Once again, Nick Saban issues a warning that will go unheeded

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

Perhaps only Nick Saban can save college athletics from itself. The legendary head coach has quickly made the transition from leading Alabama Football into being a spokesman for college football and an advocate for retaining the sanctity of the game, at least to an extent. As they have many times before, Coach Saban’s pleas will likely be mocked, misinterpreted, and ultimately ignored. 

Coach Saban traveled to Capitol Hill this week to participate in a roundtable discussing the state of NIL and the future of college athletics. As expected, his comments stole the show and generated a lot of conversation. However, many of the participants in this conversation missed the point entirely. 

Saban outlined the changes that have, over the last decade or so, transformed one of the most popular sports in the country into something almost unrecognizable. Paraphrasing his own words, the new version of college football no longer aligned with the values that Saban had been so passionate about throughout his career. 

These drastic and hasty alterations to the sport, which seem to be far from finished, ultimately cost us the best coach that ever walked a sideline. Saban warned us long ago that such changes would eventually ruin the sport. On Capitol Hill, he pleaded once more for college football legislators to pump the brakes. 

One more time, College Football 'fans' miss Saban's point

Naturally, however, a large portion of the country has already discarded the advice of college football’s wisest and most valuable advocate. Instead of listening to Saban’s words and truly pausing to consider the long-term effect of these changes, many have taken to social media to crack jokes or call him a hypocrite. 

Of course, the majority of this group is made up of fans of opposing teams, who have built up nearly two decades of disdain (and perhaps jealousy) for Nick Saban and the Alabama Football program. This was to be expected; someone as successful as Saban will never be a sympathetic figure in the eyes of the public. 

In the past, warnings from Coach Saban have often become the subject of criticism. In most cases, they have led to a career revival for the GOAT and, eventually, another championship for Alabama Football. With Saban now retired, it seems like there is much more at stake this time around. 

Unfortunately, we know how this story ends. No one will listen to Coach Saban until it is too late. 

Navigating an unfamiliar college football landscape

Unregulated NIL and lax transfer portal rules have already taken away what Saban loved most; the personal and athletic development of players who have committed and invested into a particular school.

Additionally, the pageantry of bowl games has long been tarnished, and the regionality of the sport is headed out the door as well with the latest round of conference realignment.

With the 2024 introduction of a 12-team playoff that already seems intent on expanding even further, the college football regular season will continue to change as well. Sure, more teams will be in playoff contention later into the season, but an immense amount of pressure has been taken off the shoulders of the college football elites.

For a program like Alabama, gone are the days of walking a tightrope in the regular season. In the near future, we could hypothetically see a Crimson Tide team lose two, three, or even four games and still have a chance to compete for a title. 

While this may be a positive for the diehard Bama fan that just wants to see more hardware come to Tuscaloosa, I would argue that the feeling wouldn't be the same. The magic of many of the Tide's championship seasons has included dramatic wins over rivals such as Auburn, Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia that Bama needed to stay in title contention.

The thought of an Alabama team going 9-3 in the regular season and losing to multiple rivals before finishing as 13-3 national champions is just bizarre.

Whether these changes are for better or for worse is up to each individual to decide for themselves, but they are happening fast and they don’t appear to be stopping any time soon. College football is already poles apart from the sport it was just 20 years ago, and it has now become a snowball rolling downhill.

Perhaps Coach Saban’s final cautionary piece of advice will open some eyes, but at this point it seems unlikely.