Alabama coach Nick Saban chose Texas A&M to “buy it” the top-rated signature category and highlighted the unintended impact rights to name, image and likeness have on hiring during an event with local business leaders Wednesday night in Birmingham.
“I mean, we were second in hiring last year,” Saban told the audience. “A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team – cut a deal for name, photo and example. We didn’t buy a single player, OK? But I don’t know if we’ll be able to maintain this in the future because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”
Saban said that the $3 million Alabama players “did it the right way” last year and that only 25 players were able to take advantage of the NIL’s opportunities.
He’s not the first coach to call Aggies by name. In February, Ole Miss coach Lynn Kevin joked, “Texas A&M would have charged the luxury tax in the amount I paid for the signature class.”
That led to a stern response from Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, a former Saban assistant, during the signing-day press conference the following day when he said coaches spreading rumors about deals promised to recruits were “clown acts” and “irresponsible as hell.”
On Wednesday, Saban said the problem with the NIL was “the coaches trying to create an advantage for themselves.”
Saban said coaches know how much money is available from their school group — a group of program supporters who pool their resources to offer deals to athletes — and “how much each player can prepare.”
“It’s not what it was supposed to be,” he said. “That’s what it has become. And that’s the problem with college athletics now. Now every player is saying, ‘Okay, what am I going to get?'”
People are blaming the NCAA, Saban said, “but in defense of the NCAA, we’re where we are because of the litigation.”
Last summer, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that said restricting education-related benefits violated antitrust laws. In the wake of this decision, the NCAA adopted less restrictive rules, including allowing athletes to take advantage of their name, image and likeness.
NCAA rules only prohibit the school or its employees from paying athletes directly for their zero rights.
“If the NCAA doesn’t get some protection from litigation, whether we have to get antitrust or whatever, from the federal government’s point of view, that won’t change because they can’t enforce their rules,” Saban said. “exactly like [Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats] He said, we have a rule now that you can’t use your name, photo, and example to entice a player to come to your school.
Hell, read about it in the newspaper. I mean, the state of Jackson paid the guy a million dollars last year and that was a really good first division player to come to school. It was in the paper, and they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it. I mean, Those guys in Miami who would play basketball there for $400,000, it’s in the papers. The guy tells you how to do it.”
The Jackson State player Saban was referring to is Travis Hunter, a five-star player who flipped his commitment from Florida State and signed with HBCU during their early signing spell in December. Jackson State coach Dion Sanders denied the rumor that Hunter had offered him more than $1 million.
Sanders responded forcefully to Saban’s comments Wednesday evening, Twitter: “You think I’m going to address what LIE SABAN coach said tomorrow. My son ShedeurSanders woke me up who sent me the article saying we paid TravisHunterJr million to play at GoJSUTigersFB! We should pay our people to play with our people.”
Saban’s comments on Miami referred to the former Kansas State basketball player Nigel Buck, which moved into hurricanes in April. Soon after, it was announced that he had signed a two-year, $400,000 deal with Florida-based health tech company LifeWallet.
Saban said he told the players that they would all get the same opportunities from the Alabama Collegiate, but distinguished: “You can earn whatever you want.”
“I tell the recruits the same thing: Our job is not to buy you to come to school here,” he said. “And I don’t know how you run your locker room. And I don’t know if that’s a sustainable model.”
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