Been a long time, but ya’ boy had to reemerge for his favorite six degrees of separation topic: The College Football 32 Team Playoff. In recent days, soundbites from Alabama Football Head Coach, Nick Saban, have been making the sports media rounds. He accused Texas A&M and Jackson State (huh?) of buying their new recruits. Now with the new NIL rule where college athletes are now allowed to make money, Coach Saban is displaying concerns over the future of his style of recruiting.
What is obvious is that Coach Saban recruits high character players who love football and display a discipline for getting better each day, be it on or off the field. How his players go about getting their NIL deals is not his concern. It is apparent that recruiting a player under the guise of getting them an NIL deal has pissed him off and made it an unfair advantage that he isn’t willing to take. If you’re coming to Alabama, you’re coming for a competitive education program, and a brand of football that has been top tier for the last 15 years.
Let’s talk about the last 15 years for a moment. The title of this blog post mentions Netflix. I mentioned them because like Alabama, these two brands have seen the most success in their perspective fields more than any other institution. Alabama has had the privilege in saying that every player that has been recruited by Coach Saban has won a National Championship during his tenure at the school. The term Netflix and Chill has actual stats because at one point, they had a 30% share of TV viewing in this country between the hours of 7pm to 11pm every night.
For both, these past few years have shown one of them is on the declined, while another knows the decline is near. Netflix is no longer the only game in town. They benefitted from having institutional franchises on their platform for their subscribers. The capitalization on binge-watching helped their brand immensely and allowed them to create their own original content. But like all good businesses do, they figure out how to expand their brand and create their own platform. I likened most of these franchises to up and coming singers and musicians, where Netflix is the popular club in town where stars are made. Then after a while, their popularity is so big to where they ask themselves, why do we need Netflix? We can create our own venue and charge what we want.
With Coach Saban, as a great of a coach he is, I believe he is starting to see that Alabama is just one of the popular clubs in the game, but it is under his tutelage where the stars are made. These kids coming out of high school already have the popularity, and for the 5-star recruits, they’re already a brand. Some of them since they were in the 9th and 10th grade. Why would they need the Saban brand now to get to their ultimate goal? What he knows is that the University of Alabama, as well as the state, does not have the resources to consistently compete in this NIL era.
The state of Alabama is consistently in the bottom 10 financially in this country. Unfortunately, the state does not have the financial mavens like other states such as Texas, California, and Georgia to name a few. While Texas’ money might be longer than Alabama, both of these states are not faring well in the political arena with recent policies that their governments have put in place. While athletes coming out of high school are more financially savvy, they’ve also tapped into the social conscience of where this country is heading. As we can see, both of these states are heading in the wrong direction.
For Netflix, the TV and movie franchises have abandoned them to go to their own platforms. Most recently, it was announced that over 200k subscribers dropped their subscription worldwide, sending their stock into a plunge. As for Alabama, we know recruits aren’t coming for the school, their coming for Coach Saban. Each year, the number of top round picks either dominate or at least strongly compete in the NFL draft. Any former Crimson Tide player will tell these players that coming to Alabama isn’t for the weak. Coach Saban will get the best out of you if you’re willing to put in the work. Heading into this NIL era, is Coach Saban’s way worth it?
Which brings us to Jackson State. Coach Saban mentioned how Jackson State paid for the number one high school recruit, Travis Hunter, who was originally committed to Florida State. Now Hunter definitely bucked the system by choosing an HBCU over a Power 5 conference school. Perhaps he may start the trend of high school recruits going another path to get to the NFL. Coach Saban and his counterparts are not the only successful path to get to the league. Jackson State’s Football Head Coach, Deion “Primetime” Sander or Coach Prime, has a multitude of connections in the NFL and is well respected.
Under Coach Prime’s tutelage, Travis Hunter’s recruitment is possibly the start of a new DBU destination at Jackson State. Sanders is one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time. As a Saints fan, I know this too well as he embarrassed us on two different teams in the late 80s and early 90s. But to say Hunter was bought is absurd. Coach Prime has documented how Jackson State and other HBCU sports are severely underfunded. 10% of the NFL’s Hall of Famers came from HBCUs and Coach Prime has picked up the torch to help restore these institutions to their rightful place amongst the college athletics elite.
Folks! We’re not even a full year into this NIL era and it’s already a headache. Coach Saban and the NCAA have suggested there be a cap on these NIL deals, but I have an even better suggestion. If you don’t want these kids making money OR making too much money, how about you let them go pro out of high school across ALL sports. If you let these 5-star recruits go pro, then you’re left with lesser talent that can be developed into a ready-made product after competing at a collegiate level for a few years. Too many times we’ve seen college football players ready for the league after their freshmen year. When you get a 4-star recruit or less, that would significantly lessen the amount on an NIL deal.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves! I remember Jadaveon Clowney in high school on ESPN. Not fair! Zion Williamson in high school had a Youtube highlight reel. Not Fair! Trevor Lawrence was ready! Ben Simmons was ready (although that hasn’t aged well)! Derek Stingley Jr. was ready! If you don’t want these kids getting paid these exorbitant amounts, these coaches and scouts no which ones would be wasting their time in college sports.
Coach Saban and Alabama are finding out what NetFlix knows all too well now. The Market can be competitive if you let it be competitive. While Netflix isn’t showing the panic Coach Saban has, Netflix knows they have the ability to put out great original content. Coach Saban is still the best in-game coach in college football, no matter the ranking of his recruiting class. At the end of day, his comments were a sales pitch to Alabama boosters to remind them that competition is coming. Our ticket to the College Playoffs will no longer be a sure thing. If the NIL era has shown us anything is that market is waking up old powerhouses who want their seats at the championship table. I wonder how many seats you can fit at that table in about ten years.