Roy Exum: No Longer ‘Pure’

Thursday, May 19, 2022 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when college athletics were pure. There was no transfer portal, where the disgruntled athletes could scoff at commitment, loyalty, and tradition in vain pursuit of the NFL. And there was no “name, image, and likeness” (NIL) where college-aged teenagers are now paid for endorsements, autographs, appearances, and the like.

During this school year 25 players at the University of Alabama earned approximately $3 million in NIL deals and there is an incoming freshman quarterback coming to Tennessee who is rumored to make $8 million in the NIL program by the end of his junior year. Again, college sports are anything but pure.

On Wednesday Alabama coach Nick Saban, talking about the pitfalls and perils of the NIL, accused Texas A&M of “buying” every player they signed over the winter and yesterday A&M coach Jimbo Fisher had a fiery retort in a distasteful feud that is just getting going. Saban said Thursday he shouldn’t have singled out any schools in his remarks and Fisher, staunchly refusing to accept Nick’s calls, said in a 10-minute press conference Nick should have been slapped as a kid!

In other words, the feud between the two Southeastern Conference titans is now a brawl and, while the SEC has censured both coaches for unsportsmanlike conduct, neither one seems to care in the reality of the “dog eats dog” atmosphere of today.

The Athletic, a subscription-based sports website that includes some of the best and brightest sports writers in the country, filed this collective “staff report” late yesterday afternoon that sheds the best light on this blazing donnybrook:

* * *

FISHER CALLS SABAN’S COMMENTS ‘DESPICABLE’

(NOTE: This ‘staff report’ appeared on theathletic.com website on May 19, 2022)

From Staff Reports:

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher did not hold back in his response to Alabama coach Nick Saban's comments on Wednesday that the Aggies finished first in recruiting last season because the program "bought" players through name, image and likeness (NIL) deals.

“It’s a shame that we have to do this. It’s really despicable," Fisher said. "It’s despicable that somebody can say things about somebody and, more importantly, 17-year-old kids. You're taking shots at 17-year-old kids and their families. That they broke state laws, that we bought every player on this group. We never bought anybody. No rules were broken. Nothing was done wrong."

Fisher held an impromptu 10-minute news conference Thursday after Saban commented on Texas A&M's recruiting class on Wednesday at an event in Birmingham, Ala.

"We were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first," Saban said. "A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn't buy one player. I don't know if we're going to be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it."

On Thursday, Fisher said of Saban: "It's despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn't get his way or things don't go his way. The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen and it's ridiculous when he's not on top."

"Some people think they're God," he added. "Go dig into how God did his deal, you may find out about a lot of things that you don't want to know. We build him up to be the czar of college football. Go dig into his past."

Fisher, who was a Saban assistant at LSU in the early 2000s, went onto say that Saban has called him but he didn't take the call. “Not going to. We’re done. He showed you who he is. He’s the greatest ever, huh? When you've got all the advantages, it's easy."

Meanwhile, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said he was "speechless" over the clash between the two coaching giants.

"First time in my life," he told The Athletic. "(I kept saying) 'this can’t really be happening.' I still haven’t moved from my seat. Should have been on pay-per-view."

Texas A&M finished No. 1 in recruiting with 30 commits, including eight five-star players and 19 four-star players, per 247Sports. Alabama came in second with 26 commits, three five-star players and 19 four-star players. Aggies athletic director Ross Bjork told The Athletic that "most of (our) 2022 prospects do not have NIL deals."

"You can call me anything you want to call me, you don't call me a cheat," Fisher said. "I don't cheat. I don't lie. I learned that when I was a kid, if you did, your old man would've slapped you upside the head. Maybe somebody should have slapped him."

royexum@aol.com


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