Saban accuses Texas A&M of buying players through NIL deals
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban on Wednesday accused Southeastern Conference (SEC) rival Texas A&M University of buying top-ranked recruits through the NCAA’s name, image and likeness (NIL) deals.
“I know the consequence is going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players,” Saban said at an event in Birmingham, Ala., speaking about how paying players for branding deals is changing the game, AL.com reported.
“You read about it, 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. Aight? 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. It’s tough,” Saban added.
Texas A&M, coached by Jimbo Fisher, a former assistant coach under Saban, delivered Alabama its only regular season loss last year.
Saban, who has won seven national championships in his storied coaching career, including six at Alabama, also mentioned Jackson State University, a Mississippi-based historically Black college coached by NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, allegedly paying a top recruit $1 million to commit to their football program.
“We have a rule right now that said you cannot use name, image and likeness to entice a player to come to your school. Hell, read about it in the paper!” Saban said at the event. “I mean, Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school. It was in the paper and they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it.”
Saban was referring to Travis Hunter, a five-star football prospect who flipped his commitment from Florida State to Jackson State in December.
Sanders has denied a rumor that his school paid Hunter $1.5 million to commit to the program and called out Saban in a tweet on Wednesday.
“You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow,” Sanders said in a tweet.
“I was & awakened by my son @ShedeurSanders that sent me the article stating that WE PAYED @TravisHunterJr a Million to play at @GoJSUTigersFB ! We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE.”
The Supreme Court in June upheld a lower court ruling that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by limiting student-athletes’ compensation.
In response to the court’s decision, the NCAA began allowing student-athletes to profit off their names, images and likeness, in line with changes being made by state legislators and school administrators.
Fisher, who coached Florida State University to a national championship in 2013, has previously called out other SEC coaches who have questioned the integrity of his football program using NIL deals.
During a press conference on Thursday, Fisher, he fired back a Saban’s accusations, calling it “despicable” for a head coach to take a shot at 17-year-old recruits and their families, suggesting that Saban has skeletons in his own closet when it comes to recruiting.
“Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out about a guy that a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be the czar of football,” Fisher said. “Go dig into his past, or anybody’s ever coach with him. You can find out anything you want to find out what he does and how he does it. And it’s despicable.”
In February, Fisher called coaches critical of his recruiting “clown acts,” according to ESPN. “And the guys griping about NIL and transfer portal are using it the most and bragging about it the most. That’s the ironic part. … It’s a joke. It does piss me off,” he said.
Updated: 1:00 p.m.
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