Nick Saban is the reason NIL deals will not damage Alabama Football


Nick Saban is in a position to have Alabama Football prosper in the new NIL era. Not many other coaches are in the same position.  This year, more than 20 percent of FBS teams have new head coaches.

Almost every one of the 28 coaches taking over a new program will be faced with an uphill battle. That battle is worse in many programs because of recent seasons of on-field failure. But the lack of recent winning performance is not the biggest obstacle. To describe their biggest challenge every coach will talk about the need to change the program’s culture. Identifying the absence of a ‘winning culture’ is easy. Changing it is hard.

A recent example is what is going on with Steve Sarkisian at Texas. In Sark’s first Texas season, the Longhorns stumbled to a 5-7 record. Poor as that was for the proud Texas program, it was not far below the norm for Texas. Only once since 2009 have the Longhorns won as many as 10 games.

The 10-win season was 2018 under Tom Herman. Decay in the program began in 2010 under Mack Brown. In three years under Charlie Strong and four seasons under Herman, a winning culture could not be built.

At least one person in Austin thinks the challenge of building a winning culture is now harder, thanks to the influence of NIL deals. Speaking to media members last week, fifth-year senior, defensive tackle, Moro Ojomo talked about the impact of NIL,

"Guys don’t want to get together. Guys don’t want to spend time together. They don’t see. They’re so young and so stupid. I don’t know how to explain it. They need us. They need the team, and it’s so difficult because NIL makes your mind turn its focus to more social media and more exposure. It’s a very in-depth problem."

In response, Steve Sarkisian said he was “disappointed” with his player’s comments and that Ojomo would no longer be speaking to the media for the team.

It is tempting to find irony in the Texas situation. Sarkisian and the Longhorns are battling to land the No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class, Arch Manning. This week, reported Arch’s NIL value has grown to $2.3M.

Maybe the young Manning is worth every penny. Maybe his choice of a school will not hinge on NIL value. Maybe, he will choose Texas and help Steve Sarkisian build a winning culture. Those three maybes must include a ‘maybe not.’ Few people think about the possible ‘maybe nots.’

One more maybe carries little uncertainty. Nick Saban believes college football ‘today’ is unsustainable going forward. Speaking recently, Saban said,

"We now have an NFL model with no contracts, but everybody has free agency… you can basically buy players. You can do it in recruiting. I mean, if that’s what we want college football to be, I don’t know. And you can also get players to get in the transfer portal to see if they can get more someplace else than they can get at your place."

The ‘culture’ of Alabama Football allows it to maximize the Portal and NIL

The fact that NIL (and the lack of rules to govern it) has benefitted Alabama football and Crimson Tide players does not temper Saban’s conviction of the need for change. Opposing fanbases don’t want to acknowledge it, but Saban is one of the too few voices being the conscience of college football.

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