University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban is wrong and he needs to mind his business.
It’s that simple.
For those who haven’t been paying attention to the discourse on College Football Twitter lately, Saban took it upon himself Wednesday night to go on a rant calling out Texas A&M University and Jackson State University for allegedly paying for top recruits to come to their institutions.
“Jackson State paid a guy $1 million last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school,” Saban said without proof during an event in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was in the paper. They bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it.”
The clips have been recycled on social media over and over again.
Texas A&M Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, a former assistant under Saban, took the time to respond to his SEC West opponent’s “narcissist” leader.
Even Travis Hunter, the nation’s coveted top high school recruit who Saban was likely referring to who decided to go to Jackson State, posted a tweet in response to the Alabama football coach’s comments.
“I don’t make a million. Travis ain’t built like that. Travis ain’t chasing a dollar. Travis is chasing greatness. Travis and his family don’t get down like that,” Sanders told Andscape on Thursday. “They never came to us in search of the bag. They’re not built like that. This kid wants to be great.
Saban’s comments sparked a plethora of reactions in the college football world for many reasons. His words probably represent a man who is bitter about losing to an SEC rival in recruiting and having to adjust to a changing college football landscape with name, image and likeness (NIL) still in its introductory stages.
However, no matter what his frustrations might be, the unsolicited swipe that Saban took at Jackson State and Travis Hunter will justifiably leave a bad taste in many Black people’s mouths for a significant period.
In an age where Black empowerment, Black freedom and Black Unity are still constantly challenged by the white power structure, Saban’s comments trying to delegitimize one of the most historic developments in HBCU sports history will not go unnoticed.
Hunter is the embodiment of a fresh generation of Black athletes that could be valuing impact and cultural significance over the traditional experience of playing college football at a power five predominantly white institution. Saban implying that an HBCU like Jackson State somehow needed to pay players is not only unsubstantiated but highly disrespectful and dripping with racial undertones.
Why is it so out of the realm of possibility for these big-time college football coaches to understand that an HBCU experience rich in Black culture, Black camaraderie and Black excellence is something that a bright and talented young Black man would want to experience?
Someone has to dangle $1 million in front of his face for him to set foot on an HBCU campus?
And even if the rumors are true that Hunter did receive payment from a third-party NIL deal, that isn’t any of Saban’s business, either. Let’s keep in mind that Hunter was committed to powerhouse Florida State University before flipping his decision to Jackson State. Saban would have likely never even had the opportunity to coach Hunter either way.
Even if we expand the conversation and focus on NIL from a macro perspective, the NCAA loosely regulates its NIL policy to begin with, rendering the likelihood of proving that a player got paid to attend a specific institution largely a waste of time and resources.
Saban has supported players receiving NIL deals in the past and he has encouraged them to get agents to help facilitate deals. In fact, 25 different players brought in $3 million in NIL deals last season for Alabama. But according to Saban, they did it the “right way.”
“Our guys earned it and no one in our locker room had a problem with that,” Saban said Wednesday.
The problem that Saban and others around college sports have is that NIL limits the amount of control that they have on these athletes. They probably feel like it’s harder to dictate the behavior and decisions of a young athlete who isn’t as dependent on them to make something of themselves.
NIL opens the door for many college athletes, especially those who are Black, to gain significant dollars that will help propel their lives. Any money that a player receives in college could be a stepping stone to bettering themselves and their families.
Isn’t the whole point of being a coach to help make someone’s life better?
I’m not here to call anyone racist or cast aspersions on Nick Saban or any of these figureheads that want to safeguard the exploitative structure of the NCAA. But at the end of the day, people must be held accountable for their words and we have to acknowledge that this wave of player empowerment will make college athletics better, not worse, for young Black athletes, in particular.
Saban has a glowing opportunity to lean forward and ride the wave to the new promised land in college athletics that will be of benefit to everyone involved.
If he doesn’t, we could see the greatest college football coach in history be left behind.