Texas A&M put together a historic recruiting class for the 2022 season, receiving the highest grade in the modern era from 247 Sports. Overall, the Aggies class comprises seven five-star, 19 four-star, and three three-star prospects signed to the school.
On Wednesday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban accused Texas A&M of “buying” every player in its top-ranked class. Saban made the remarks during an event with local business leaders in Birmingham.
“I mean, we were second in recruiting last year,” Saban told the audience. “A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness (NIL). We didn’t buy one player, all right? But I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”
Saban said Alabama players made $3 million “doing it the right way” last year, and only 25 of his players signed NIL deals.
Saban said that coaches were using NIL “to create an advantage for themselves.” He explained that coaches know how much money is available from their school’s boosters and “how much he can promise every player.”
“That’s not what it was supposed to be,” he added. “That’s what it’s become. And that’s the problem in college athletics right now. Now every player is saying, ‘Well, what am I going to get?'”
Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher fired back Thursday morning, calling Saban’s comments “despicable” during a quickly assembled nine-and-a-half-minute news conference. Fisher was visibly angry and asserted there was no truth to Saban’s accusations.
“We never bought anybody,” Fisher said. “No rules are broken. Nothing was done wrong. It’s a shame that you’ve got to sit here and defend 17-year-old kids and families and Texas A&M. Because we do things right. We’re always going to do things right. We’re always going to be here. We’re doing a heck of a job.”
“It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way,” Fisher continued. “The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. It’s ridiculous when he’s not on top.”
Fisher was the offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach under Saban at LSU from 2000 to 2004. He lofted his own accusations against Saban.
“Some people think they’re God,” Fisher said. “Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out … a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be the czar of football. Go dig into his past, or anybody’s that’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out, what he does and how he does it. It’s despicable.”
Fished added that Saban called him, but he did not answer. “Not going to. We’re done,” said Fisher.
He then compared his time under Saban with his time as an assistant coach at Florida State under Bobby Bowden. Fisher eventually took over as the Florida State head coach after Bowden retired.
“He’s the greatest ever, huh? When you’ve got all the advantages, it’s easy. … You coach with people like Bobby Bowden and learn how to do things. You coach with other people and learn how not to do things. There’s a reason people I ain’t back and worked for [Saban]. Don’t wanna be associated with him,” he said.
“You can call me anything you want to call me. You can’t call me a cheat. I don’t cheat and I don’t lie. I learned that when I was a kid. If you did, your old man slapped you upside the head. Maybe somebody should have slapped him,” Fisher added.
Saban is not the first coach Fisher has responded to for comments regarding his recruiting class. In February, Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin quipped that “Texas A&M was going to incur a luxury tax in how much they paid for their signing class.”
Fisher responded by saying that coaches spreading rumors about payments to recruits were “clown acts” and “irresponsible as hell.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Saban also touched on other schools’ activities regarding NIL payments.
“Hell, read about it in the paper,” Saban said. “I mean, Jackson State paid a guy $1 million last year that was a really good Division I player to come to the school. It was in the paper, and they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it. I mean, these guys at Miami that are going to play basketball there for $400,000, it’s in the newspaper. The guy tells you how he’s doing it.”
Saban was referring to Travis Hunter, a five-star prospect and the nation’s No.1 recruit, according to 247 Sports. Hunter flipped his commitment from Florida State to the Division 1-AA school and HBCU Jackson State, coached by Deion Sanders.
Sanders denied the rumor that Hunter was paid $1 million in a tweet Wednesday night.
You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow. I was & awakened by my son @ShedeurSanders that sent me the article stating that WE PAYED @TravisHunterJr a Million to play at @GoJSUTigersFB ! We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE.
— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) May 19, 2022
Saban’s comments regarding Miami referred to former Kansas State men’s basketball player Nijel Pack, who transferred to Miami in April. Shortly after Pack transferred, it was announced that he signed a two-year, $400,000 NIL deal with a Florida-based health tech company called LifeWallet.
Saban added that he tells all his players the same thing: “Our job is not to buy you to come to school here.”
“I don’t know how you manage your locker room. And I don’t know if this is a sustainable model,” Saban added.