Tension between Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M counterpart Jimbo Fisher reportedly started long before this week's verbal exchange.
Saban's outcry against college football's current name, image and likeness (NIL) rules Wednesday included him saying "A&M bought every player on their team," which led Fisher to call his former boss a "narcissist" during a press conference Thursday.
Brody Miller, Bruce Feldman and Matt Fortuna of The Athletic reported Friday that sources who worked alongside both coaches on Saban's star-studded staffs at LSU in the early 2000s said there were already issues between the duo back in those days.
"There was [friction] all the time," one staffer said. "Will [Muschamp] and Kirby [Smart] and all the defensive guys all bowed down to Nick, but Nick depended on Jimbo a lot. But Nick is so hard on his [offensive coordinators]. They were always at each other's throats."
Another source told The Athletic: "Oh, it ain't like Nick and Kirby. There is no love lost between Nick and Jimbo—at all."
"I should have never really singled anybody out. That was a mistake, and I really apologize for that part of it," Saban said.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement reprimanding two of the conference's high-profile coaches for their public remarks.
"The membership of the Southeastern Conference has established expectations for conduct and sportsmanship that were not met last night nor today," Sankey said Thursday.
Saban and Fisher spent five seasons together at LSU beginning in 2000. It was a successful run that included Saban's first of seven national championships as a head coach in 2003.
Despite the success, the coaches rarely saw eye-to-eye about how the Tigers program was being run and the frustration often carried over to the practice field.
"Jimbo would try to pencil-whip Nick to win the drill," a source told The Athletic. "And Nick would say, 'That's not what it's about. We're trying to get better getting ready for an opponent. That's not how they're gonna do it in a game.'"
Another added: "Jimbo wanted to run all these fancy plays. Jimbo is an 'offensive guru.' ... He wanted to showcase his playbook, and that was the biggest argument between those two."
Saban ultimately left in 2005 for a short stint with the NFL's Miami Dolphins before returning to the college ranks with Alabama in 2007.
Fisher stayed at LSU until 2007, when he left to take over as offensive coordinator at Florida State. He'd be promoted to the Seminoles' head coach in 2010 and won a national title in 2013. He accepted the A&M job in 2018.
Two decades after that initial friction developed, they're now major rivals, both on the field and on the recruiting trail in the SEC. Based on Saban's unprovoked attack and Fisher's response, it appears a lot of hard feelings remain.
It adds plenty of intrigue to the Oct. 8 clash between the Aggies and the Crimson Tide, which is now one of the must-see games of the 2022 college football season.