Alabama's Nick Saban: Calling out Jimbo Fisher, Deion Sanders 'Was a Mistake'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 19, 2022

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 22:  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 September 22, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The Crimson Tide defeated the Aggies 45-23.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was the first one to apologize in what has already shaped up to be an explosive back-and-forth with Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders.

"I should have never really singled anybody out," Saban said during an appearance on ESPNU Radio (h/t Mike Rodak of AL.com). "That was a mistake and I really apologize for that part of it."

He continued and said, "I really didn't mean to single anybody out. I apologize for that. But it’s the whole system—is this a sustainable system and is this good for college football?"

Saban revealed he reached out to Fisher—who was on his staff at LSU—and Sanders but "never got a response. I feel bad about it."

He then expressed his concern with the current climate of name, image and likeness opportunities in college sports, adding he didn't insinuate Texas A&M or Jackson State were doing anything illegal but that "collectives are the issue."

Earlier this month, the NCAA released guidelines regarding booster-led collectives to reiterate that boosters cannot be involved in recruiting. In theory, there can be retroactive punishments for schools if they violated the bylaws, but potential antitrust lawsuits and a focus on the future could prevent that from happening.

While Saban was apologetic Thursday, he made headlines Wednesday when he told reporters, "A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn't buy one player. 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."

He also said, "Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school. It was in the paper. They bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it."

While the Alabama coach didn't single out the player, cornerback Travis Hunter was a 5-star prospect, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and responded to the comments:         

Travis Hunter @TravisHunterJr

I got A mil?😂But my mom still stay in a 3 bed room house with five kids 🤣

So did his coach:

COACH PRIME @DeionSanders

You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow. I was &amp; awakened by my son <a href="https://twitter.com/ShedeurSanders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ShedeurSanders</a> that sent me the article stating that WE PAYED <a href="https://twitter.com/TravisHunterJr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TravisHunterJr</a> a Million to play at <a href="https://twitter.com/GoJSUTigersFB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GoJSUTigersFB</a> ! We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE.

COACH PRIME @DeionSanders

I don’t even make a million! Lolololol 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 <a href="https://t.co/wagxbCJoWs">https://t.co/wagxbCJoWs</a>

They weren't the only ones who publicly criticized Saban in the aftermath of Wednesday's comments.

Fisher told reporters the suggestions were "despicable. We're taking shots at 17-year-old kids. We never bought anyone. When [Saban] doesn't get his way or things don't go his way. Go dig into [Saban's past]. It's despicable. It's personal to us. And I know the guy. Really well."

He also called Saban a "narcissist" and said, "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."       

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

JIMBO FISHER OFFFF THE TOP ROPE <a href="https://t.co/yVN6HobqkQ">pic.twitter.com/yVN6HobqkQ</a>

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued public reprimands for both Saban and Fisher and said, "public criticism of any kind does not resolve issues and creates a distraction from seeking solutions for the issues facing college athletics today."

All of this comes after Texas A&M defeated Alabama last season and landed the No. 1 overall recruiting class of 2022, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

The Oct. 8 matchup between the Crimson Tide and Aggies will surely be one of the most anticipated games of the season.