Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher wasn’t the only one called out by Alabama coach Nick Saban on Wednesday night about the chaos created by name, image and resemblance. Jackson State coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders also heard it.
“Hell, read it in the paper,” Saban said at an event in Birmingham on Wednesday. “I mean, Jackson State paid a guy $1 million last year who was a really good Division I player to come to school. It was in the paper, and they were bragging about it. Nobody didn’t do anything about it. I mean, those guys in Miami who are going to play basketball there for $400,000, it’s in the paper. The guy tells you how he does it.
Sanders pledged to respond Wednesday night, via social media. He did so on Thursday, in comments to Andscape.com’s Jean-Jacques Taylor.
“Coach Saban wasn’t talking to me,” Sanders said. “Coach Saban wasn’t talking to Jimbo Fisher. He was talking to his relays. He was talking to his former students. He was talking to his donors. He was trying to get money. That’s what he was doing. He was talking to us. was just using to get to where he was trying to get to.
Sander is right. Saban continues to complain about the new reality because he knows he can’t compete when the floodgates are legitimately open to paying players. Sanders, perhaps echoing Fisher’s direct attack on Saban’s recruiting practices, suggested that a level playing field for paying players disproportionately harms those who have previously broken the rules.
“I don’t even wear a watch and I know what time it is. They forget that I know who brought the bag and dropped it off,” Sanders told Taylor. “I know this stuff. I’m not the one you want to mess with when it comes to all of this. . . . Once upon a time the bag was just a bag. Now there is a tie between the big boys. We don’t have those kind of bags. We don’t have boosters and givers and givers. Leave me out of this mess you all have.
As for the idea that Jackson State “paid” a player $1 million last year, Saban was referring to Travis Hunter. Taylor reports Hunter has two NIL deals and two more pending, and they’re worth less than $250,000.
Saban said Thursday he tried to contact Fisher and Sanders. Sanders told Taylor that Sanders would not take Saban’s call.
“We need to speak in public, not in private,” Sanders told Taylor. “What you said was public. It doesn’t require a conversation. Let’s speak publicly and let everyone hear the conversation. . . . You cannot do it 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 it. . . . But he took a left when he should have stayed on the right. I’m sure he’ll take the course again. I don’t stumble.
While Saban vs. Sanders doesn’t have the same sizzle as Saban vs. Fisher, Sanders knows what’s really going on. Saban knows the new NIL reality will make it harder for him to get the best of the best players. And without the best of the best players, it will be difficult to continue to be considered the best of the best managers in football history.