Saban: Current NIL Rules Allow Players to Be Bought

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Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has six national championships in 13 seasons with the Crimson Tide, but he's leery of what he sees for college football’s future if changes aren't made to the NCAA's current NIL rules.

Saban told the Associated Press in a recent interview that current NIL rules aren’t sustainable.

“The concept of name, image and likeness was for players to be able to use their name, image and likeness to create opportunities for themselves. That’s what it was,” Saban said. “So last year on our team, our guys probably made as much or more than anybody in the country.”

While paying a player to attend a particular school is still a violation of NCAA rules, schools are promising NIL deals as part of their recruiting efforts.

“But that creates a situation where you can basically buy players,” Saban said. “You can do it in recruiting. I mean, if that’s what we want college football to be, I don’t know. And you can also get players to get in the transfer portal to see if they can get more someplace else than they can get at your place.” 

Southern California’s head football coach Lincoln Riley echoed those sentiments in recent comments to the press.

“I think that anybody that cares about college football is not real pleased with that because that wasn’t the intention,” said Riley, who is in his first season at Southern California after five years at Oklahoma. “And I’m sure, at some point, there is going to be a market correction if you will, with recruiting.”

Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin is also worried about potential conflicts in recruiting between coaches and booster.

“I think that there’s going to start being issues potentially of donors and collective groups saying they want Player A from their area. And the coaching staff wants Player B,” Kiffin told AP.

While Saban supports college athletes compensated, he likens the current situation to the NFL. 

“We now have an NFL model with no contracts, but everybody has free agency,” said Saban. “It’s fine for players to get money. I’m all for that. I’m not against that. But there also has to be some responsibility on both ends, which you could call a contract. So that you have an opportunity to develop people in a way that’s going to help them be successful.”

In the end, Saban worries that the balance of power will ultimately shift toward the wealthiest colleges and universities and the communities that support them.

“So there’s going to have to be some changes implemented, some kind of way to still create a level playing field,” he said. “And there is no salary cap. So whatever school decides they want to pay the most, they have the best chance to have the best team. And that’s never been college football, either.”

While that’s a concern Saban continues to mull, he hopes that the quality of a program, and their ability to develop players will still figure into young athletes’ decisions on where they play. 

“I know we have to adapt to that,” Saban said. “You’re going to have kids out there that say, ‘Well, I can get a better deal going someplace else,’ and they’ll go there. But you’re also going to have people that see the light and say, ‘Yeah, they’ve got a good history of developing players. They got a good history of developing people, they got a great graduation rate and that value is more important.’ “

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