Monday, July 4, 2022

Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork claims Nick Saban violated SEC bylaws with his NIL remarks toward the Aggies

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Texas A&M’s rebuttal to Nick Saban’s suggestion that the Aggies “bought every player on their team” didn’t stop with coach Jimbo Fisher’s fiery press conference on Thursday. Shortly after Fisher’s heated response, Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork joined the fracas by telling Sports Illustrated that Saban’s remarks violated the SEC rules.

“There are sportsmanship bylaws in the SEC,” said Bjork. “We believe Coach Saban violated those bylaws. Everyone knows NIL is here to stay. We’ve embraced it. We have all the tools and technology. We are educating our athletes and boosters. There is all kinds of awareness here. The part that is frustrating is to say NIL is the only reason kids are choosing our program.”

The high-profile showdown between Alabama, Texas A&M and their celebrity coaches could mean that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey winds up cast in the role of peacemaker. Bjork said he has already had discussions with Sankey over the matter, but Fisher didn’t sound particularly optimistic about the SEC office intervening in any meaningful way.

“They’ll reprimand, say something. Move on, I guess,” Fisher said.  

To what degree Saban would be punished by the league for his comments — if at all — remains unclear, though it would fall under bylaw 10.5 under sportsmanship. Sankey might try a more diplomatic approach by playing mediator with Saban and Fisher — a tactic that was famously used more than a decade ago by former SEC commish Mike Slive with Lane Kiffin (then at Tennessee) and Urban Meyer. 

Though a squabble between two of the league’s high-profile coaches may be an inconvenience for Sankey as he tries to navigate the league through a transformational time in college athletics, it certainly raises interest in the league. At a point on the calendar when college football is typically still months away from national relevance, Saban and Fisher are putting the SEC in the headlines.

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