Saban apologizes for singling out Texas A&M, Jackson State


Less than 24 hours after igniting an offseason war of words in college football, Nick Saban is trying to deescalate a suddenly contentious situation. The Alabama coach, who Wednesday night singled out recruiting successes Texas A&M and Jackson State as examples of what's wrong with the new era of name, image and likeness, backtracked his remarks during a Thursday appearance on SiriusXM's ESPNU radio.

"That was a mistake and I apologize for that part of it," Saban said, clarifying that he wasn't accusing Texas A&M or Jackson State of breaking any rules or laws through NIL deals. "I really wasn't saying that anyone did anything illegal in using name, image and likeness. I didn't say that. That was something that was assumed by what I said, which is not really what I meant, nor was it what I said. There's nothing illegal about doing this. It's the system that allows you to do it, and that's the issue that I have."

The 70-year-old, seven-time national champion then went on to explain that he sees collectives as the primary issue with college football's present landscape amid the advent of NIL and rules allowing players to transfer once without sitting out a season. Collectives are the third-party, non-profit organizations that have been formed independent of university oversight to help facilitate NIL deals for players.

"I don't think NIL in its original form or what people wanted it to be is really an issue at all," Saban said. "I think collectives are the issue. I think one of the solutions would be if you have people that are representatives of your school that give money to a collective, and then the collective turns around and gives it to players on the team ... then that collective should become a representative of the institution. And they should not be able to give money to the player, just like an alumnus can't give money to a player."

Regardless of how Saban meant to address his concerns with college football's current landscape, it invited plenty of feedback. Fisher called a press conference Thursday morning to publicly fire back at Saban, calling his former boss a "narcissist" while Texas A&M's athletic director Ross Bjork made a call to the SEC offices. The league later reprimanded both Saban and Fisher for their public criticism of another school. Jackson State coach Deion Sanders took exception to Saban's claim that the Tigers paid $1 million for top recruit Travis Hunter, calling the remarks a flat-out "lie." 

Saban made it clear that he has no problem with alumni working with agents to provide marketing opportunities for athletes with their companies and brands. Rather, collectives paying money to directly to players is where Saban has an issue. Though Saban didn't add more fuel to the fire on Thursday, there should still be plenty of tension at the annual SEC spring meetings coming up at the end of the month in Destin, Florida.

"People want to understand why people are transferring schools and getting money to do it," Saban said. "I think it's great that players can earn money. But do you make a decision about where you can make the most money? That's the issue, and I'm not sure that's good for college athletics. I think that's the big picture we want to focus on in Destin, that I want to focus on in Destin."

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