Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher do battle over NIL issue

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Former Dolphins coach and current I’m-not-going-to-be-the-Alabama-coach Alabama coach Nick Saban has had plenty to say this year about college football’s new name, image, and likeness explosion.

Before Wednesday, Saban had complained about it on multiple occasions. In January, he called for “national legislation” to prevent an imbalance. When it was pointed out that Saban is concerned that Alabama may not be able to compete with other schools that have access to a greater pool of cash that can be used to lure and keep players, some insisted that Saban was simply firing a warning shot before he cracked the code on the new reality.

More recent developments suggest that Saban is genuinely concerned that his legendary recruiting chops can’t match the persuasive skills of someone with a big sack of cash. On Tuesday, his get-off-my-lawn routine regarding the bygone days of everyone having the same resources misused the word “parity,” causing his message to become lost in the Sure, Jan reaction to the notion that parity ever existed in college football. Parity of resources did indeed exist (except where it didn’t); however, that word automatically makes people think about parity of results. In recent years, there has been no parity of results in college football.

Then came Wednesday. Saban went unhinged on the issue, accusing Texas A&M of buying every player on its team.

“I mean, we were second in recruiting last year,” Saban said during an event in Birmingham. “A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness. We didn’t buy one player, all right? But I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”

The fact that Jimbo Fisher, a former Saban assistant, coaches Texas A&M made Saban’s latest remarks even more powerful. The fact that both are from West Virginia put Saban vs. Fisher immediately on par with Hatfield vs. McCoy.

Here’s the reality. Any NIL deals that are tipping the scales in the direction of schools that had a harder time competing with Saban in the part are permissible in this new environment. If a college program, via the indirect efforts of its boosters, uses NIL money to land players, it’s fair game. It’s no longer a violation of the rules, in large part because the rules that limited players to tuition, fees, room, board, and snacks are now regarded as antitrust violations.

Fisher, to his credit, didn’t turn the other cheek to Saban’s harsh words. Instead, Fisher decided to engage Saban at a press conference on Thursday. Here’s some of what Fisher said in response to Saban’s comments.

“We never bought anybody,” Fisher said. “No rules were broken. Nothing was done wrong. . . . It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way or things don’t go his way. The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. . . . The parity in college football he’s been talking about? Go talk to coaches who coached for him. You’ll find out all the parity. Go dig into where he’s been. You can find out anything. And it’s a shame you’ve got to sit here and defend 17-year-old kids and families and Texas A&M. Because we do things right? We’re always gonna do things right.”

“Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out about a guy that — a lot of things you don’t want to know. We’ve built him up to be the czar of football. Go dig into his past, or anybody that’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you wanna find out, what he does and how he does it. And it’s despicable. It really is. . . .

“I hate it for our players who are coming here, who did things the right way, have done things the right way, will continue to do things the right way, I apologize to you that people insult you publicly the way they’re doing. . . . I promise you this. There are no violations. There [is] nothing wrong. It’s the second time we’ve had to do this with grown men who don’t get their way and wanna pout and throw a fit and act up. Just go ask all the people who worked for him, who know exactly what he’s about. I always said this, my dad always told me this, ‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’ He’s showing you who he is.”

Fisher acknowledged that Saban has tried to call Fisher, but that Fisher won’t talk to his former boss.

“We’re done,” Fisher said. “He showed you who he is. He’s the greatest ever, huh? When you’ve got all the advantages, it’s easy. . . . You coach with people like Bobby Bowden and learn how to do things. You coach with other people and learn how not to do things. There’s a reason I ain’t went back and worked for him with opportunities. Don’t wanna be associated with it.”

Fisher and Saban agree in one area. Fisher said that he wants “unified rules” for NIL payments and that “the government needs to step in.”

The bottom line is that there are so many dollars that boosters will be willing and able to give to the college programs they support. Every dollar that goes to NIL funding won’t go to the programs or the coaches. And some programs will necessarily be able to raise fewer total dollars than others.

Saban undoubtedly fears that, at the end of the day, Alabama won’t be able to compete with other schools that draw from bigger fan bases and deeper pockets. To think that Saban is firing a warning shot to college football is now laughable. His warning shot is an SOS.

Meanwhile Alabama and Texas A&M will meet on October 8.

“It’ll be fun won’t it?” Fisher said.

Will it be awkward?

“Awkward about what?” Fisher said. “I don’t mind confrontation. Been with it my whole life. I kind of like it myself. Backing away from it wasn’t the way I was raised.”

Actually, Saban and Fisher were raised roughly 20 miles apart. In Fisher’s view, they couldn’t have been raised more differently.

“I don’t cheat and I don’t lie,” Fisher said. “Because I learned that when I was a kid. If you did, your old man will slap you upside the head. Maybe somebody should’ve slapped him.”

Hopefully, on October 8, Fisher won’t slap Saban. Unless they want to put on the gloves for a pay-per-view event.

That would definitely generate some extra money for the Alabama and A&M programs.

44 responses to “Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher do battle over NIL issue

  1. It would be interesting if there was some sort of public record on the NIL payments made to college players — we could then all see who’s buying who.

