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May 19, 2022 7:57 pm

Nick Saban apologizes for singling out Texas A&M on NIL

Alabama coach Nick Saban apologized Thursday for calling out Texas A&M and two other schools during a speech for leveraging name, image and likeness (NIL) deals to attract players.

Saban set off a firestorm Wednesday night when he said Texas A&M “bought every player on their team.”

“I should have never really singled anybody out,” Saban said during an interview with ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM. “That was a mistake and I really apologize for that part of it.”

Saban’s incendiary comments came Wednesday night during an event with more than 100 business leaders in Birmingham, Ala.

The SEC issued a statement on Thursday admonishing Saban for his comments and Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher for his reply, which came earlier Thursday.

“The membership of the Southeastern Conference has established expectations for conduct and sportsmanship that were not met (Wednesday) nor today,” commissioner Greg Sankey said. “A hallmark of the SEC is intense competition within an environment of collaboration. Public criticism of any kind does not resolve issues and creates a distraction from seeking solutions for the issues facing college athletics today. There is tremendous frustration concerning the absence of consistent rules from state to state related to name, image and likeness. We need to work together to find solutions and that will be our focus at the upcoming SEC Spring Meetings.”

Saban made the initial comments to point out that the wild-west nature of NIL deals for players is not sustainable. And he took aim at Texas A&M’s recruiting class, ranked No. 1 in the country.

“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 for July’s World Games in Birmingham. “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, all right? 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.”

Fisher responded Thursday, defending his program and calling Saban a “narcissist.” Fisher said he refused to take Saban’s call since his comments Wednesday night.

“Some people think they’re God,” Fisher said. “Go dig into how God did his deal, you may find out about a lot of things that you don’t want to know. We build him up to be the czar of college football. Go dig into his past.

“I just know that what we did was nothing wrong. Not done the wrong way. Nothing was promised. Nothing was a deal. And we didn’t buy any players,” Fisher added. “You can call me anything you want to call me, you don’t call me a cheat. I don’t cheat. I don’t lie.”

Saban also called out Jackson State football and Miami’s basketball program.

“Hell, read about it in the paper. Jackson State paid a guy $1 million last year that was a really good Division I player to come to the school,” Saban said, referring to five-star prospect Travis Hunter, who flipped from Florida State to the HBCU school coached by Deion Sanders.

“It was in the paper, and they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it. I mean, these guys at Miami that are going to play basketball there for $400,000, it’s in the newspaper. The guy tells you how he’s doing it.”

Saban was referring to Nijel Pack, who transferred from Kansas State to Miami and then inked a $400,000 NIL deal with LifeWallet.

Sanders responded on Twitter, calling Saban’s assertion about Hunter a lie.

Saban told ESPN earlier Thursday that he reached out to Fisher and shouldn’t have used any names when he discussed Texas A&M and Jackson State.

“Look, I should have never singled anybody out, and I wasn’t saying that either one of those schools did anything wrong,” Saban told ESPN. “I didn’t intend it to mean they were buying players, but more that you’re able to buy players now and it’s totally legal. You’re just using name, image and likeness to do it. What I’m saying is that it’s not good for the game and is only going to get worse unless there’s some federal legislation.”

–Field Level Media

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