Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher did not even give the reporter a chance to finish the question.
“I know it’s been on your mind,” the writer began at Fisher’s signing day press conference on Wednesday. “You stacked up top 10 classes together now for four years in a row. I don’t think there was ever even two before that. So do you kind of consider it a slap in the face or whatever, when there’s these thoughts out there that …
“Very,” Fisher said and then dove in head first, discussing a website called brobible that was one of the first to discuss some lucrative Name, Image and Likeness deals — or potential deals — that perhaps helped the Aggies lasso the No. 1 recruiting class in all the land Wednesday, according to both Rivals.com and 247 Sports.
He went on to mention Alabama coach Nick Saban as well.
Fisher never mentioned Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin by name, but Kiffin was the main target of his extended rant. Make no mistake about it.
Kiffin’s 2022 signing class finished No. 27 in the nation, ahead of only Vanderbilt in the SEC in the Rivals.com rankings, with 18 signees, including zero of the elite five star prospects and six of the four stars.
Fisher’s class of 29 had five of the five stars and 20 four stars.
Surely, this upset Kiffin, whose team beat Fisher’s 29-19 last season on its way to the first 10-win regular season in Ole Miss history. The Rebels reached the Sugar Bowl before losing to No. 7 Baylor and finishing No. 11 in the final Associated Press poll at 10-3. Texas A&M beat No. 1 Alabama last season, but it finished 8-4 and unranked.
Kiffin signed no one on Wednesday, yet for some reason he held a pre-signing day press conference on Tuesday. Perhaps to vent about what he knew was coming?
“We don’t have the same funding resources as some of these schools do for these NIL deals,” Kiffin said when asked about recruiting and the NCAA transfer portal. “And so it’s basically like dealing with different salary caps. We now have a sport that has completely different salary caps. Some of these schools have five, 10 times more than everybody else of what they can pay the players.”
Yes, but the new NIL rules from the NCAA rules do leave room for creativity, Lane. In fact, they leave room for a lot of finesse. There is not just a gray area available. There are wide open spaces of gray. Some schools surely are pushing the envelope, and it’s a wide envelope because the NCAA is vague about the rules concerning NIL.
“When recruiting a prospective student-athlete, a coach may share what NIL deals other members of the team have closed and how the institution has helped student-athletes maximize their NIL earning potential. However, coaches cannot guarantee NIL deals to a prospect without violating the NCAA’s interim policy,” the NCAA has stated.
Oh, OK. So a coach can say, “Hey, our quarterback has a million dollar deal with this car company, and this marketing firm that has a relationship with us helped him get it. I’m just putting that out there. Now, come see our weight room.”
Creativity can rule in this new world.
For example, Grambling, which is one of the smallest and poorest college football programs in the nation in rural north Louisiana, has put its heads together for a unique NIL marketing plan that will spread the wealth throughout its roster.
So, Lane, maybe your Ole Miss people need to get a recruiting think tank together.
Instead, for the time being, Kiffin chose to take a shot at a school that is obviously recruiting much better than his and has for years under Fisher, even before NIL.
“I joked the other day I didn’t know if Texas A&M was going to incur a luxury tax in how much they paid for their signing class,” Kiffin said Tuesday.
Wow. Kiffin was using the luxury tax NFL teams deal with relative to the salary cap.
“I know nobody else uses those phrases, but that is what it is,” Kiffin said.
Is Kiffin trying to tell us that there is no money around Oxford, Mississippi, or no one with money connected to Ole Miss? Not as much as there is around College Station, no, but try harder, Lane. Grambling has found some major money sources.
Kiffin has done very well in the NCAA transfer portal as he got former USC quarterback Jaxson Dart, former USC tight end Michael Trigg, former TCU tailback Zach Evans and a pair of Auburn players — defensive lineman J.J. Pegues and defensive back Ladarius Tennison.
That’s recruiting, and NIL deals are involved in that. In fact, Kiffin called himself “the Portal King,” in reference to Tiger King Joe Exotic, after he got Dart.
“To have coaches in our league and across this league that say it? Clown acts,” Fisher said of Kiffin. “Irresponsible as hell – multiple coaches in our league. The guys griping about NIL, griping about transfer portal, are using it the most and bragging about it the most. That’s the ironic part. You want character? I’ll take it with any of y’all. It’s a joke. It does piss me off.”
Fisher was wrong to include Saban in his tirade, because Saban has not criticized Fisher’s recruiting. Saban has been “griping” about the NIL and the transfer portal, but he is still participating as well as anyone. His class is No. 2, not No. 27. That doesn’t mean he likes what is happening.
Fisher was just so angry, he was just looping everybody in. Believe it. He is mainly mad about what Kiffin said.
“It’s insulting to our staff, how hard we work,” he continued. “It’s insulting to Texas A&M. If you don’t like what we’re doing, get used to it, all right? We’re not going anywhere. Ball games are changing, man. And it ain’t because of NIL and what goes on.”
Fisher did have three straight No. 6-ranked classes by Rivals.com from 2019-21 before this No. 1. Kiffin’s 2021 class was ranked No. 17. His 2020 class after he just got the job was No. 46.
“It’s pretty irresponsible of all of them. They’re clowns,” said Fisher, who is not the first to call Kiffin a clown. “They got a problem with it? Come see me. I ain’t a hard guy to find.”
Fisher, who beat No. 1 Alabama last season and just did it again on signing day, will be in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 8.
But that’s just the undercard.
Get your tickets now for Oct. 29 at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin will be in town.
Call it the NIL Bowl.