Mike Leach on Nick Saban: "Everybody respects what he's done"

The Mississippi State coach also discussed NIL policies after being informed of Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young's earnings.
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HOOVER, Ala. — When it comes to prevalent coaches in college football, Mississippi State's Mike Leach and Alabama's Nick Saban are unquestionably two of the names most often mentioned.

Answering questions at his first SEC Media Days, Leach was asked if Saban was the person to credit for the escalation over the last decade in the conference.

"I've never really thought of that," Leach pondered. "Obviously, Nick's a great coach and everybody respects what he's done, but the other thing is — and with all due respect to Nick — the SEC wasn't exactly invisible when he got here.

"The SEC goes back a long, long time. You can go through a long list of great coaches that have been in the SEC, and I think the SEC's commanded — well, they've commanded attention as far back as I can remember."

Since Saban re-joined the SEC as coach of the Crimson Tide, the SEC has won 10 of the last 15 national championships. Alabama has won six of those 10 titles.

When thinking out loud regarding just exactly how long the SEC had been relevant, Leach — who is now 60 — went all the way back to his childhood.

"Well, let's see," Leach said. "I figure I was 3, so 57 years I can vouch for the fact that the SEC has commanded attention."

Wednesday wasn't the first time that Leach has discussed how impressed he is with Saban. Last October, Leach used an interesting way to describe the Crimson Tide coach by using an analogy utilizing sweaters.

“I can’t say I know him real well but I know him some over the years,” Leach said on the SEC coaches teleconference. “I’ve always been impressed — you know he’s very committed to coaching. With coaches, there are a certain number that are sweater wearers, you know they want to wear the sweater, but they’re not really up to their neck in it. Coach Saban is the guy that’s all football, all the time.”

Another Alabama-related question that Leach answered during his Wednesday session concerned Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young. Saban revealed on Tuesday that Young is slated to make roughly $1 million through NIL deals.

When asked his thoughts on NIL and Young's profitability, Leach stated that the NIL policies are a new frontier that will have to be explored over time.

"I don't know, I think that that's still evolving," Leach said. "I think that we'll all know a lot more in the future because it's happened quite suddenly. I guess we'll find out.

"I think Mississippi State's a great place to establish your brand. I think that along with this, as far as professional and that type of thing, there's other things that go along with it, and I don't know that these will surface."

In the same response, Leach also addressed the NCAA Transfer Portal and the difficulties that it gives coaches when it comes to managing rosters and maintaining players.

One of Leach's solutions? How about being able to offer players that graduate from their respective schools $150,000?

"It's got to be less tempting to hit the transfer portal if things don't go your way," Leach said. "I was talking to a good friend of mine, and we were bouncing this around, and what if — and this is a what if, there may be holes in this idea — but what if when you sign a guy, on graduation they receive, say, $100,000 or $150,000 on graduation? You only get it if you graduate. You have to graduate. If you graduate, after you graduate from that school, you get $150,000.

"Now, if you transfer, you don't get the $150,000, but if you stay at that school, you graduate from that school, you get $150,000."

Leach is known for his high-powered offenses and off-the-cuff nature during press conferences, and the latter certainly didn't disappoint on Wednesday afternoon inside the Wynfrey Hotel.