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Nick Saban Says NIL Rules Creates System Where ‘You Can Basically Buy Players’

The name, image and likeness (NIL) era has altered college sports for good, and it is still split for some on whether the change is for the best.

Alabama coach Nick Saban shared his thoughts on the matter in a recent interview with the Associated Press, highlighting his concern on the state of the NCAA. 

“I don’t think what we’re doing right now is a sustainable model,” Saban said. “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. So last year on our team, our guys probably made as much or more than anybody in the country.

“But that creates a situation where you can basically buy players. 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.”

Several major college football coaches have echoed similar sentiments, including Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, USC’s Lincoln Riley and Ole Miss’s Lane Kiffin. Swinney has discussed the matter at length, saying the transfer portal created “total chaos” and referred to it as “tampering galore”. Swinney also noted he believes the NIL era will bring a decline in graduation rates.

“Kids are being manipulated,” Swinney said in December. “Grass is greener and all that stuff as opposed to putting the work in and graduating. There’s no consequences. So now you’ve got agents and NIL, tampering, and you have no consequences. … Education is like the last thing now.

“We’re going to have a lot of young people that aren’t going to graduate. … There’s a lot of kids whose identity is wrapped up in football and all this does is further that.” 

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Kiffin has also been an outspoken critic of NIL rules.

“We don’t have the funding resources as some schools with the NIL deals. It’s like dealing with salary caps. I joked I didn’t know if Texas A&M incurred a luxury tax with how much they paid for their signing class,” Kiffin said in February,

Paying a player to attend a school still violates NCAA rules, though Riley recently told reporters the NIL landscape has “completely changed” recruiting. 

“We now have an NFL model with no contracts, but everybody has free agency,” Saban added. “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.”

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For more Alabama coverage, go to Bama Central.