Nick Saban has been outspoken in his stance that he’s in favor of college athletes capitalizing on NIL opportunities. But the Alabama head coach has also said many times he thinks there are flaws in the system, and he made it abundantly clear again in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger.
Saban spoke at length about the current state of the NIL landscape as part of a wide-ranging Q&A with Dellenger. He continued to criticize the role NIL collectives play and how players decide where to go to school.
“The issue is, when you create those [collectives] for people, are you establishing a pay-for-play type of environment that can be used in recruiting?” Saban told Dellenger. “So now, all the sudden, guys are not going to school where they can create the most value for their future. Guys are going to school where they can make the most money. I don’t think that is even the best thing for the player.
“You went to college. I went to college. Why were we going? We had goals and aspirations for how we wanted to create value for our future. Sometimes these things can be a distraction academically as well as athletically.”
Once again, Saban reiterated he thinks players should have those opportunities. That’s not his issue. He remained steadfast that collectives and the lack of guidelines are to blame.
“But I’ll say it again: I think name, image and likeness is good for players,” Saban said. “The whole concept of collectives is what has created this environment that we are in and I’m not sure that anybody really had the insight or the vision to see that was going to happen. So therefore, we had no guidelines and now we’re trying to develop some.”
Nick Saban on a federal NIL bill: ‘They are trying’
Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Joe Manchin (R-WV) have been working on a federal NIL bill with hopes of a spring 2023 release, as On3’s Pete Nakos reported in December. Saban knows them both well; Tuberville was a college head coach from 1995-2016 — including SEC stops at Ole Miss and Auburn — and Manchin represents Saban’s native West Virginia.
Saban called for more equality when it comes to NIL so it doesn’t come down to “the player and money who are trying to create a market” in recruiting. Dellenger asked Saban about how things are going with regard to the bill, and the coach said talks are still ongoing.
“They are trying,” Saban said. “I think they are making some progress, but there’s some people that … like [SEC commissioner] Greg Sankey and top athletic directors and commissioners, they understand the issues and they have spent a lot more time to try to input the best solutions.
“I don’t think we realize sometimes what [universities] are all trying to do to help players — get an education, develop a career off the field, develop personal characteristics that are going to help them be successful in life, all these things we do to help them develop athletically. We invest a lot in that. That’s important for their future success. We can improve the quality of life for players while they’re going to college but it needs to be more.”
As for his involvement with what Tuberville and Manchin are trying to do, Saban said the sides have talked. He also keeps an open dialogue with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and others, and said he’s directing people to Sankey and others when it comes to finding a solution.
“I talk to them on occasion, but I’m not trying to spearhead a solution,” Saban said. “I talk to Greg Sankey a lot. I talk to [SEC associate commissioner] William King. I hear the other coaches in our meetings. I’m just trying to help provide information to [the senators] so they know what the issues really are.
“I’m trying to also direct them to people I think can input the solution, like Greg Sankey and those kinds of people. Everybody needs to look at the issue from 1,000 feet. I don’t want to take opportunities away from players. I just think the mechanisms around how they get those opportunities need to be more standard for everyone.”