Nick Saban’s criticism on how NIL is being implemented in college sports is well-documented.
While the Alabama football program remains one of the very best in the country, head coach Nick Saban has often found himself in the news regarding his opinions on name, image, likeness.
NIL legislation has been a part of collegiate athletics for coming up on a year now. For better or worse, it is here to stay. Saban is not a dummy, trying to eradicate it from the sanctity of college sports, but he is right that there needs to be guidelines because this crazy train has lone gone off the rails. After getting into it with Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher last week, what is going on?
For those who need to be brought up to speed, what exactly are Saban’s biggest issues with NIL?
Alabama football head coach Nick Saban’s NIL frustrations, explained
Simply put, Saban’s issues with the current NIL landscape sweeping college football are a lack of equity and above all, the slippery slope that is pay-for-play. Saban has said he wants every player to be compensated the same when they arrive on campus. Should a star player like Bryce Young emerge while at school, then he can pursue every last dollar of NIL money, if he feels so inclined.
“I don’t want to go down that road of bidding for players out of high school. I don’t,” said Saban to ESPN. “But if we go through this recruiting class this year and we lose all the players, because they’re making a hundred thousand dollars going someplace else, then what can you do?”
The target of much of his anger and frustrations regarding NIL have been at his former LSU offensive coordinator and current Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher. The Aggies just assembled the greatest recruiting class in the history of the sport last cycle. There has been great speculation that “The Fund” induced many of the top players in the nation to come play ball at College Station.
“The hard thing is there are no guardrails on this road. You can do whatever the hell you want, and in the end, most of this is not good for the players. You know, there are some terrible statistics out there about guys that transfer and how many of those guys graduate, terrible statistics on that. And we’re enticing a lot of that.”
So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, the SEC West rivalry between Alabama and Texas A&M is now at an all-time high. Not only do they play each other annually, but Fisher became the first former Saban assistant to beat him on the gridiron last season. Texas A&M may have pulled back in 2021 after narrowly missing the College Football Playoff in the year prior.
There are two other very important factors in all of this when it comes to Saban and Alabama’s stay atop the college football world. The first is Saban is 70-years-old. While he has the energy of a head coach decades younger than him, NIL could be the one thing that has him inching closer to retirement. It is not the transfer portal, but the NIL nonsense that could lead him to a studio set.
And two, the last time Alabama did not have the No. 1 class in the country, it was another Saban protege who came out on top. Kirby Smart’s 2018 recruiting class was a big reason why the Georgia Bulldogs won their first national championship in 41 years back in January. They had more good players than Alabama did. Is Texas A&M on pace to win the whole thing in the 2025 season?
Eventually, there will be guardrails implemented with NIL, as well as the creation of a transfer portal window, much like what we see these days on the pitch in professional soccer. In the meantime, programs like Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M or whoever will take advantage of the lack of leadership presently plaguing college athletics. This is why we needed a sports czar yesterday.
The can of worms has already been ripped open, but who will step up and clean this huge mess?
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