Stanford coach calls out Alabama coach Nick Saban for using NIL reference to recruit

Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaks to the media during the 2021 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days on July 21, 2021, at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. (Jimmie Mitchell/SEC)
Jimmie Mitchell

ATHENS — Alabama coach Nick Saban has stayed on top in college football by maintaining his edge, and last week in Birmingham that meant throwing down the gauntlet in the form of a not-so-humble brag.

“Our QB has already approached ungodly numbers, and he hasn’t even played yet,” Saban said, per 247Sports. “If I told you what it is … it’s almost 7-figures.”

Those who have been around long enough to see how Saban aggressively — and brilliantly — manipulates rules and circumstances to his advantage, recognized what was most surely happening.

Recruiting.

Saban was telling the world, and all of the high school prospects listening, that at Alabama a player could make $1 million in endorsements before playing in a game.

WATCH: Kenny McIntosh shares hilarious Alabama recruiting story

Other SEC coaches may have rolled their eyes, but none openly challenged Saban for his undocumented claim. After all, behind closed doors, some might be telling prospects the same thing.

It took a week, and Stanford coach David Shaw, to call out Saban publicly and challenge the spirt of NIL application.

“Nick mentioning that at the Media Day is a great way to kick-start your recruiting, especially if you’re recruiting another high-caliber quarterback, as we all know they are,” Shaw said on Tuesday at the Pac-12 Media Day.

“It wasn’t accidental. Many of us around college football kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘Is this really what we want to be doing?’ "

Shaw correctly pointed out NIL is not supposed to be used in recruiting inducements.

“It’s obvious to me Nick wanted to plant that and make sure people knew that,” Shaw said. “It’s a great way to recruit people to come to you, which the guy hasn’t started a college football game and he’s already signed a whole bunch of deals to make money.

“To me, I don’t think that’s what this whole thing is supposed to be about. I don’t believe that is true market value. I think that’s Alabama value. But that’s not market value for an individual, which is what this is supposed to be about.”

It’s not what Kirby Smart and Georgia are doing on the public front.

Smart, when asked about the NIL, did not brag on the amount of money quarterback JT Daniels has secured through his numerous deals.

RELATED: Georgia QB JT Daniels shares NIL spotlight with linemen

Instead, the sixth-year Georgia head coach talked about the importance of educating his players on their NIL dealings.

“I don’t know if anybody actually realizes how much of a burden these guys have on them, from performance, family members, hometown,” Smart said. “This is an opportunity to reward them for their hard work. I love that, I think it’s great, it’s an awesome opportunity, we support them.

“We spend a lot of time on education…. . imagine being an 18, 19, 20, 21-year old young man and you now are going to pay taxes. You have a selection process over what do I do, what don’t I do, and those are big decisions. And then also time management. So my concerns are those things, not necessarily those guys getting a piece of the pie.”

The Bulldogs would seem to be at a competitive advantage over the current SEC members where NIL legislation with nearby Atlanta the seventh-largest metropolitan market in the nation.

Saban’s Tuscaloosa market feeds off Birmingham, which ranks 45th in the nation. Saban is surely aware of that, perhaps to the extent of dropping his strategic not-so-humble brag.

The recent news that Texas and Oklahoma have submitted a request to join the SEC in 2025 could be a game-changer of sorts in many ways.

But from a NIL standpoint, it’s worth noting the state of Texas has four of the top 30 metropolitan markets. Austin, the home of the Longhorns, ranks 29th — the largest than SEC team’s immediate market, including Nashville (Vanderbilt, 40th).

Shaw’s NIL comments from Pac-12 Media Day

Q. As these first few weeks of NIL have played out, what kind of feedback or questions have you been getting from players as they get offers? How do you think it’s worked so far?

I’m really proud of our guys. As you can imagine, our guys choosing to go to Stanford says a lot about who they are. The way that we’ve waded into this NIL world, guys aren’t diving in headfirst, they’re being very conscious of anything that they do. They’re asking a lot of questions. Not for us to tell them what to do, but for us to give them more information. That’s the way I see our position in this, is to make sure our guys are informed, that they make the best decisions for them, both now and for their future.

There are a lot of these NIL deals that are not good deals. They’re long-term deals that ask too much of our guys. There are agents out there that don’t always have the best intentions. I think any deal that a student-athlete signs should allow them to grow beyond the deal.

So long-term deals are not wise. But I told our guys, too, the social media is their best advantage, controlling their social media. I say this all the time, not just quoting rap lyrics on your social media, right? Putting out there who you are, what you’re about, what’s important to you. Then you’ll be able to attract the right kind of people that are looking for you to be a partner or a representative of what they’re doing.

All the time I point to what Zach Ertz does on social media, Justin Reid, Harrison Phillips, Blake Martinez. We have so many Stanford guys out there. Doug Baldwin is so great on social media. So many of our guys really showing who they are out there and engaging with people on their own terms is as important as anything else these guys do in this space.

Q. At a recent event it was quoted that Bryce Young is near seven figures in NIL deals. What is your gut reaction when you hear those kind of numbers?

My gut reaction is on multiple levels. First of all, Nick Saban is smarter than any 10 of us in this room combined. There’s no way that was a throw-in. It’s obvious to me Nick wanted to plant that and make sure people knew that. It’s a great way to recruit people to come to you, which the guy hasn’t started a college football game and he’s already signed a whole bunch of deals to make money.

To me, I don’t think that’s what this whole thing is supposed to be about. I don’t believe that is true market value. I think that’s Alabama value. But that’s not market value for an individual, which is what this is supposed to be about.

I’m not saying it’s wrong. In my mind when I look at this, it is a combination of your personality, who you are, and what you’ve accomplished in order to create opportunities for yourself. That to me is kind of putting the cart before the horse. It’s all legal, it’s fine now.

Nick mentioning that at the Media Day is a great way to kick-start your recruiting, especially if you’re recruiting another high-caliber quarterback, as we all know that they are.

It wasn’t accidental. Many of us around college football kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, Is this really what we want to be doing? I wonder about the people who are engaging in high-value deals like that. I know a lot of business people. I wonder what their return is on that investment. That’s a major investment. That’s a high-dollar value investment. What are they getting back from that?

Over time that’s not a wise thing to do business-wise, is to give a college athlete a whole bunch of money if you’re not getting anything in return.

So as many people like kind of chuckled when I saw that, there will be very few people around the country that have those opportunities. I wonder, too, after this era right now, this year where these things happen, if people will continue to do that going forward. I still wonder what do you get back from giving a student-athlete a whole bunch of money. Does that help your business? If it does, great. If that’s not a great business model for you, how is that sustainable?

That’s part of what we all knew was going to happen. There are going to be a few of those stories over this year. My guess is there will be fewer of those stories in the following year. In particular, there will be more of those juniors and seniors that are established, that have a chance to go on and do something beyond college football.

Those to me are the ones that will have those deals, not guys that haven’t started a game yet.

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