Recently retired Nick Saban rips NIL: ‘What we have now is not college football’

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Several prominent members of the football world have said that Nick Saban retired because of NIL running rampant – they might have been right.

Saban, 72, called it a career in January – an illustrious career that included seven national championships, making him arguably the greatest college football coach of all time.

However, with the recent skyrocketing of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals, college athletics has changed a lot, and they are not what Saban is used to.

“What we have now is not college football — not college football as we know it. You hear somebody use the word ‘student-athlete.’ That doesn’t exist,” Saban said in an interview with ESPN, whom he recently joined as a “College GameDay” analyst.


Nick Saban talks to reporters

Alabama head coach Nick Saban answers questions from the media at the Heisman Trophy press conference at the Marriott Marquis in New York on Dec. 11, 2021 in New York City. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Saban said he wants to have a voice that will bring “meaningful change” and prepare athletes for life after sports if they do not go pro.

“I do know I’d like to impact college football the best way I can, whether it’s being a spokesperson or anything else,” Saban said. “Listen, I’m for the players. It’s not that I’m not for the players. I want to see the players have a great quality of life and be able to create value for themselves. But we’ve gone to nobody talking about education, nobody talking about creating value for their future, to talking only about how much money can I make while I’m in college.

“I think the consequence of this could come down the road when some of these guys get 28 and 29 years old that maybe they didn’t prepare themselves for when they can’t play football anymore, which is what you should do when you go to college.”

Nick Saban before facing Auburn

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban prior to their game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 25, 2023 in Auburn, Alabama. (Michael Chang/Getty Images)


“But what you have now isn’t name, image and likeness,” he added. “A collective has nothing to do with name, image and likeness.”

“Just like an NFL player has a contract or a coach has a contract, something in place, so you don’t have all this raiding of rosters and mass movement,” he said. “I wonder what fans are going to say when they don’t even know the team from year to year because there’s no development of teams, just bringing in new players every year.”

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Saban has been critical of NIL before, saying that players were going “where they can make the most money.”

He even reportedly rejected two players who were searching for north of $1 million in such a deal.

Saban was one of the leads of the SEC contingent that headed to Washington, D.C., last summer to meet with lawmakers in efforts to regulate NIL.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a level playing field because some people were showing a willingness to spend more than others,” Saban said at the time. “Whereas, if you want to bring the NFL into it, they have a salary cap. They have all the things that level the playing field. We can put guidelines on this stuff that would do the same thing.”

Nick Saban looks on again LSU

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on during pregame warmups prior to facing the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 4, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Admittedly, Saban does not have much of a solution and knows others, notably SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, are better suited to find one.

“It’s one thing to come up with a solution. It’s another thing to implement it,” he said. “I’m just here to help.”

Saban won six of his titles with Alabama and another with LSU in 2003.

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