And no matter what side of the argument you’re on in all of this, let’s remember the dynamics at play. It’s not just that Saban recruited better than anyone on the planet for the past decade-plus. It’s that he won more than anyone on the planet. So now, after having more recruiting and on-field success than we’ve ever seen in college football in the modern era, he feels that his advantage is being diminished because of this alleged shortcut of guaranteed money.
Like, imagine a 17-year-old kid walking into Saban’s offense and saying, “hey, I know you’re the G.O.A.T., you basically go to the title game every year and you put more guys in the NFL than anybody on planet earth. But A&M just ponied up and I can’t turn that down.”
(Relax, A&M fans. I’m not saying that’s exactly how Fisher signed every recruit. I’m saying this is how Saban sees it.)
Saban doesn’t have an answer for that. If it’s as simple as guaranteed money, that’s a trump card that no amount of rings can overcome. From the sound of it, Saban knows that. It’s sort of irrelevant whether you, reader of this column, believe that Alabama has been paying players long before NIL. What’s undeniable is that there’s never been more money available to players, and there’s no real way to monitor it.
Whether you believe Saban is standing up for morals and the integrity of the sport, it’s clear that he feels like his stranglehold on the sport’s recruiting trail will continue to lessen unless he buys into a pay-for-play philosophy or we see FBS break away from the NCAA and form its new enforcement group. Saban seems to be advocating more for the latter. That is, until he feels like he has no choice but to sign up for the headache he believes Fisher created.
Many will say, “Who cares? Adapt or die, Nick.”
The irony is that nobody in the sport has done that better than Saban, which is also why he’s not gonna get a lick of sympathy for his scorched earth comments. If anything, Saban will continue to get a Dabo Swinney-like reaction.
He doesn’t care. Lord knows he probably didn’t care that Fisher took to the podium to tee off on the Alabama coach and deny any sort of wrongdoing. A&M fans will defend their guy and Alabama fans will defend theirs.
Well, let’s back up again. A&M fans will use this in pump-up videos from now until the end of time:
JIMBO FISHER RESPONDS TO NICK SABAN’S NIL ACCUSATIONS 😳🗣
(via @AggieFootball) pic.twitter.com/QyslIdo3Fz
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 19, 2022
Fisher called what Saban said “despicable” and claimed that he was a “narcissist” who was upset that he didn’t get his way. Does it matter if Fisher is right? No, though he absolutely won some points in the court of public opinion.
What’s crazy is that Fisher, in the midst of his own scorched earth comments, actually agreed with Saban on one thing. They both want some sort of federal guidelines. Fisher maintained that he didn’t break any rules or laws in the state of Texas.
Clearly, the 2 coaches at the top of the recruiting world have been driven past the point of being politically correct. Fisher said he turned down a call from Saban and that “we’re done” addressing the matter.
Call me crazy, but it feels like this fight is far from over. Who knows if we’re about to get any sort of resolution to this from the federal government, or if the issue of making players “employees” will forever be a stopgap.
Whatever the case, this heavyweight fight feels a touch different than a long weekend on Gasparilla Island.
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Honestly at this point they both should just shut it. If Saban doesn’t like NIL or the fact it presents a challenge then he can just go back to the NFL where there is some sense of parity with a salary cap and get his butt whooped again anyway.
A&M has deeper pockets than bama. If the reverse were true, you’d be getting crickets from Saban right now. This is solely about Saban’s stronghold on recruiting evaporating.
Yup. As soon as “parity” no longer meant advantage Saban then suddenly he feels College football needs “parity” again. He’s not fooling anyone.
If you think this is anything but Saban giving a warning, then you are sadly mistaken. Just like when Saban “complained” about hurry offenses. Everyone thought he was crying. It was a warning. If this is how football is, then he will do it better then you. He then went on to build one of the best offenses in college football. He isn’t crying about NIL, he is just sending out a warning. If this is how it’s going to be. He is going to start playing your game and do it better.
That’s exactly what he wants you to believe. It’s all smoke and mirrors so he can come out smelling like roses when their booster involvement is uncovered. He wants you to believe it’s something new and he can say “we’re only doing it because everyone has forced us to”. The reality is they’ve been doing this for a long time. Stories are already coming out from NFL players on how much they were offered to come play for Bama, I’m sure plenty more will follow. Stay tuned..
