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Saban, Fisher Both Right in Petty Squabble

Thin skin not good look, but will make for more interesting SEC media days

SEC media days were going to be a relatively tame affair. 

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman was going to charm and awe shucks his way to a small portion of deserved spotlight following a dramatic jump success at Arkansas. 

Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach were going to talk their way into the spotlight, while Bryan Harsin did his best to talk his way into the darkest, least noticeable corner in the room.

But, then two ships traveling in opposite directions with the thinnest of hulls bumped into each other as they passed in the night.

Both Alabama's Nick Saban and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher are right, but both are so unaware of where they are standing in the college football pantheon, that they can't see that it doesn't matter. 

Nick Saban-Cincinnati

Yes, Texas A&M invested a lot of money in this recruiting class. The second NIL was clearly free of any reins, I wrote that the balance of power in the SEC recruiting wars was going to swing to the Aggies, and that whether a new king ascended the SEC throne would be inherently on Fisher.

A&M is the premiere program in Texas. It has an alumni base that can rival almost any other in size, fanatic obsession, and wealth. 

What it also has is prime position in the SEC and what has been a somewhat steady ascent to national respect. 

While the Texas Longhorns spent a decade floundering to irrelevance as a result of what might be the most anti-productive boosters in all of college sports, the boosters and supporters surrounding Texas A&M have repeatedly worked together to move the program in a singular positive direction.

That is why the Aggies have what is viewed, without the luxury of seeing it actually on the field, the greatest recruiting class of all time. It's why Saban can say that the recruiting class is the finest money can buy and technically be right.

Jimbo Fisher

Where the discrepancy arises is what your definition of Texas A&M is. 

If it is simply the football program, or even the university, then what Saban says is most likely wrong. When Fisher says the program did everything correctly and did not directly offer a player money to play for the university, there is little reason to doubt him. 

However, once you extend the idea of Texas A&M to its full fan base, Saban appears to be in the right. It would be hard to imagine a single player in the recruiting class not receiving a handsome yearly sum that probably, at minimum, doubles the pay of the teachers these young men just left.

We don't know for sure how money is being bandied about because there are no rules that require NIL deals to be disclosed, but the ones that are out there definitely merit respect. 

Under the current rules, there is nothing wrong with that, and it also doesn't mean the majority of the A&M recruits didn't intend to go to College Station in the first place. Therefore, Fisher is right to say his recruits and families did nothing shady, while Saban, in his now highly overplayed interview, is right if seen in the proper context. 

That doesn't mean Saban is off the hook.

The "Football Czar" as Fisher referred to him, appears to feel threatened.

 When it comes to winning and creating a culture of success unmatched in the college football world, Alabama has been the standard and it hasn't been close for a long time. However, in the world of NIL, the Crimson Tide are outgunned and Saban knows it.

If nothing changes, the aura of Alabama will slowly fade in a way similar to when USC took the last hope of a West Coast national champion with it when it's shine drifted down over the Pacific in the mid-2000s. 

While it's rather thin-skinned of Saban to whine about others gaining an advantage when he has had the advantage for so long, it appears there is more depth ironically hiding on the surface. Whether he intended to do it, Saban has insulted his own team by inadvertently indicating that he has much lower expectations for his current crop of athletes. 

If Saban loses to A&M again, and should he hang around, again, he has sent out a very loud excuse that covers the next four years – that he lost because his boosters couldn't afford better talent.

Texas A&M Aggies linebacker Antonio Doyle Jr. (22) laughs as Texas A&M Aggies and fans rush the field after beating the Alabama Crimson Tide on a last second field in the fourth quarter at Kyle Field.

The chinks are in the armor of the great king. He's lost to two assistants now when you add in Kirby Smart. 

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The aura is beginning to fade even faster with this latest round of squabbling, and honestly, it didn't have to be this way. Saban's legacy was locked. 

No one was going to look back on what he's done at LSU and Alabama and think anything other than he was the greatest college football coach the sport has ever seen, and, yes, that includes Bear Bryant. 

However, the whining and the pettiness going on is the one thing that can hurt his legacy. If his assistants rise to power and take the throne by force, that is a testament to him.

However, if he makes excuse after excuse for why it happens other than it's just time, then he will wash away the respect and adulation that he rightfully earned.

And that's something money can't buy. 

Or maybe it can.

Only Saban, Fisher, and, if Thursday's press conference is to be taken at face value, every coach who has ever worked for Saban, knows.

Perhaps Kiffin will find himself in the spotlight as the mid-card at SEC media days after all. 

Just not so much for the rest of the guys like Pittman, as this will, at best, be only a three-ring circus.


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