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Why Nick Saban is Worried About the Future of College Football

Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows more than any coach about disparity in college football, which is why he's worried about the future of it.

The SEC annual meetings took place this past Tuesday, and while there, Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban let his feelings be known on NIL, a system that allows players to make money off of their name, image, and likeness.

Essentially, Saban seems to feel that while NIL is an excellent way for players to make money while playing in college, it's turning into something different entirely—something closer to pay for play.

"If you think there's disparity in college football now, there's going to be a lot more in the future," he said.

"Name, image, and likeness is a good thing for players to be able to make money, but when it turns into pay for play, now you're getting into a different area."

During this meeting, Saban brought up a comment he made over a decade ago about the spread offense asking, "Is this what we want football to become?" and reiterated that in these meetings.

"I don't think it's going to be a level playing field because some people are showing a willingness to spend more than others."

Also, during this meeting, the salary cap in the NFL was brought up, but the issue is that there are schools with massive budgets and some with not-so-high budgets. They can range from $100k to tens of millions of dollars.

Nick Saban on NIL: 'Unionize It'

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

"Unionize it, make it like the NFL. If it's going to be the same for everyone, I think that's better than what we have now. What we have now is some states and some schools and some schools in some states investing a lot more money in managing their roster than others," Saban said. "This is going to create a real competitive disadvantage for some in the future, and it's also going to create an imbalance in the competitive nature of the sport."

A prime example of a massive deal was Nico Iamaleava, a freshman quarterback at Tennessee who signed a four-year, $8 million deal with Spyre Sports.

To put that in perspective, the No. 41 overall draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, edge rusher B.J. Ojulari, signed a four-year, $8.6 million rookie deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

Saban has some valid concerns. There are some standout programs in college football. While NIL could create some disparity, it could also force some schools to go a bit easier on recruits to prevent them from fleeing, though the players should take responsibility for their future. In a vacuum, what's stopping a kid from playing for Saban, not liking how he's being disciplined or coached by him, then leaving, having the Alabama history attached to him, and making more money elsewhere? Sure, it could hurt his draft stock, but as you can see, some 18-year-old freshman is making similar money to a No. 41 overall draft pick.

The NIL issue will persist until the "wild, wild west-ness" of it all comes under control.

Per Saban in May 2022, 25 players on the Crimson Tide roster combined for $3 million in NIL.


Is Saban willing to adapt if this is how college football is headed? We'll have to wait to find out.

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