Surely with so many NFL players rushing out to report how much money Alabama offered them to come there while Saban was coaching, you have specific examples of exactly who has come forward, right? Surely you can name names? No? That’s what I thought…
Because you see, if these guys start coming out and saying Alabama offered this or that or some random 6-figure amount for them to come play there, and they ultimately decided to go somewhere else, the next question is… so how much money did the school you ultimately chose pay you, because common sense says you didn’t turn away from 6-figures to play for (insert school here) out of the goodness of your heart or integrity or school pride? And that creates problems for the university they played for.
I hear you…and he made some good points on the hurry offenses as well, but he still whined. We know he will get it done aty the end of the day…he is the GOAT. One thing’s for sure…we are talking football and not mad at that.
These two coaches get paid a ton of money. Anyone thinking Bama etc have not paid players over the years is naive.
We all know that the intent & purpose of the original lawsuit brought by a plyer at Northwestern University was about the players receiving some $ from the sale of the jerseys, etc. with their name/likeness on them. I do not think NIL was ever about buying a High School Quarterback for $8 Million-Dollars, as it is “rumored” that a SEC school has done, no team named of course. NIL has gotten into the $$$$$ boosters hands and as usual it’s gotten out-of-control since the NCAA seems to have forgotten it’s job in college athletics.
Jimbo is sounding a lot like Hugh Freeze circa 2013.
Nick is a straight running cry baby. He loses 2 games to former assistants and doesn’t have the number one class and here we go. Waaaaaaa. I am proud that Jimbo is our coach and Gig ‘Em.
This isn’t a woe is me post, but for the love of god, if you honestly think there had been parity in college football then I’ve got some ocean front property in KC I’d love to show you…
Give me all the petty in college football. Not a Bama or aTm fan but I’ll be watching this game now
Parity only exist when saban “somehow” is able to sign the most of the good players every year. saban did not win big every year in his career till he came to bama land. Wonder why!
CNS said, “A & M bought every player on their team.” And then he clarifies that statement by saying, “Made a deal for name, image and likeness.”
He never said that TAMU did anything illegal. He said that they made an NIL deal for every player. Did they? I don’t know. Does Coach Saban know that every TAMU player got an NIL deal. Maybe, I don’t know.
I don’t think CNS should have specifically called out TAMU. I don’t think there is any evidence of illegality. I have issues with NIL and in its current form, I think it’s wrong, but not illegal according to SCOTUS.
I think Booches94 said it best, they both should just shut it. It’s a bad look for the conference.
“I think Booches94 said it best, they both should just shut it.”
No, Saban launched an unprovoked attack on Fisher, his players and his program. Fisher was obligated to defend all three. If folks don’t like Fisher defending himself they need to take it up with the guy who started it.
As the writer stated… would Saban want an investigation of him or anyone connected to him about the free vehicles to players?
Alabama fans lining up to attack Jimbo Fisher for defending himself from a completely unprovoked attack by Saban in 3 … 2 … 1 …
It’s an open marketplace for all the recruits, plain and simple. Nick being the strategist he is would likely have left a “not as much money” Alabama for one of the Texas schools had NIL opened up 10 years ago. Now, he’s 70 and landlocked at a school he’s built that is being marginalized by the new open market. Oh and by the way, 33-18.
The Hobbit needs to take his lumps and move on. He’s always going to be the GOAT, but this whining and crybaby stuff doesn’t suit him. He needs to act like he’s lost before, and leave his crotchety attitude behind closed doors.
I seriously can’t believe how many people are ok with A&Ms bullsh*t
Is a TN fan really saying this?? Might want to look hard at your 2023 class before throwing stones, just sayin’…
As a Gator fan…am happy that every recruit gets an orange Grove and a percentage of Gatorade sales!
delandman…You are the Winner for the Best-Post-Of-The-Day ! Keep ’em coming.
It’s because they have ground to stand on now, blind squirrels find nuts then think they own a peanut factory. A&M was irrelevant for year now they’re “relevant” after beating barely Beating bama by a field goal. Funny how he called a press conference to call someone else a narcissist and deny what he said was true jimbo said he didn’t cheat well nobody said he did…he’s making himself look like a fool. One of the Wealthiest programs in the sport suddenly has the highest rated class ever as soon as you can pay players lol you’re either in denial or you’re an idiot. (Not you personally I mean A&M fans.)
You know it’s bad when Fisher stumbles around the truth and redirects. Fisher doesn’t wear well long term, ask FSU fans.
