Saban denies Bama broke rules to get Harrell

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Alabama football coach Nick Saban on Wednesday denied the implication that anyone on his team violated NCAA rules by signing former Louisville wide receiver Tyler Harrell before he only enters the transfer portal in April.

Speaking to reporters at a golf event, Saban said, “We’re not smuggling anyone.”

But that’s what Louisville coach Scott Satterfield suggested to 247Sports in an article published last week. Satterfield said he believed a tampering took place with Harrell but could not prove it.

Harrell, who caught 18 passes for 532 yards and six touchdowns last season, entered the gate on April 12. Ten days later, he enlisted in Alabama.

“I don’t know of anyone who tampered with it,” Saban said of Harrell. “You know, I don’t really know if anyone has ever tampered with our players. I just think sometimes when things happen it makes you wonder. So I’m not laying any charges against anyone who has done whatever. it’s to our players and I’m not doing it. I don’t know of anyone who has done anything with anyone else’s players.”

Saban acknowledged that it is difficult to prevent “direct or indirect” third parties from getting involved in the recruitment process.

“But you know, when you have a guy who leaves your program and goes somewhere else the day after the game, I have no evidence that anything happened and I’m not making any accusations, but it makes you wonder, I guess,” he said. “But hopefully we have enough honesty and integrity among us professionally in our sport that people play by the rules.”

Saban has in the past expressed caution about the unintended consequences of the transfer portal and players making money through their name, image and likeness.

He said players should be able to make money, but it’s the latest change in college football that moves away from what he said has been a long-standing goal of creating parity.

“If we don’t create that balance, I think it will affect the competitive level of the game in the future and probably even other sports,” he said. “But I hope someone can figure this out.”

Saban was asked if he was worried about the future of the sport.

“I think we’re always looking for a better way,” he said. “And I think we probably need solutions to some of the unintended consequences of some of the things that have happened now. And I think we have a lot of people working on it. And I think a lot of people are interested in trying to make our game as competitive with some kind of equality as possible, and I’m sure some people will find solutions.

“But you have to be able to adapt to all circumstances, and that’s certainly what we were trying to do.”

Harrell wasn’t the only high-profile player Alabama pulled from the transfer portal this offseason.

The Crimson Tide signed former LSU All-SEC defensive back Eli Ricks and former Georgia Tech All-ACC running back/return specialist Jahmyr Gibbs. They also signed wide receiver Jermaine Burton, who led Georgia in receptions the past two seasons, and offensive lineman Tyler Steen, who started three seasons at Vanderbilt.

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