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Saban goes off on teams using NIL to recruit: “That’s not why we did this.”

The coach seems displeased with the direction of the sport.

Syndication: Online Athens Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

A day after Lane Kiffin joked about the amount Texas A&M “paid” for their top ranked 2022 recruiting class, Nick Saban weighed in on the use of NIL for recruiting purposes. Suffice to say, he’s not pleased with the direction of the sport. From Alex Scarborough at ESPN:

When we start using name, image and likeness for a kid to come to our school, that’s where I draw the line,” he said. “Because that’s not why we did this.”

Saban said it has become such that players are weighing prospective NIL earnings among schools and “we all gotta make a deal.”

“I hear these crazy people on TV who say now you’re doing it above board,” he said. “We never did it. We never did it. We never cheated to get a player. We never paid players to come to our school.

“And now that’s actually happening. People are making deals with high school players to go to their school.

You can almost hear the angst coming out of Baton Rouge and Auburn when Saban says that Alabama has never paid players, considering all of the conjecture thrown at Alabama for the last decade or so, but Nick is correct. This isn’t why NIL rules were formed, and in fact using NIL as an inducement for recruiting purposes is expressly prohibited:

While opening name, image and likeness opportunities to student-athletes, the policy in all three divisions preserves the commitment to avoid pay-for-play and improper inducements tied to choosing to attend a particular school. Those rules remain in effect.

It’s easy to understand Saban’s frustration. He has always been able to win on the recruiting trail by selling his record of player development. To be sure, there are still plenty of players out there who aren’t shortsighted and understand that the real money comes once they get into the league, but it seems rather clear at least in this particular recruiting cycle that NIL deals have swayed some commitments.

Saban went into the portal situation as well with Scarborough.

“It’s great that players have the freedom to do what they can do, but I also don’t think we should create circumstances where they don’t have the make the commitment and see things through,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Saban has mentioned players making immature choices based on limited or incorrect information where transfers are concerned, making it difficult for coaches to instill the necessary discipline to maximize player development from both a personal and athletic standpoint. Then, of course, you have Lincoln Riley starting an ethical debate by leaving Oklahoma and taking some of the best players with him.

The sport feels a bit out of sorts right now, and no Alabama fan wants to hear a 70 year old Nick Saban sounding frustrated with a lack of direction. He’s far from alone in his thinking, but that’s the kind of thing that may send him to Lake Burton well before we are ready.

Hope for the best.