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Nick Saban weighs in on NIL, revenue sharing in college football during time on Capitol Hill

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos03/12/24


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Nick Saban announced his retirement as the coach at Alabama in January.

On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, he had his chance to explain how name, image and likeness shifted his job in recent years. Sen. Ted Cruz held a roundtable focused on the need for Congress to “find consensus and pass bipartisan legislation” surrounding NIL. Saban and the Cavinder Twins were in attendance, along with ACC commissioner Jim Phillips, Alabama athletic director Greg ByrneThe Collective Association president Russell White and NIL attorney Darren Heitner.

But Saban, who won six national championships in 17 seasons with the Crimson Tide, was the real star of the show.

“Well, all the things that I believed in for all these years, 50 years of coaching, no longer exist in college athletics,” he said. “So it always was about developing players. It was always about helping people when you’re successful in life. My wife even said to me, we have all the recruits over on Sunday with their parents for breakfast. And she would always meet with the mothers and talk about how she was going to help and impact their sons and how they would be well taken care of.

“And she came to me, like right before our retirement and said, ‘Why are we doing this?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘All they care about is how much you’re going to pay them.'”

Saban was also emphatic when asked about how NIL has reshaped the college sports landscape, specifically college football. Donor-led NIL collectives have popped up across the country, with more than 200 organizations. Collecting funds through collectives to funnel back to athletes has become crucial in retaining and attracting talent.

“It’s whoever wants to pay, the most money raised, the most money to buy the most players is going to have the best opportunity to win,” Saban said Tuesday.

Nick Saban supports revenue sharing model

At one point in Tuesday’s legislative hearing, Saban was specifically asked about his views on revenue sharing and employment. With the NCAA facing multiple legal pressures, Congress will have to act quickly if college sports avoid an employment model.

Nick Saban is a supporter of revenue being shared with athletes.

“I think the revenue-share approach, if we can go down that road a little bit further, you can do that without making people employees,” he said. “Then the revenue share does not impact women’s sports – even though they don’t create revenue you’re still going to be able to create opportunities. It leads to a more relative approach to how we could move forward. We can make the quality of life better for players that are not employees.

“They still have name, image and likeness opportunities. They can still do name, image and likeness. They still have those opportunities. But it’s not going to be created. It’s going to be something that they all earned. In other words, I’m not really for collectives. I respect what these folks over here do. But I think those funds should go to the institution. Not to create opportunities.”