Nick Saban was not asked about Texas A&M football recruiting on Wednesday. But he was certainly happy to talk about it.
In what can aptly be described as a shot through the bow of his SEC rival, Saban accused Texas A&M of manipulating name image and likeness rules to pay players and land the prize. 1 recruiting class in the nation under head coach Jimbo Fisher. He also managed to piss off Deion Sanders.
Saban was speaking to local business leaders in Birmingham for an event promoting the World Games which was to be held in Alabama in July. During a nearly seven-minute statement, Saban spoke about NIL, stating that he believes in the practice in theory but is being manipulated by some of his rivals in a way that threatens the very existence of the college sports.
Saban believes in NIL done “the right way”
Saban made it clear that he was not opposed to NIL when it was done “the right way” and encouraged his players to hire agents to create opportunities.
“Last year our players created $3 million in opportunities by doing it the right way,” Saban said. “I have no problem with it, and nobody in our team has had a problem with it because the guys who got the money won it. … The problem and the problem with the name, the image and likeness is that coaches try to create an advantage for themselves.”
What Saban doesn’t believe in
He then described a scenario in which programs hire outside agencies funded by boosters who then “channel” the money to players based on what a coach has promised them as recruits. He said Alabama doesn’t do that. He thinks other programs are doing this and it’s creating a situation where recruits are demanding programs like Alabama take up those offers or miss out on their services.
And that, he believes, represents the beginning of the end for college sports.
“If we start paying players, we will have to eliminate sports,” Saban said.
For reference, SEC athletic programs generated $777.8 million in fiscal year 2020-21. This figure does not include bowl revenue.
Saban: ‘A&M bought all the players from his team’
Then, uninvited, Saban started naming names. The first name was Texas A&M, which beat Alabama for the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2022, the first year NIL was in play when recruiting.
“We were second in recruiting last year, A&M was first,” Saban said. “A&M bought all the players for their team. We made a deal for the name, image and likeness. We didn’t buy a single player. I don’t know if we can maintain that in the future. because more and more people are doing it.”
Saban then named Jackson State and Miami basketball.
“Read about it in the paper,” Saban said. “Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year who was a really good Division I player to come to school. And they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it. These guys in Miami who are going to play basketball for $400,000, it’s in the paper. The guy tells you how he does it. But the NCAA can’t enforce their rules because it’s not against the law.
Deion Sanders responds
Jackson State stunned college football in December when it knocked down Florida State Rivals No. 1 rookie Travis Hunter to sign with the HBCU. Sanders coaches Jackson State. He was not satisfied with Saban’s comment.
Stay tuned for more comments from Coach Prime.
Fisher, meanwhile, did not issue a rebuttal Wednesday night. But he has heard these accusations before. He poked fun at them while speaking with CBS Sports in February.
“This $30 million deal is a joke,” Fisher said. “This thing that there’s funds there and all these things that happened and this was written on BroBible by a guy named Sliced Bread and all of a sudden the country believes it is a joke. It hasn’t affected recruitment at all. … People who want to comment on this have no idea what’s going on. It’s insulting to the players who come here and the people around us.”
This surely won’t be the last we hear from Fisher, either.