DESTIN, Florida – Apparently, Alabama football coach Nick Saban, a former defensive back at Kent State and seven-time national champion coach, has lost a step.
He tried to reverse his field on his comments last month in which he said Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher “bought every player” in his 2022 signing class via Name, Image & Likeness deals when Saban spoke Tuesday at the SEC Spring Meetings here. But Saban slipped and fell into a contradiction.
The first question to Saban was by a writer who covers Texas A&M.
“What evidence do you have that Texas A&M bought its entire recruiting class?”
Saban said, “You know I didn’t really say that anybody did anything wrong,” but the writer had none of that.
“You said they bought their recruiting class,” he interrupted.
Saban paused and continued what he was saying, “I didn’t say anybody did anything wrong. OK, and I said everything I’m going to say about this.”
What Saban said two weeks ago was that A&M recruits got NIL deals when they were still recruits. According to NCAA rules, NIL deals can only be completed after the recruit signs with a school.
So is Saban now saying what he previously accused A&M of doing is now not wrong? He never answered that question. He also never answered the original question, which was if he had any “evidence” of A&M’s NIL deals with recruits.
Saban did, for the second time, say he made a mistake by singling out Texas A&M”
“I should’ve never mentioned any individual institution, and I said that before,” he said.
“But some kind of uniform Name, Image and Likeness standard to support some kind of equitable, national competition is really important in college football,” he said.
Saban went on to say there needs “to be some type of transparency in NIL deals.”
But Saban was asked about about Fisher again. The question was, “Is Jimbo lying when he says that they didn’t do anything wrong?”
Saban interrupted and said, “I have no problem with Jimbo. I have no problem with Jimbo at all.”
Fisher arrived in Destin Tuesday as did all other SEC head football and basketball coaches and coaches from other sports as well as athletic directors and presidents and chancellors.
And Fisher and Saban did cross paths in the lobby of the Hilton, where the meetings are being held through Friday.
Fisher, accompanied by his wife Courtney Harrison Fisher, enthusiastically greeted fans and a reporter or two on his way to a table at a diner near the lobby. Fisher was seated with his back to the lobby and on his cellular phone when Saban and Alabama sports information director Josh Maxson happened to walk right by Fisher just as he and his wife were sitting down. Fisher never saw Saban, but his wife did. It did not appear that Saban saw Fisher, either, as he was looking straight ahead when he passed.
Film at 11.
Fisher did not take a call from Saban on May 19 – the day after Saban said the Aggies “bought every player” in Fisher’s 2022 class. “We’re done,” Fisher said of his relationship with Saban that day.
Saban hired Fisher to his first offensive coordinator job at a major program after the 1999 season when he brought him to LSU. Fisher’s offense helped lead Saban to his first national championship in the 2003 season. Fisher remained LSU’s offensive coordinator through the 2005 and ’06 seasons after Saban left to coach the Miami Dolphins after the 2004 season.
Fisher left LSU before the 2007 season to be Florida State’s offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting. He replaced Bobby Bowden as head coach before the 2010 season and won the national championship in the 2013 season. He became Texas A&M’s coach before the 2018 season.
Last season, Fisher became the first of Saban’s pupils who became head coaches to beat him. Then he signed the No. 1 recruiting class to Saban’s No. 2 class.
The two are expected to be here through Thursday, so maybe they will cross paths again when both see one another. They were also expected to be in the same room later Tuesday for coaches’ meetings.
Fisher is expected to speak to reporters on Wednesday in the same conference room where Saban spoke at noon eastern. The SEC office had hoped to schedule Fisher for 11 a.m. Tuesday, but his plane did not arrive until 11 a.m. so he was pushed to Wednesday. Other coaches who spoke on a crowded docket Tuesday were Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, South Carolina coach Shane Beamer, Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Florida coach Billy Napier.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is expected to speak at 6 p.m.
Sankey told OutKick on Sunday in an exclusive interview at the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover that “what we have to do” with regard to the Saban-Fisher feud “is turn the page.”
Sankey planned to visit with both coaches.
“I’m going to have the opportunity to visit with all 14 coaches early in the week,” Sankey said. “There are 14 coaches in the league. And we’ve always had issues and disagreements.”
Drinkwitz, for example, was angry at former Florida coach Dan Mullen when he wore a Darth Vader costume to the postgame press conference in 2020 after the Gators beat Missouri, 41-17, in Gainesville on Halloween. The Fisher-Saban feud sounds more intense than that one, however, as Fisher called his former boss “despicable.”
“It probably shouldn’t have happened publicly,” Drinkwitz said of the Fisher-Saban feud. “When tensions are high, people’s emotions are strong. We’re talking about two greats in the game.”
Drinkwitz said he did not expect any heated exchanges between Saban and Fisher at any meetings here. Coaches sit in alphabetical order by name of school, so Saban (A) will be far from Fisher (T).
Coaches are expected to vote on new schedule models for the future with Texas and Oklahoma joining the league in 2025 in addition to discussions and possible other votes about NIL and the transfer portal.
“We’re here to vote, I would assume,” Drinkwitz said. “I hope we’re here to make decisions.”