ATLANTA — Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide players made their rounds at SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday, and one of the hot topics was his war-of-words with Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher from earlier this offseason. Saban addressed the controversy and said he isn’t holding a grudge against his former assistant and even found a positive after Fisher blasted Saban’s comments in May that the Aggies “bought” its 2022 recruiting class.
“I have no issues or problems with Jimbo,” Saban said. “I always take criticisms or whatever in a positive way to self-assess me personally in terms of maybe there is something I can do better. So any comments that anybody makes — you or any coach — I always take into consideration.”
Back in May, Saban said that Texas A&M recruits had financial reasons to commit to the Aggies, giving them the best recruiting class of all time according to 247Sports, at a meeting of Birmingham business leaders.
“It’s going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players,” Saban said at the meeting. “You’ve read about them. You know who they are. We were second in recruiting last year. [Texas] 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.”
Fisher responded the next morning in one of the most stunning rants by an SEC coach in recent memory.
“It’s despicable that we have to sit here at this level of ball and say these things to defend the people of this organization, the kids, 17-year-old kids and their families,” Fisher said in an impromptu press conference. “It’s amazing. Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out about a lot of things you don’t want to know.”
Fisher’s response captured the attention of the college football world — including Crimson Tide players.
Alabama defensive end Will Anderson Jr. downplayed the incident Tuesday, but is looking forward to Oct. 8 when the Crimson Tide plays host to the Aggies, who upset Alabama last season.
“I watched it, I saw,” Anderson said. “I don’t really get into social media stuff. When we play Texas A&M, everything will be addressed there.”
The frustration Saban feels regarding name, image and likeness stems from the different laws that states have regulating the practice. However, he is happy with what his players have reeled in during the first year of NIL’s existence.
“I don’t dislike name, image and likeness, our students made over $3 million last year with NIL,” Saban said.
With Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young at quarterback, Anderson off the edge and one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports, that figure might rise in Year Two. Ohio State coach Ryan Day said earlier this summer that he projects that his school needs $13 million to keep his roster intact from year-to-year.
Saban’s spat with Fisher might be in the rear-view mirror, but the NIL world is clearly a mystery among college football coaches after one year.