Nick Saban dismisses feud with Jimbo Fisher

Alabama coach Nick Saban has ‘no problem’ with A&M’s Jimbo Fisher

Nick+Saben+yells+instruction+before+NCAA+college+football+game.

VASHA HUNT, Associated Press

Alabama head coach Nick Saban yells instruction before an NCAA college football game against LSU, Nov. 6, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Southeastern Conference spring meetings will be held in person for the first time since 2019 in a little less than two weeks.

RALPH D. RUSSO, Associated Press

DESTIN, Fla. — Alabama coach Nick Saban tried to end his feud with Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher on Tuesday as Southeastern Conference leaders gathered for spring meetings at a resort on the Florida Gulf Coast.

“I didn’t really say that anybody did anything wrong,” Saban said when asked if he had evidence Texas A&M has been buying players with name, image and likeness compensation deals. “OK, and I’ve said everything I’m going to say about this. I should have never mentioned any individual institutions as I’ve said that before.”

“I have no problem with Jimbo. I have no problem with Jimbo at all.”

Saban set off Fisher two weeks ago when he called out Texas A&M and other schools regarding the need for name, image and likeness regulation in college sports.

Fisher said Saban’s comments were despicable and called his former boss at LSU a “narcissist.” He also denied any wrongdoing with his program, which landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2022.

The SEC spring meetings were the first opportunity for the two superstar coaches to meet face-to-face since the dustup. Fisher was not scheduled to meet with reporters Tuesday.

I have no problem with Jimbo. I have no problem with Jimbo at all.”

— Nick Saban

Before heading into what was scheduled to be a five-hour meeting with all 14 SEC coaches, Saban met with reporters for about 10 minutes. Reporters asked him about Texas A&M, and he quickly pivoted into trying to make a broader point about name, image, and likeness.

“Some kind of uniform name, image and likeness standard that supports some kind of equitable, national competition I think is really, really important in college athletics and college football,” Saban said.

Saban said transparency was needed to ensure athletes are signing legitimate deals that pay them for their services and that boosters needed to be kept out of recruiting.

The NCAA lifted most of its rules barring athletes from earning money from sponsorship and endorsement deals last July, but many worry that name, image and likeness deals are being used as recruiting inducements and de facto pay-for-play. The NCAA issued guidance to Division I members in early May to clarify that booster-funded collectives being involved in recruiting violates the rules. 

“Believe me, I’m all for players making as much as they can make,” Saban said. “But I also think we’ve got to have some uniform, transparent way to do that.”

Florida coach Billy Napier, another former Saban assistant and newcomer to the SEC, didn’t comment  about Saban and Fisher but agreed the current situation with name, image and likeness compensation is difficult to manage.

 But he said he has no qualms with football players taking home some of the millions in revenue they generate.

“It’s foolish to say the players don’t deserve a piece of the pie,” Napier said. “If there’s no players in the stadium, there’s nobody sitting in the stands and nobody sitting at home watching on TV.”

Alabama players made plenty of money with name, image and likeness deals last year, hiring agents to guide them through the process, Saban said. He just wants those deals to be struck after a player enrolls at a school.

“This is not about Alabama,” Saban said. “This is not about what’s best for us. I just hope we can sort of put some guardrails on all of this.”

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