Saban definitely spoke truth (evidenced by Jimbo protesting too much and the actual money trail) – A&M definitely NIL’d their way to the top class – but it wasn’t cheating. As usual these days, the truth is not allowed in the public forum – Saban will be beaten into retracting . . .
What actual money trail? Were you this upset at Bama when they offered money and cars to recruits? Or just when it’s another team potentially doing it legally? As far as that goes, not every player even has an NIL deal, in that alone Saban shoved a foot squarely in his mouth. Those players deserve better.
Can we talk about the real problem. How come a $100 million dollar coach doesn’t even buy you a conference championship! Not even a divisional championship! Isn’t $100 million dollars supposed to guarantee that?? 😉
One day, maybe, we’ll all get to watch a 30 for 30 called “The Billion Dollar Championship,” about how A&M flushed a cold billion for only a conference championship that it won after a series of questionable calls. The crowning achievement of the Lassie Boys.
They better get it done before TX joins. Time’s a tickin!
I may not contribute much, but I truly enjoy this site.
Haven’t really thought much about macro and micro since grad school but O’Gara is right. The Saban-Jimbo thing is, in reality just a visual manifestation of the entire problem. When there are, literally, “no rules” you can’t “break” the rules. There’s a part of me that thinks that the NCAA should step up, but I think we’ll all agree that, that ship has sailed.
Congress . . . come on!
It’s not going to happen this year (or for the next few) but would any of us be surprised if, in the foreseeable future, the Power 5’s broke away to form the “College Football Association”, or whatever?
Group of 5 football, golf, tennis, swimming, the olympic sports, even baseball could still do the NCAA thing without huge issues, but big football football has to have a new, workable framework.
Just something to think about. Take care.
Oh, in response to a comment someone made a few months back, the “M” doesn’t stand for Michigan. It represents Murphy High, my alma mater in Mobile.
Come 2026, I for one would be most happy if the so-called Playoff went away and we returned to the Old Bowl System. By this I mean the Pac-12 champ vs the B1G champ in the Rose Bowl, etc. and no made for TV bowl games for mediocre, at best, teams.
Monetizing CFB with the BCS and now the BCS x 2 and CFB selling its soul to media entities has ruined what was once a terrific regional sport and turned it into the NFL. The NFL without the same rules and regulations that we see in the NFL; rules as the result of collective bargaining and the conference being managed by owners like the business it is.
What does two grown multi-millionaire men arguing over football recruiting have to do with the mission of educating young people?
It’s time for a Super League. 32 teams each ‘adopted’ by an NFL team. All football indicia assigned by a university to a 3rd party. Pay-for-play and a draft of high school players who desire to be paid. Players join the NFL Players Union with salary cap restraints but no restraint on a player capitalizing from his NIL. The assignee indemnifies the assignor university against all liability associated with football.
No football scholarships offered by the Super League members = Title 9 becomes equitable without counting football scholarships for ‘equality’ purposes.
Those that want to play ‘minor league’ football are welcome to do so.
Money is not evil. The love of money is evil.
A&M has enough oil money to pay those NIL deals in pocket change. They prolly have an NIL deal on their concession stand. Jimbo knows it and cant even lie good with all his repeating and jerky podium body language. At least in the old days the money exchange was all under the table. Now its just in your face and they still act like its not happening. I agree Saban is only so outspoken because his monopoly is ending. Starting to think Texas joining the Sec could be a smart move on their with the NIL money they have as well.
You guys have some serious blinders on. Jimbo never once has denied the NIL’s presence in recruiting. What he has denied is the first insinuated, and now outright claimed nonsense that every player in this class was bought with NIL deals. He’s denied the silly 30million dollar nonsense. Nothing he has said is false.
Saban’s choice of the word “parity” a week or so ago wasn’t the right word to make the point he was trying to make about the way NIL has turned college football on its head and how out of control this all could get if it continues to go unchecked. He can and should be rightly criticized for that comment.
What he said last night was spot on and even Jimbo agrees things need to be “even” across the board regarding rules and enforcement. Sure, A&M didn’t do anything “illegal” under Texas law, but Texas law is different than NCAA rules, and A&M 100% bought their recruiting class with NIL collectives that promised players specific deals that they’ll make over the next 3-4 years. Any A&M fan that acts like that’s not how that happened looks as childish and ridiculous as Jimbo did in his temper tantrum conference today.
Saban double-talkin’ out both sides of his neck, as usual
Probably high hair dye fumes
on hair dye fumes
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