Nick Saban has never been one to hold back on how he feels about something. And that’s no different in this new era of college football, where NIL deals, the transfer portal, and possible college football playoffs expansion, dominate the conversation concerning NCAA athletics.
With the early signing period in December and national signing day yesterday, Saban reiterated that programs using NIL deals to land top prospects is wrong. He also believes issues concerning the new way of college sports could bring in a ever-changing landscape. While Saban believes it’s a good thing, he still thinks it needs legislative regulations.
Alabama coach Nick Saban on NIL: "I don't think a player should go to a school relative to how much money they're going to make in name, image and likeness." #RollTide #NSD22 pic.twitter.com/fr1nGgeGoz
— #WVTM13 (@WVTM13) February 2, 2022
One might counter that schools who finish top 3 in recruiting each year already don’t have to be concerned with facilitating NIL deals for players. The elite players in the country are willing to ride the pine until junior season just to wear the crimson.
“When we start using name, image and likeness for a kid to come to our school, that’s where I draw the line,” said Saban, whose recruiting budget is reportedly well over $4 million annually. “Because that’s not why we did this.”
Nick Saban on NIL in recruiting: ‘That’s not why we did this’ https://t.co/k33X9HeUrw
— AL.com sports (@aldotcomSports) February 2, 2022
While Saban was the first to announce Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young’s near seven-figure deal he received over the summer, Young was already a member of the Tide and had just completed his freshman season.
So maybe using him as an example of NIL power influencing recruiting isn’t the best one, considering he was basically a sophomore before the new rules were enacted. But he’s the star player at the premier football school in college football. That means something and carries weight.
Bryce Young hasn't even started a game for Alabama, but he's already cashing in on NIL deals 💰 https://t.co/JpXgphLJmL
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 29, 2021
Aftermath Of Young’s Deal Causes Coaches To Speak Out
As with anything that doesn’t benefit their program or might weaken their university in the recruiting game, some coaches find things to gripe about.
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator under Saban from 2014-2016, loves to pluck and prod at his former boss. No way he was going to pass up such a golden opportunity to do it again. Kiffin, who secured the No. 2 transfer recruiting class in the country, spoke on how Ole Miss can’t compete with elite programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, etc., because of resources and funding from NIL.
Lane Kiffin flat-out said "kids want to go where they can get paid the most." pic.twitter.com/0T1chc93MS
— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) December 14, 2021
Saban, whose ‘Bama squad finished No. 2 overall in the 2020 recruiting wars, has been adamant that Alabama has “never cheated” to land a player during the recruiting cycle.
“I hear these crazy people on TV who say now you’re doing it above board. We never did it. We never did it. We never cheated to get a player. We never paid players to come to our school. And now that’s actually happening. People are making deals with high school players to go to their school.”
In typical Kiffin fashion, he made other jokes about the situation, but with him it’s never just a joke. It’s always a lot of truth in his humor. He believes the disparity in NIL resources has created a more uneven playing field in recruiting. He finished the joke by throwing shade at Texas and Texas A&M, saying they can shell out more lucrative deals to attract potential recruits.
“It’s basically like everybody’s got different salary caps. I joked the other day that they’re gonna implement a luxury tax on Texas and Texas A&M. What they’re paying players is unbelievable.”
Aggies Land Top Class In History: But Not Without Questions And Criticism
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies just finished with the top-ranked recruiting class in the country and the highest-ranked class in school history (rivals.com started ranking recruits in 2002), anchored by seven five-star prospects. Rumors are their boosters spent $30 million in NIL deals to land the historic class.
The accusations have elite college head coaches backtracking and blaming each other.
"This $30 million deal is a joke… it didn't affect recruiting at all!"
— 247Sports (@247Sports) February 2, 2022
Fisher had this to say about the accusation via Twitter:
“It’s insulting to our staff, how hard we work, to how we do things, and insulting to Texas A&M because there ain’t a better place to go to school and play ball. If you don’t like that we’re coming on, get used to it. All right? We’re not going anywhere.”
“To have coaches in our league say it, clown acts. Irresponsible as hell. The guys griping about NIL and transfer portal are using it the most. That’s the ironic part. It’s a joke. It pisses me off.”
The fall can’t get here fast enough. The SEC West is going to be a dogfight, with so many storylines. We still have seven months to get through, so expect more shots and passive-aggressive behavior until then.
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