The Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher feud is a microcosm of the two schools of current college football. Texas A&M beat Alabama in the nation’s best recruiting class this year, and one manager Saban wasn’t too happy about it, saying, “A&M bought all the players on the team.”
“I never broke the rules,” Fisher said. There’s nothing wrong with … narcissist [Saban] I don’t allow that to happen. And it’s ridiculous when he’s not at the top. And the collegiate football equivalent he was talking about, talk to the coaches who coached him. You will know all parity. Find out where he was. You can find anything… Some people think they are gods. Go and find out how God dealt.”
These are some of the most publicly loathsome remarks made by college football coaches in recent memory towards each other in the public eye. It reads like two scornful lovers. It’s like they’re divorced, and Saban is upset that Fisher is beating the kids by giving them an Xbox for Christmas.
Fisher seems to be claiming that Saban has his own neat recruiting method. It won’t surprise many. He must have been familiar with this since he was Saban’s former assistant.
Fisher is, in many ways, one of the biggest faces of NIL trading. Because he adapted quickly and benefited in the form of the best recruiting classes. Saban represents an old guard who in some ways is too slow to act against the NIL and whose program is losing its power. Saban and coaches like him are pretending to be outraged at the people who exploited the NIL. Not because they see unethical things about the NIL, but because they are losing in that respect.
Whether or not what Saban said about Fisher and Texas A&M is true and whether they bought the player is debatable. Schools may not be able to provide recruitment funds. Fisher claims he didn’t, but Booster and the company allow it. That is the situation now, and it will never change again.
The truth is that college football programs could not provide players money directly, but they always bought players. There has always been an unequal playing field where coaches like Saban protest. It no longer works in their favor.
Remember a few years ago. LSU’s $28 Million Locker Room, fully equipped with sleeping pods and whatever is covered by ESPN and Business Insiders? Wouldn’t spending tens of millions of dollars on a player’s dressing room count as buying a player?
Do you think a school like Bowling Green for example can compete with it? Our apologies to all Bowling Green fans. I don’t mean to point to you, I just need an example. Recruitment has always been unfair.
Dare I say the LSU has always been able to buy players by offering better facilities, bigger stadiums, more nationally televised TV games, and the promise of a high NFL draft pick that will cost you millions of dollars. Bowling Green couldn’t make that offer now, at least as LSU did. The currency players can now accept is real currency. In any case, the NIL has now leveled the playing field a bit as the wealthy Bowling Green booster can make deals with new recruits.
And that’s right above it. Fisher isn’t the first to suggest that the state of Alabama in the world is doing a bit of a shady job to recruit. I’m pretty sure college players waited for a Supreme Court ruling on the NIL in the same way that most people wait until their 21st birthday to get a beer. Louisville canceled the National Basketball Championship after it was discovered that former players had paid escorts for their new recruits for four years. Who knows how many similar cases have occurred in other schools but have not yet been discovered?
One person lost in the Saban vs. Fisher fight was Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders. Saban actually apologized to his nerdy Aflac ad co-star. “
The player Saban mentioned is Travis Hunter, the country’s first or second-ranked recruit, depending on the publication. Sanders has since called the allegations “a lie”, but personally doesn’t care if Hunter was paid a million dollars for his talent. If that’s true, that’s good for him.
It would be ludicrous for some coaches to claim that the NIL deal is disrupting the competitive balance of college football. This is the first glimpse of competitive equilibrium for a long time. If it weren’t for the NIL, a player like Hunter wouldn’t have gone to FCS school.
Big schools can’t stand the fact that they need the best players more than they need the best players. Eyeballs, TV deals, and money will follow if all the top players decide to go to school in MAC, the meeting of dear friend Bowling Green. No one would care about Alabama’s reputation without the best players.