Alabama’s Nick Saban accuses Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M of buying players

Nick Saban (left) and Jimbo Fisher

Nick Saban (left) and Jimbo Fisher
Picture: Getty Images

The Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher feud is a microcosm of the two schools of thought in college football right now. Texas A&M beat Alabama for the nation’s top recruiting class this year and one coach, Saban, wasn’t too happy, saying, “A&M bought every player on their team.”

Fisher responded by saying, “No rules were broken. Nothing was done wrong… The narcissist in [Saban] don’t allow these things to happen. And it’s ridiculous when he’s not on top. And the parity in college football he’s talking about — go talk to the coaches who coached him. You will discover all parity. Go dig wherever he’s been. You can find out anything… Some people think they’re God. Go find out how God has done his business.

These are some of the most openly hateful comments that college football coaches have made at each other in the public eye in recent memory. It looks like two scorned lovers, like they’re divorced, and Saban is furious that Fisher is winning over the kids by giving them an Xbox for Christmas.

Fisher seems to be alleging that Saban has his own not-so-flawless recruiting practices, which I doubt would surprise a lot of people, and he’d surely know considering he’s a former aide to Saban.

Fisher is in many ways one of the biggest faces in the NIL deals right now, as he adapted quickly and reaped the benefits in the form of the top recruiting class. Saban kind of represents the old guard, those who have been too slow to act on NIL, and whose agendas are losing power because of it. Saban and coaches like him feign outrage at those who have taken advantage of NIL, not because they see it as unethical, but because they are losing on that front.

Whether or not what Saban says about Fisher and Texas A&M is true, whether they bought players, is kind of a moot point. The school may not be able to offer recruits money, which Fisher insists she hasn’t, but boosters and corporations are allowed to do so. That’s how things are now, and it’s not going to change back.

The truth is, college football programs have always bought players, even if they couldn’t directly offer them amounts of money. The uneven playing field that coaches like Saban protest against has always existed. It no longer works in their favor.

Remember a few years ago when LSU’s $28 Million Locker Room, with sleeping pods of any kind, coverage guaranteed by ESPN and Business Insider, among others? Spending tens of millions in the room where players dress doesn’t count as trying to buy players?

Do you think schools like, say, Bowling Green can compete with that? My apologies to all Bowling Green fans. I don’t want to single you out, I just need an example. Recruitment has always been unfair.

LSU has always been able to, dare I say it, buy players by offering nicer facilities, a bigger stadium, more nationally televised game shows and promises of becoming high draft picks of the NFL, which brings in millions of dollars. Bowling Green was never able to offer that, at least not to the extent that LSU was and still is. Now, the currency that players can receive is real currency. If anything, NIL has leveled the playing field a bit now that a wealthy Bowling Green booster can strike a deal with rookies.

And those are just the things that are above the board. Fisher is far from the first to suggest that the Alabamas of the world have done some shady recruiting stuff. I’m sure college players waited for the Supreme Court’s decision on NIL to accept payment the same way most people wait until their 21st birthday to try beer. Louisville canceled a national basketball championship after discovering former players were paying rookie escorts over a four-year period. Who knows how many similar cases have happened in other schools but have not been discovered?

One man got lost in the Saban vs. Fisher feud and that was Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders. Saban actually apologized to his grumpy Aflac trade co-star after saying, “Jackson State paid a million dollars to a guy last year who was a really good Division 1 player to come to school – it was in the paper – and they bragged about it.”

The player Saban was referring to is Travis Hunter, the No. 1 or 2 ranked rookie in the country according to the publication. Sanders has since called the allegation a “lie,” but I personally don’t care that Hunter was paid a million dollars for his own talent. Good for him if it’s true.

It is laughable that some coaches claim that the NIL agreements are ruining the competitive balance in college football. This is the first semblance of competitive equilibrium in a long time. In all likelihood, a player like Hunter would never have gone to an FCS school without NIL.

The big schools just can’t stand the fact that they need the best players more than the best players need them. If all the top players decided to go to the schools of the MAC, our dear friends Bowling Green’s conference, then the eyeballs, TV deals and money would follow. No one would care about Alabama’s name recognition if they didn’t have the best players.

About Harold Shirley

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