texas a&m’s top-ranked recruiting class of 2022 has long been on the receiving end of whispers about how, exactly, coach jimbo fisher signed more five-star prospects in one class than in his entire tenure at aggies before this. out of season. Such is life for college football’s elite recruiting programs. On Wednesday night, however, Alabama coach Nick Saban said the quiet part out loud, and it was far from the only thing he had to vent.
Speaking at a 50 day countdown to world games event, saban touched on the ways the name, likeness and (null) likeness have impacted the game. he didn’t mince words in the process. Specifically, Saban went straight to Texas A&M as an example of what’s wrong with Nil, roundly accusing the Aggies of buying their recruits through null deals and sparking an offseason feud for age.
“It’s going to be hard for people who spend tons of money to get players,” saban said as part of a seven-minute response to a question about zero that was recorded and published by al.com. “You’ve read about them. You know who they are. We were second in recruiting last year. [Texas] A&M was first.
“a&m bought all the players on his team: he made a deal for the name, image and likeness. we didn’t buy a player. but I don’t know if we’ll be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it.”
saban called nil “a great concept for players,” noting that Alabama football players “created a $3 million opportunity for themselves by doing it the right way” last year. “And I don’t have a problem with that, and no one on our team had a problem with that because the guys that got the money earned it,” he added. “There were only 25 guys on our team who had a chance to make money.”
this is not the first time texas a&m has been criticized for its elite class, though previous accusations came mostly anonymously from college football fans, not from the sport’s head coach . Fisher, a former saban assistant, responded Thursday to the notion that nil played a role in his show’s recruiting success.
“It’s despicable that we have to sit here at this level and say these things to defend the people of this organization, the children, the 17-year-olds and their families,” Fisher said. “It’s amazing. Some people think they’re god. Go investigate how ‘god’ made his deal. You may find out a lot of things you don’t want to know.”
Saban’s comments Wednesday night weren’t just directed at Texas A&M (Jackson State also took a stray). in fact, during his 7-minute response, he provided a clear perspective on zero, including its significant benefits to players and potentially disastrous unintended consequences for college sports as a whole.
Here’s what Coach Crimson Tide had to say on the subject.
the ncaa application finds itself in an almost impossible position
The NCAA Board of Directors issued new zero guidelines this month intended to crack down on third-party booster collectives that disguise pay-per-play agreements as zero. While the guidance is intended to handle individual cases in the future, the NCAA said it “may pursue the most egregious violations that were clearly contrary to the interim policy adopted last summer.” saban explained why those guidelines will be difficult to enforce.
“people blame the ncaa, but in defense of the ncaa, we are where we are because of the litigation the ncaa gets like [because of] the transfer portal. if the ncaa doesn’t get some protection from litigation, then Whether we have to get an antitrust [exemption] or whatever from the federal government’s point of view, this is not going to change because they can’t enforce their rules…
“jackson state paid a kid $1 million last year who was a really good division i player to come to their school. it was in the paper and they bragged about it. nobody did anything about it. these guys in miami going to pay for basketball there for $400,000 it’s in the paper the guy tells you how he’s doing it but the ncaa can’t enforce their rules because it’s not against the law and that’s a problem. That’s a problem. Unless we have something that protects them from litigation, I don’t know what we’re going to do about it.”
zero noncompliance will jeopardize college sports
saban also echoed his stern warning in April about the sustainability of nil in college football when he asked if “that’s what we want college football to be.” he’s not the only one expressing that concern, but with null deals already rampant in college athletics, adapting to this world seems like the only option, no matter how difficult.
“our job is not to buy you to come to school here. I don’t know how you run a locker room, and I don’t know if this is a sustainable model. I know we’re going to lose recruits because someone else is going to be willing to pay them more …
“what I’m afraid of is that at some point, they’re going to say, ‘we’re going to have to pay players.’
“we probably have 450 scholarship people [in total] in alabama… non-profit sports [athletes] who for years and years and years have been able to create a better life for themselves because they’ve been able to get scholarships and participate in college athletics. that’s what college athletics is supposed to be. it’s not supposed to be something where people come and make money and you make a decision about which school you go to based on how much money you’re going to to do”.
unregulated collectives are a big problem
saban explained that the colectivos, which emerged as intermediaries for players to receive null benefits from boosters and alumni, are perhaps the most important element of null that needs to be regulated to create a level playing field.
“the problem and the problem with the name, the image and the likeness is that the trainers try to create an advantage for themselves. they came out and said: ‘okay, how can we use this to our advantage?’ they created what’s called a ‘collective’… an outside marketing agency that’s not tied to the university and is funded by university alumni… that marketing agency then funnels it to the players. he really knows how much money is in the collective so he knows how much he can promise each player that’s not the name and image and likeness that they were supposed to be that’s what he’s become, and that’s the problem in college athletics right now. …
“now in recruiting we have players in our state who grew up wanting to come to alabama who won’t commit to us unless we say we’re going to give them what somebody else is going to give them…my theory on that is that everything we’ve done in college athletics has always been even [saban is referring to scholarships, cost of attendance, etc.]…I told our players, ‘we’re going to have a collective, but everybody’s going to get the same amount of opportunities for that group'”.