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Alabama’s Nick Saban apologized for singling out Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and Jackson State coach Deion Sanders for his remarks about schools paying recruits to play football.
Saban told ESPN on Thursday he didn’t mean to suggest the schools were cheating but said he doesn’t like schools using name, image and likeness (NIL) deals to essentially buy players. He said using collectives and things of that sort wasn’t good for college football.
Head Coach Jimbo Fisher of the Texas A&M Aggies talks at midfield with Head Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Sept. 22, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
“Look, I should have never singled anybody out, and I wasn’t saying that either one of those schools did anything wrong,” Saban said. “I didn’t intend it to mean they were buying players, but more that you’re able to buy players now, and it’s totally legal. You’re just using name, image and likeness to do it. What I’m saying is that it’s not good for the game and is only going to get worse unless there’s some federal legislation.”
Saban said he doesn’t want to get into a public issue with Fisher, who was an assistant under the legendary college football coach while the two were at LSU in the early 2000s.
“Jimbo can say what he wants to say. We’ve known each other for a long time. He worked for me and is a very good coach. As I said, it wasn’t my intention to single anybody out, but I don’t take things personally. Some people, when they compete against each other, everything’s personal. It’s never been that way for me. Bill Belichick and I are best friends. We were in the same division for two years [in the NFL] when I was in Miami and never had an issue,” he said.
Oct 12, 2019; College Station, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher shake hands at the conclusion of the gam at Kyle Field. (John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports)
“I’m not against NIL. I’m against bidding for high school players. I’m against attorneys, collectives and others getting between the money and the players. Is that really what we want it to be in college football?”
Saban accused Texas A&M of buying players and claimed Jackson State paid recruit Travis Hunter $1 million to flip his commitment from Florida State to the HBCU. Fisher and Sanders both denied the allegation.
Fisher addressed Saban’s remarks in a heated press conference earlier Thursday.
“Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God did His deal. You may find out about a guy, a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be this czar of football. Go dig into his past or anybody who’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out what he does and how he does it,” Fisher said.
He denied the Aggies broke any rules when they attained the No. 1 recruiting class in 2022.
“I don’t cheat. I don’t lie. If you did my old man slapped me across the face. Maybe someone should have slapped him (Saban),” Fisher said.
In this Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 file photo, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher argues with a referee in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado in Denver. Texas A&M plays Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Sanders said in a tweet what Saban asserted was a lie.
For what it’s worth, Alabama and Texas A&M will meet on Oct. 8.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.