  2. Lot of old man talk to unpack there. Saban should just retire. He opened up a can of worms that he won’t be able to put the lid back on.

  3. Wasn’t it Fisher that ended the speculation of dirty money when he said players have been getting money for a long time? Please Jimbo, spare me how clean you are. Fisher, Sweeney, Smart, Kiffin. 4 of the 5 dirtiest coaches in college football. The 5th? They all worked for him at one time.

  4. These two can go at it all they want. I am just glad college football players are finally compensated. I still remember former Alabama receiver, Tyrone Prothro. The dude was having a great year until he got hurt. I remember watching a documentary that included him, where he was working as a teller at a bank not far from the stadium where he was a star. What people don’t tell you, when you can no longer provide for the college, you and your free tuition are discarded. NIL would benefit players who sustain critical injuries while playing for peanuts while their coaches make millions.

  5. Recruits have always been a commodity. Now the NIL has allowed them to enter the college “market” as different schools offer different forms of payment. This is free market capitalism, as opposed to the flawed system before. The fact that they are now having to adjust is making these rich old men uncomfortable. Adjust or lose your previous advantages!

  6. Jimbo might not cheat and lie but he sure ran one of the best football programs in history straight in the ground before he left.

  7. Saban has one gigantic recruiting advantage over everyone else– Kids want to play at Alabama because they think they will automatically end up in the NFL– and they will reap money and fame. But now with NIL they can make money while in school and still try to make it to the pros. Saban knows Bama has a real chance at slipping down to merely “One of the top schools” as opposed to “far and away the top school”. He is telling his boosters– “Figure out a way to get these kids more NIL money so we can remain on top”

  8. Professional liars. No honor amongst thieves but it is as entertaining as the games now.

  9. I keep a list of people I have less than zero sympathy for. Nick is right near top.

  10. As a fan of college football, I would like to see the NCAA do a full investigation into this matter and let the public know. If Saban has been cheating, I think many would want to know.

  11. Someone should ask Saban and Fisher why the have a body bag game at the second to last game of the season.

  12. I won’t defend either of them. But Saban isn’t completely wrong. NLI’s will soon make the gaps between the haves and have nots even larger. You’ll have boosters at the USC’s, Texas, ect of the world spending 10’s of millions of $$$ each year buying players. 99% of teams won’t be able to compete year to year. In the matter of 2 years, it’s gone from one extreme to another. I’m not sure what the answer is but it ain’t this.

  13. Mamma always told me don’t trust nobody named Jimbo. Jimbos only lie when their lips move. And this Jimbo seems pretty desperate.

  14. College coaches are just like politicians these days. You can’t trust anything they say.

  15. That sound you hear is Saban realizing he’s losing his power. He’s realizing that players and coaches don’t really want to deal with him. I’m glad players are able make money finally. Now these coaches can’t have crate blanche

  16. Is Saban really concerned about recruiting? Think about it. Slick Nick will just leave Alabama and take a job coaching a school with sacks of cash if thats his concern. You poke fun at him repeatedly with the “I’m-not-going-to-be-the-Alabama-coach Alabama coach Nick Saban”, and dont get my wrong, I think its hilarious, but while doing that you act like just up and leaving Alabama for a team with more cash for recruits would be something he would be too classy to do, lol. Saban is about Saban. That is part of why he is so good at what he does. He doesnt want the status quo to change, but he will certainly “adapt” if push comes to shove.

  17. An Ivy League U offered me an ‘academic’ scholarship to play baseball. Terms were good for 4 years, maintain a 2.5 or 3.0, can’t recall. He did ask what the SAT scores were. Thanks but no.

    When another northern school offered me a normal athletic scholarship, I asked for how long. He did not want to answer as it was a question I knew the answer to. Year to year. No to the north (from here, wanted warm). T

    When a southern school offered, I said Yes, but only if it was ‘academic’. HC was taken aback that I knew the deal. I had to maintain a 3.0 (I did). If you get hurt and lots of guys do, or you get drafted as a Junior, you can still graduate at their expense.

    How do you think Yale got Ron Darling. (Just one example). You think he paid a penny?

    It’s the best kept NCAA secret. How teams back fill rosters. Or, in my case, I got it in writing. Plus they still had a scholarship to give out.

    THESE U’S WILL SURVIVE. Give way more academic scholarships than most people know.

  18. SEC football is a $750,000,000 BUSINESS. Adapt or die Nick Saban.
    And picking a fight with a man who knows where your bodies are buried is probably not really smart.

  19. College football is just a lower level of Pro football now. Without the draft. The players are at least sharing in the money. But they will be dropped like a hot potato if they don’t produce at the level they are being paid. And players who outperform their pay scale are going to demand a raise or transfer. You may not read about it but it will be happening. Bet on that.

  20. This NIL is way out of hand. I hope they have a good financial adviser and not some “handler”. What will happen when a player gets his funds and his schooling yanked because he wasn’t what he was supposed to be? I agree players should have some form of compensation but this is so way out there it’s going to take years to regulate and even then maybe way to late. This could be the beginning of the end for college football, and the beginning of minor league football with no classes to attend, which means many of these kids will fall flat on their faces when confronted with the fact they can no longer play.

