Alabama Football: Will NIL ‘recruiting’ take down Nick Saban?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The question posed in this post title is not answered by what follows. Trying to guess at an answer would be jumping to a too-quick conclusion. This post is also not about what a mistake it is for college athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness. Sharing wealth with players was always a good idea.

What is rapidly becoming a cause for alarm is, with no effective constraints, the use of NIL deals to buy recruits is exploding. Some fans think that is not a problem, given the history of recruiting violations before NIL deals.

In addition to deals now being more visible, what is different now are the huge dollars sometimes involved. The most recent transaction for a recruit was reported by Stewart Mandel. According to Mandel, a 5-Star recruit has signed a deal with a school’s NIL collective that could be worth $8M.

The collectives are new animals, designed to operate independently of the schools. They facilitate boosters packaging dollars to snag recruits. Jeremy Crabtree, writing for On3, said the aforementioned deal included an immediate cash payout of $350,000.

Mandel was able to analyze the deal’s contract and afterward, he tweeted,

"Here’s how a donor group “buys” a recruit for the next 4 years without putting it in writing."

On3 followed up the news by talking to a few coaches. The names of the coaches were not published but at least one is a Big 12 assistant who said,

"Recruiting as we’ve known it is dead. I honestly thought the NIL stuff was going to be about helping current players get what they’re worth. But now that it’s all about recruiting, it’s game over."

What is happening, as one coach said, is clear. It is also easy to define. It is pay-for-play. A few years ago, when Nick Saban warned the rest of college football about free agency, it was about unconstrained player transfers. The college equivalent of free agency happened anyway. Nick Saban quickly learned how to master it, just as he has done with everything else involved with college football.

If the rich have gotten richer with free agency, it has been nothing compared to what is suddenly being seen with NIL deals and recruiting.

What does this mean for Alabama Football?

Given the Alabama Crimson Tide is one of the rich programs, why should Alabama football fans be concerned? The last coach quote in Crabtree’s story should concern Tide fans,

"College football will never be the same, and I believe you will see some good men get out of the profession if it isn’t cleaned up or regulated."

Might Nick Saban be one of the good men that have no appetite for a college football world with no rules against buying players? Hopefully, that answer is no. Nick Saban can master this new challenge as well; if he has an appetite for it.

Next. Put a black jersey on Will Anderson Jr.. dark

What school and what player did Mandel write about? The player is a 2023, 5-Star recruit. He is rumored to be from California. A high school QB matching that description recently visited Tennessee. The player, Nico Iamaleava is a top target for the Crimson Tide.