The SEC issued a public reprimand to Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher on Thursday afternoon amid the ongoing feud between the two coaches.
According to a release from the conference Thursday, Saban violated SEC Bylaws 10.2.3 and 10.5.2 related to Ethical Conduct for derogatory comments and public criticism of another institution’s athletics program during his comments about Texas A&M on Wednesday night. The release also states that Fisher violated SEC Bylaw 10.5.2 during his response to Saban’s comments during a Thursday news conference.
“The membership of the Southeastern Conference has established expectations for conduct and sportsmanship that were not met last night nor today,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said through a release. “A hallmark of the SEC is intense competition within an environment of collaboration. Public criticism of any kind does not resolve issues and creates a distraction from seeking solutions for the issues facing college athletics today. There is tremendous frustration concerning the absence of consistent rules from state to state related to name, image and likeness. We need to work together to find solutions and that will be our focus at the upcoming SEC Spring Meetings.”
SEC Bylaw 10.2.3 states, “Coaches and other member personnel shall advocate the positive advantages and attributes of their university and its intercollegiate athletics program and shall avoid making any derogatory statements concerning another member institution’s athletics program, facilities or educational opportunities.”
SEC Bylaw 10.5.2 states, “Coaches and administrators shall refrain from public criticism of other member institutions, their staffs or players. Coaches and administrators shall also refrain from making public statements and accusations with regard to infractions concerning member institutions and their personnel. In response to questions by the media, it is appropriate to state that infractions are reported, investigated and addressed in accordance with established Conference and NCAA procedures.”
Nick Saban originally made headlines during an event in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday night when he claimed that Texas A&M's No. 1 recruiting class was heavily influenced by players receiving money from NIL deals.
"A&M bought every player on their team," Saban said during the event. "Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn’t buy one player. Aight? But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future, because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”
Thursday, Fisher fired back during an impromptu press conference Thursday, calling Saban's comments despicable while insinuating that Saban had broken college football rules throughout his career.
“Some people think they’re God,” Fisher said. “Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out about a guy that a lot of things you don’t want to know. We’ve built him up to be the czar of football? Go dig into his past or anybody that’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out, what he does and how he does it and it’s despicable."
Earlier in the day Thursday, Sports Illustrated reported that Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork was in communication with Sankey over Saban's violation of SEC bylaws. Bjork also spoke out to Sports Illustrated about Saban's statements, calling them an attack on both Fisher and Texas A&M.
“I don’t know why Nick Saban would say what he said except he’s threatened,” Bjork told Sports Illustrated. “There is a saying … an emperor who loses their dynasty lashes out. He seems to be making excuses.
“This is personal. Coach Fisher views this as a personal attack on his integrity and on Texas A&M’s integrity,” Bjork continued. “To have personal attacks, to say that the only reason A&M is [recruiting well] is NIL money is wrong.”
During a radio appearance later Thursday afternoon, Saban apologized for his part in the feud, stating he should not have singled out Fisher or Texas A&M in particular.
“I should have never really singled anybody out," Saban said. "That was a mistake and I really apologize for that part of it. I'm not against name, image and likeness. Our players made a lot of money last year in name image and likeness. I told our players to get an agent, get representation, you know, make what you can make. Players have always been able to work, and I think that's a good thing.
"I think the issue in college athletics in general now is the whole system of collectives and people making money to basically pay players, whether it's to come to their school or pay the players that are on their team. ... It's the whole system. Is it a sustainable system and is it really good for college football?
"I think name, imagine and likeness is good for college football. I just think our role is to have a program that creates value for guys' futures so they focus on getting an education, becoming better people, being a good person and learning habits that are going to help [them] being successful and see if they can develop a career as a football player.
"I think the focus now is getting a little more on how much money I can make while I'm playing and where can I make it. I'm not really sure that's good systematically for any of us."
Both Saban and Fisher will be at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., beginning May 31.