When Alabama coach Nick Saban first complained about the NCAA’s still new NIL reality, some thought he was simply firing a warning shot at college football before he exploited the latest device for getting the best possible players and kicking everyone’s ass.
He absolutely wasn’t. He was scared about what NIL would do to his program, his goals, and his legacy. And he’s still scared.
That’s why he keeps complaining about it. That’s why he’s going to Washington next week as part of the ongoing effort to get Congress to clean up the mess that was made by years of corruption and plain-sight antitrust violations by the NCAA, which extended from not paying players for their efforts to preventing them from getting paid by others.
Saban wants to eliminate the advantage that schools in bigger and richer cities and/or with bigger and richer alumni bases will have when it comes to pooling money for NIL collectives. He basically wants an NIL salary cap, so he can go back to using his silver tongue to charm recruits and their family members into securing prime commitments, with all other things being equal.
“If it’s going to be the same for everyone, I think that’s better than what we have now,” Saban said this week. “Because what we have now is we have some states and some schools in some states that are investing a lot more money in terms of managing their roster than others.”
If Saban coached for one of the schools in one of the states to which he’s referring, he would not be complaining. That’s for damn sure. Pre-NIL, Saban had cracked the code on recruiting. Now, he’s having to work even harder to get the locked door of the Kitnerboy Redoubt to swing open.
Saban’s desperation extends to suggesting the kind of dramatic change the NCAA has resisted for decades.
“I have no problem [with players becoming employees],” Saban said. “I mean, unionize it. Make it like the NFL.”
Easy, big fella. The powers-that-be don’t want the players to be employees. They don’t want to have to pay them. They definitely don’t want a union.
Saban just wants the dollars to be even among all schools, so that he can go back to using his homespun charm to stack the deck for the home team.
It’s that simple. It’s that clear. In an era of unlimited cash, Alabama won’t be able to compete over the long haul. And every dollar that goes to the NIL collective is a dollar that could have gone to the Alabama program, which pays him more than $10 million per year.
For plenty of schools, funding an NIL collective amounts to robbing Peter to pay Paul. For some schools, there’s more than enough money to pay Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles.
The situation eventually could force Saban to become a Tuscaloosa Judas, if he can’t whine the desired change into existence. Really, would anyone be surprised if Saban eventually starts sniffing around one of those schools in one of those states where there’s enough money to buy up all the best players -- and also to pay him even more than he’s currently making?