  21. It would be interesting if there was some sort of public record on the NIL payments made to college players — we could then all see who’s buying who.

    Just wait until these kids start getting busted for income tax fraud.

  22. So Lord Saban is pissed at KIDS getting a little cash now off their names, images, and likenesses, but I bet he has NO problem with HIM getting paid to wear those ugly, light blue blazers while attempting to act in AFLAC commercials (My God he’s awful! He better not quit his day job!). So he’s FINE with HIM making money on the side, but just not the kids doing the actual PLAYING of the game of football. Saban is a lying (“I’m not taking the Bama job”) narcissistic, arrogant creep! Just shut up and retire!

  23. Shots fired, lol. Never thought I’d see Jimbo get this fired up to go at Saban, especially since Saban has always said he was his favorite OC.

  24. Check out articles in the Miami herald from when Saban was the dolphins coach. It’s all there.

  25. Jumbo might have a point. Tyler Harrell, a speedster Louisville WR, was publicly rumored to be transferring to Bama well before he even announced he was entering the portal. There was tampering but when it’s done through intermediaries Saban keeps the image of a clean program.
    And in Jumbos defense, Georgia recruited well out of Texas due to a great assistant coach/recruiter. Jumbo hired him and then two Texas 5 stars that were committed to Georgia flipped to A&M. So Saban is off mark accusing Jumbo of NIL payments. Sometimes players are loyal to a recruiter over a school, coach, or anything else.

  26. Show me an NCAA football coach that is 100% clean and I’ll show you the resume of an NCAA football coach looking for work.

  27. It’s not relevant how many NIL dollars A@M players received. The rules allow it. As long as that’s the case, every coach should be out front collecting boosters. The job is to win..within the rules.

    The problem with what Saban is now complaining about is NIL dollars to players is fraught issues that should have been obvious. Highlights include..

    Football skill players get the bulk of dollars because of name recognition. A blue chip offensive guard, while maybe much better at his position, does not drive traffic on a Tuesday night to the Ford Dealership…

    Other less popular but just as important sports will lose out on Booster dollars..period.

    Women’s sports will be especially adversely affected…

    It’s basically the same system that got SMU the death penalty, just out in the open

    Top NIL players may not perform..i.e. Rattler..and if your a business owner who bet 50 grand on him that’s 50 k you don’t have for the next guy..

    Students may leave high school early..aka Quinn Ewers..and they have not fully developed physically and mentally..then add a million bucks to the equation..

    I don’t have the answer..except to say NIL ain’t it..

  28. I wouldn’t call this a battle so much as Fisher defending himself against an ambush! Saban can’t play the game unless he has an unfair advantage! And when the playing field is equal he calls foul!

  29. Saban’s an unsympathetic figure, but his assessment is exactly right. And Fisher, with that gargantuan freak-out, shows just how right Saban is by what a big nerve he touched.

    This is the reality of NIL. Teams with the most money will buy their players. The money that would have gone to other things at the school will be siphoned off by the NIL process. The newly-minted elite will benefit and everyone else will get scraps or nothing.

    This will ruin college sports. It’s already started.

  30. Lots of hate for Saban. Lots of hate for Belichick. The thing of it is that neither cares that they are hated or talked about by the horde – but, boy does Jimbo. Thin-skinned and all attitude. It is kind of funny though that an old SWC school would get their backs up about paying players – that entire conference were masters at paying to play, A&M included, and let’s be real – the best recruiting class of all time to a school with one of the richest alumni in the country – yeah – you bought players.

  31. Colleges have always paid for their players. Now it’s in the open.

  32. This is why Michigan is the winningest (and most respected) school in the nation. They win the right way. Ohio State could never say that.

  33. Any college coach that brings up the issue of parity is laughable. Everyone knows that there are five to 8 team that have more money and resources than anybody and will always get the best players. I’m a Buckeyes fan and even I know Ohio state has had a huge advantage over the last several decades then most humans pissed on name recognition alone now the playing field is starting even out and some of the older guys can’t handle it not surprised that Saban is one of them since when he went to the NFL and realized he wasn’t going to have a huge Advantage he ditched

  34. Awww poor Saban. Best salesman in history of college football. Most overrated coach ever.

  35. NIL the way it is currently arranged will be the death of college football.
    The top recruits will go where they’re offered the best NIL Deals. Recruiting will resort to who has bigger pile of cash to offer HS kids.
    Once again,… the NCAA gets it all wrong.

  36. The same Jimbo Fisher that refused to suspend or kick off players on his Florida St teams because he wanted a National Championship so bad.

  37. Saban also told LSU, “He wasn’t going to be the Miami Dolphins coach”, right before he up and jumped out of Baton Rouge for a job with th Dolphins. Then , he told Miami, “He wasn’t going to be the Alabama coach” , right before he left and went to Tuscaloosa to coach Alabama. To this day, LSU people still dislike him for those reasons..

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