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NCAA Football: Alabama coach Nick Saban apologizes for accusing Texas A&M of “buying” players

Nick Saban was forced to retract his comments when he singled out Southeastern Conference rivals Texas A&M for “buying” college players.

Nick Saban acusa a Texas A&M de “comprar” jugadores; Jimbo Fisher responde
Kevin C. CoxAFP

Alabama coach Nick Saban landed himself in hot water this week following his remarks about Conference rivals Texas A&M University supposedly taking advantage of lucrative new image rights rules to recruit college players.

Speaking at a forum held in Birmingham on Wednesday, Saban gave his thoughts on the ‘name, image and likeness’ (NIL) policy which was introduced last summer, with the aim of giving NCAA athletes the chance to earn money. The 70-year-old coach says he is not against students making money, but feels that the system is open to abuse.

Saban’s thoughts on NIL

“Likeness, to me, is a great concept for players. Players have always been allowed to work, this is just a different opportunity for them to make money, by working and using their own image and likeness and whatever - whether it’s signing autographs, doing commercials or ads for some company. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I told our players when this whole thing started, to get agents, to get representation -so you can create opportunities for yourself,” he said.

“Our players last year created 3 million dollars with an opportunity for themselves by doing it the right way. I have no problem with that. Nobody on our team had a problem with that because the guys that got the money, earned it. There were only 25 guys on our team that had the opportunity to earn money,” he continued. “The issue and problem with ‘name, image and likeness’ is coaches trying to create an advantage for themselves. They created what is called a collective - an outside marketing agency, that’s not tied to the university, that is funded by alumni from the university. They give this collective millions of dollars. That marketing agency then funnels it to the players. The coach actually knows how much money is in the collective, so he knows how much he can promise every player. That’s not what NIL was supposed to be, but that’s what it’s become and that’s the problem in college athletics right now. Now every player is saying, ‘Well what am I going to get?’

“For years and years and years, students have been able to create a better life for themselves because they’ve been able to get scholarships, to 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 where you go to school based on how much money you’re going to make - not on where you have the best chance to develop as a person, as a student and as a player”.

Recruitment changed by new NIL deals

Saban went on to give an example: “The consequence is going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players. You’ve read about them, you know who they are. We were second in recruiting last year, A&M was first - A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn’t buy one player. But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future, because more and more people are doing it. So it’s tough and people blame the NCAA”.

Texas A&M coach John James Jimbo Fisher responded to the comments in a press conference on Thursday morning, telling reporters, “First of all, I’ll say it’s a shame we have to do this,” Fisher said. “It’s despicable. It’s really despicable. It’s despicable that someone can say things about somebody, and more importantly 17-year-old kids. You’re taking shots at 17-year-old kids and their families. That they broke state laws, that we bought every player in this group. We never bought anybody. No rules were broken. Nothing was done wrong. It was all — the way we do things and the ethics in which we do things and these families — 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. A narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen, and it’s ridiculous when he’s on top.”

Less than 24 hours later, Saban apologised for offending Texas A&M and their students, telling ESPN Radio, “I feel bad about it. I look at the betterment of college football, what is good for the game. It’s a crazy world out there. I should have never singled anybody out, and I apologize for that part of it. It’s the whole system, and is this a sustainable system, and is it good for college football?”

Saban and Fisher reprimanded by the SEC

Both coaches have since been reprimanded by the Southeastern Conference for infringing the SEC’s Ethical Conduct Code for “publicly criticising another member institution’s staff”.


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