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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Commentary: ‘We’re done’

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Coach Jimbo Fisher walks across the field in between plays in Kyle Field on April 9, 2022.

College football fans are no stranger to rivalries. While the 12th Man is used to claiming its No. 1 rival as the Texas Longhorns, following the Aggies’ 41-38 win over the then top-ranked Alabama last season, along with recent comments from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, things are starting to heat up between Texas A&M and the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Fuel was added to the fire after Saban’s accusatory statements toward A&M on Wednesday, May 18. 

The name, image and likeness deals, or NIL, that have quickly taken the college football world by storm have truly revolutionized the game, allowing athletes to finally be able to profit off themselves. 

While many have agreed with it fully, head coach Jimbo Fisher has been a supporter of promoting laws and regulations to allow players to continue to profit while also keeping them in check.
“There has to be some kind of rules and guardrails,” Fisher said May 4 at the Houston Touchdown Club, per The Eagle. “There is no doubt. Because, like I said, you usually go ready, aim, shoot. We went ready, shoot, aim. Because every state did kind of its own thing. Having uniform rules, laws and everything that goes with it. I think it should definitely be in place. And whoever can put that in place, I think that a very touchy matter from a legal system and all the things going on. But I think something has to be done to have some uniformity, to have some consistency.”

However, according to Saban, and to the dismay of everyone involved with A&M’s football team, the Aggies allegedly used these NIL deals to reel in athletes during this year’s recruiting.“We [Alabama] were second in recruiting last year — A&M was first,” Saban said. “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 will be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it.” 

In a fiery press conference held on May 19, Fisher responded to his former boss’ statements. 

“It’s despicable that we have to sit here at this level of ball and say these things to defend the people of this organization, the kids, 17-year-old kids and their families,” Fisher said. “It’s amazing. Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how ‘God’ did his deal. You may find out about 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 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 — it really is.”

Fisher, who served under Saban as his quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for five years at LSU, claimed despite Saban’s attempts at contact, his relationship with the Alabama head coach was, in my opinion, rightfully finished. 

“Not going to [answer] — we’re done,” Fisher said. “He’s shown you who he is. He’s the greatest ever, huh? When you’ve got all the advantages, it’s easy.”

According to NIL attorney Mike Caspino, A&M has not violated any laws set in place preventing college programs from “buying” its recruits.

“Having worked with [A&M’s collective], everything Jimbo Fisher said is 100% correct and true,” Caspino told Stewart Mandel from The Athletic. “He didn’t violate any bylaws if you keep the collective separate [from the school]. A&M and their collective are just very good at what they do.”

While A&M has not been known to make deals with potential recruits, I, among many others, have heard stories about Alabama using money and other resources to draw athletes into their program. 

According to former Florida State defensive end Travis Johnson, Alabama attempted to use financial means to bring him into their program.

“Y’all [Alabama] been paying for players since the 80s; offered me 6 figures in 99/00 and gave Albert Means and his coaches 6 figures during that time and now y’all swear y’all not paying anyone? Like the kids say, CAP! Y’all was NIL before NIL,” Johnson said on Twitter.

I believe it’s highly hypocritical and have to agree with Fisher that it’s “despicable” that Saban feels that he can make false claims about A&M’s football team when he has the real deal going on in his very own backyard. 

A&M’s very own Leon O’ Neal Jr, who recently signed with the 49ers, claimed similar things happened to him while he was being recruited by Alabama.

“Every player there had a scatpack hell cat before NIL,” O’ Neal said on Twitter. “I was in a Nissan Maxima … It had a sun roof though.” 

If Nick Saban feels like he can sit on his high horse in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and thinks he can get away with the things he has, he is wrong. He should take a long look in the mirror before he decides to make false statements about other college programs. 

Saban has since responded to Fisher’s comments on SiriusXM to apologize for his comments. 

“I didn’t mean to single anyone out, and I apologize for that.” Saban said. 

To me, this apology is nothing more than a copout. A person in his position should know both the power and consequences of his words. However nothing less is expected, coming from him. 

While he was not asked any specific questions about his appearance on ESPNU Radio on May 19, he did address his concerns on the state of college football.

“My concern is college football in general. I think a lot of us are concerned about that. A lot of people are concerned about what’s happening. People really want to understand what’s happening in college football. People want to understand why people are transferring schools and getting money to do it.” 

Other college head coaches have taken notice of the unfolding circumstances, including Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. 

“[I was] speechless for the first time in my life,” Kiffin told reporter Bruce Feldman from The Athletic. “This can’t really be happening … Is this real life? I still haven’t moved from my seat. That should’ve been on Pay-Per-View.”

Kiffin has been following the situation closely, according to his Twitter, and seems to be entertained, like most, by the whole ordeal. 

The SEC and its commissioner, Greg Sankey, have reprimanded both coaches for their public comments citing SEC Bylaws 10.2.3 and 10.5.2. 

“The membership of the Southeastern Conference has established expectations for conduct and sportsmanship that were not met last night nor today,” Sankey said in his statement. “A hallmark of the SEC is intense competition within an environment of collaboration. Public criticism of any kind does not resolve issues and creates a distraction from seeking solutions for the issues facing college athletics today.” 

Although the SEC condemned both head coaches and not just Saban, it is nice to see how quickly the conference responded to Saban’s words, as I, for a long time, have thought of him as the SEC’s golden goose. 

Sankey continued, addressing concerns about NIL rules varying from state to state. 

“There is a tremendous frustration concerning the absence of consistent rules from state to state related to name, image and likeness. We need to work together to find solutions and that will be our focus at the upcoming SEC Spring Meetings,” Sankey said. 

The SEC Spring Meetings are set to take place on May 31 in Destin, Fla. Despite this potential awkward meeting between the two head coaches, Fisher says he isn’t worried.

“I don’t mind confrontation,” he said. “Lived with it my whole life. Kind of like it, personally.”

No matter what Saban thinks, and the continued denial from Fisher and A&M’s football staff, the 12th Man can expect an interesting matchup when A&M travels to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama on Oct. 8. 

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