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Nick Saban Says It Wasn't His 'Intention' to Criticize Jimbo Fisher or Deion Sanders

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 21, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 10: Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban walks on the field before the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship, on January 10, 2022, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban attempted to de-escalate his budding rivalry with Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher on Saturday.

According to AL.com's Mike Rodak, Saban appeared on ESPN's PGA Championship simulcast with Joe Buck and addressed his recent comments about recruiting, saying: "It was not my intention to really criticize anyone."

Per ESPN's Alex Scarborough, Saban discussed recruiting and the impact that college athletes getting paid for their name, image and likeness (NIL) has had on it during a local business leaders event in Birmingham, Alabama, on Wednesday.

Saban specifically mentioned Texas A&M, saying that the Aggies "bought every player on their team" via NIL.

He also mentioned the Jackson State program coached by Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, saying that the FCS school "paid a guy $1 million" in reference to 5-star recruit Travis Hunter.

247Sports ranked Texas A&M's 2022 class as No. 1 in the recruiting cycle with eight 5-star commitments, followed by Alabama at No. 2.

Saban said his players who earned NIL money last season were "doing it the right way" and opined that remaining near the top of the recruiting rankings would be "tough" moving forward due to the NIL system.

Fisher, who once served as an assistant coach under Saban at LSU, did not take kindly to Saban's comments.

According to ESPN's Dave Wilson, Fisher called Saban's opinions "despicable" and referred to him as a "narcissist." He added:

"We never bought anybody. No rules are broken. Nothing was done wrong. It's a shame that you've got to sit here and defend 17-year-old kids and families and Texas A&M. Because we do things right. We're always going to do things right. We're always going to be here. We're doing a heck of a job."

Fisher rose the stakes even more after that:

"Some people think they're God. Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out ... a lot of things you don't want to know. We build him up to be the czar of football. Go dig into his past, or anybody's that's ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out, what he does and how he does it. It's despicable."

Sanders also responded to Saban's comments, telling Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN's Andscape:

"I haven't talked to Coach Saban. I'm sure he's tried to call. We need to talk publiclyβ€”not privately. What you said was public. That doesn't require a conversation. Let's talk publicly and let everybody hear the conversation.

"You can't do that publicly and call privately. No, no, no. I still love him. I admire him. I respect him. He's the magna cum laude of college football and that's what it's going to be because he's earned that. But he took a left when he should've stayed right. I'm sure he'll get back on course. I ain't tripping."

Sanders also shot down the notion that Jackson State paid Hunter $1 million to spurn Florida State, saying: "I don't make a million. Travis ain't built like that. Travis ain't chasing a dollar."

The Hall of Famer also expressed his belief that Saban's comments were a veiled appeal to Alabama's boosters in an attempt to get more money in order to compete in recruiting.

Saban and the Crimson Tide have been atop college football for well over a decade, winning eight SEC titles and six national championships since 2009.

Fisher and Texas A&M may be closing the gap thanks to their impressive recruiting, though, meaning the rivalry between Saban, Fisher and the fanbases of the two schools could reach a fever pitch in the coming years.