Nick Saban vs Jimbo Fisher, NIL Payments, Recruitment, Alabama, Texas A&M, Paying Players

A war has broken out between two top college football coaches, summing up the sport’s decades-long, covert struggle for supremacy — and how it’s all spilling out to the public thanks to the governing body’s inability to get things right.

College football is currently on the move thanks to the introduction of Name, Image and Likeness Rights (NIL) — the opportunity for players who are traditionally not compensated for their work with much more than their school scholarship to make money from side jobs like advertising .

But the sport’s governing body, the NCAA, failed to create consistent rules across the country before passing legislation mandating NIL in various states. This has created a wide-open marketplace where schools, according to some wealthy fans, can essentially pay players to sign at their alma mater.

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This near-free market is leading some, like Alabama coach Nick Saban — one of the greatest coaches of all time — to question the path of his sport. (Since Alabama is a contender for the national championship every year, he understandably wants things to stay the same.)

Each year, recruiting classes are ranked by how many top prospect schools sign, and for once, Alabama wasn’t the best school in their conference — instead, Texas A&M, a school with more money than it can start thanks to oil baron backers, first of all.

And it’s safe to say that Saban doesn’t think A&M got all these players because they just love the idea of ​​playing in College Station, Texas.

“I mean, we came second in recruitment last year,” Saban told the audience at a gathering of local business leaders in Alabama.

“(Texas) A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team – made a deal for name, image, likeness.

“We didn’t buy a player, okay? But I don’t know if we can keep it up in the future because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”

Alabama’s Nick Saban and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher before their schools competed last season. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Saban suggested that college football’s parity was threatened if financially strong schools were able to find better recruits.

Of course, this is a ridiculous proposition given the yearly dominance of all but a few universities, but let’s move on.

Thanks to his incredible track record, Saban usually gets away with saying what he wants. But this time, Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher decided enough was enough.

Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator from 2000-04 but has continued his own success with a Florida State national championship and a ridiculously expensive contract with Texas A&M — though he’s had little success there so far.

Fisher called an early-morning press conference the day after Saban’s comments and dumped it on his former boss.

“We never bought anybody,” said the Texas A&M coach. “No rules are broken. Nothing was done wrong.

“It’s despicable that a serious head coach can come out and say that when he doesn’t get his way.

“The narcissist in him doesn’t allow things like that. It’s ridiculous when he’s not at the top.”

But he went one step further, hinting that Saban is no clean-cut when it comes to recruiting the best players in the country.

“Some people believe they are God,” Fisher said. “Look at how God made his deal. You might learn… a lot of things you don’t want to know.

“We are building him up to be the czar of football. Browse his past or anyone who has ever trained with him. You can find out anything you want to find out about what he does and how he does it. It is despicable.”

He added: “You can call me whatever you want to call me. You can’t call me a cheater. I don’t cheat and I don’t lie. I learned that as a child. If so, your old man hit you in the head. Maybe someone should have hit him.”

Fisher has denied claims that Texas A&M has a $35 million ($49.4 million) pool of NIL funds to lure gamers to his school.

Texas A&M has a rich fan base but didn’t win a national championship long before integration. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The problem with all of this, of course, is the underlying proposition that money affecting collegiate football recruitment is new.

The NCAA is at times overseeing the practice in which Southern Methodist University in Texas was found guilty of paying players under the table with a slush fund and received the “death penalty” — an entire season canceled, no home games in a second, withdrawn Scholarships and a probationary period ruined the football program, resulting in them having just one successful season over the next two decades.

But in reality, the NCAA can’t oversee every single incident where players are paid, and with so much money at stake and so much money behind the scenes, this issue remains the sport’s open secret.

Longtime reporter Steven Godfrey, who’s covered recruiting in the South for years – including a 2014 column with unprecedented, thorough reporting on the work of the “bag man,” or those who covertly work to pay players under the table , and a 2018 documentary (available free) about a bidding war over a high school prospect that resulted in penalties for the University of Mississippi made that fact clear in the episode.

“I thought you said I made it all up, SEC?” he joked of the conference hosting Alabama and A&M.

Sports Illustrated writer Richard Johnson on his podcast Split Zone DuoHe explained: “Saban said what he said because he wants to send a message.

“Alabama recruits differently than everyone else in more than obvious ways. To a certain extent, Alabama can rely on reputation along the recruiting route.

“But Alabama hasn’t kept up with the Joneses on NIL-Pay Avenue. They need to step it up – Nick Saban said so to the assembled business leaders.”

Because if you can’t beat them, you have to join them.

However, in Alabama’s case, they can almost always beat her.

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