"Players are employees": Nick Saban credits parity in NFL unlike college football stars' lackluster mindset at NIL roundtable

2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama
Nick Saban credits parity in NFL unlike college football

Former Alabama head coach Nick Saban made notable remarks during a NIL roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill. This is amid a tumultuous landscape in college sports, highlighted by conferences wrangling over the future of the CFP model and revenue-sharing.

Saban, advocating for players' financial compensation, expressed his preference for a system akin to the NFL.

"I think the system that we have in the NFL, where players are employees would be better than the system that we have now because at least it creates parity," Saban asserted.

Saban, who retired following Alabama's loss to Texas in the CFP semifinals, acknowledged the evolving landscape of college athletics.

He attributed part of his decision to retire to the changing dynamics in sports finance. In particular, he blamed the proliferation of revenue generated by Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) partnerships supporting college student-athletes.

"Well, all the things I believed in for all these years of coaching, 50 years of coaching, no longer exist in college athletics," Saban said.

He advocated for sharing revenue with student-athletes. However, Saban remained staunchly opposed to a model where athletes would be classified as university employees, highlighting a distinction from the NFL system.

"It's whoever wants to pay, the most money raised, the most money to buy the most players is going to have the best opportunity to win,”

Nick Saban's NIL comments indicate the need for a balanced approach

Nick Saban voiced concerns about the impact of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules on college sports during a Capitol Hill roundtable. Saban emphasized maintaining NIL opportunities alongside revenue sharing:

"They still have name, image, and likeness opportunities... but it's not going to be created. It's going to be something that they all earned."
“In other words, I’m not really for collectives. I respect what these folks over here do. But I think those funds should go to the institution. Not to create opportunities."

Saban recounted a disillusioning moment during a recruiting breakfast, where his wife Terry questioned the focus on financial incentives over player development.

"She said, 'All they care about is how much you're gonna pay them, they don't care about how much you're gonna develop them,'" Saban said.

Saban proposed a revenue-sharing model to benefit student-athletes without making them employees. He argued this model could enhance quality of life and competitive balance across institutions.

"You could create a better quality of life for student-athletes ... you couldn't raise more money at one school to create a competitive advantage at another," Saban stressed.

Accompanying Saban at the roundtable were notable figures, including Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips, and student-athletes Haley and Hanna Cavinder. Haley will be returning to college basketball next season with TCU.

Edited by Abhimanyu Gupta
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