Nick Saban Talks NIL, Says Players Are Prioritizing Money over Future Outlook

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMarch 7, 2023

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 31: Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban watches his team warm up before the Sugar Bowl between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Kansas State Wildcats at Caesars Superdome on December 31, 2022 in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The name, image and likeness era of college football has created opportunities for players to make money, but there are also a number of challenges that come with creating a set of rules with various state laws and approaches by different teams and conferences.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke about NIL during an interview with Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated and said it is "good for players" and something he is in favor of even though there are some concerns with collectives and the mindset some take toward it.

"The issue is, when you create those [collectives] for people, are you establishing a pay-for-play type of environment that can be used in recruiting?" Saban said. "So now, all the sudden, guys are not going to school where they can create the most value for their future. Guys are going to school where they can make the most money. I don't think that is even the best thing for the player."

He also suggested there may need to be federal laws put in place "so you don't have different state laws and there are guidelines for what you can and can't do. Players should create their opportunities, and what we've done now is some schools are creating opportunities for them. I don't think that was the intent."

Saban's words carry weight for multiple reasons.

For one, he is one of the best coaches in the sport's history with six national championships during his tenure at Alabama alone. He has a stature in the game that few can match, and he is certainly someone who can be influential in such discussions.

What's more, these aren't sour grapes from someone who has consistently missed out on recruits in the NIL era.

Rather, Alabama just brought in the No. 1 overall class in the country in 2023, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and is as well positioned as any team in the country to continue competing for national titles in the College Football Playoff.

One of his concerns is also people getting in between players and their money:

"One player should not be [earning] up here and another down here. It should be more equal. When you put these two things together—transfer whenever you want and the system we have now for name, image and likeness—you create a double-edged sword and you have people out there trying to get between the player and money who are trying to create a market."

There are a number of challenges teams and players will have to navigate in this new era, and there has been discussion about Congress perhaps stepping in to provide more regulation.

For now, though, one of the most prominent figures in the sport is concerned even if he is in favor of athletes having the chance to make money.