Texas A&M coach Fisher blasts Alabama’s Saban over NIL remarks

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher called Nick Saban a “narcissist” Thursday after the Alabama coach accused the Souheastern Conference rival Aggies of using name, image and likeness deals to land their top-ranked recruiting classes.

Less than 24 hours after Saban said Texas A&M was essentially “buying” players, Fisher called an impromptu news conference in College Station, Texas, and did not hold back in blasting college football’s most accomplished coach, who is also his former boss when the two were at LSU.

“First of all, I’d like to say it’s a shame that we have to do this. It’s really despicable,” Fisher said in a session that lasted about 10 minutes. “We never bought anybody, no rules are broken. Nothing was done wrong.”

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Texas A&M had the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the country for 2022 after beating Alabama during the regular season. The Tide’s class was No. 2.

The Crimson Tide lost to the Aggies last season, but went on to win the Southeastern Conference and play for the national title. The Aggies finished 8-4 in their fourth season under Fisher, who, like Saban, is among the highest-paid coaches in the game.

“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,” Fisher said. “The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen — it’s ridiculous — when when he’s not on top. And the parity in college football he’s been talking about. Go talk to coaches who have coached for him. You’ll find out all the parody. Go dig into wherever he’s been.”

While speaking at an event in Birmingham, Alabama, Saban said some schools were spending “tons of money to get players.”

“You read about it, you know who they are,” Saban said Wednesday. “We were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn’t buy one player. But 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. It’s tough.”

Fisher was an assistant under Saban in the early 2000s at LSU, working as offensive coordinator on the Tigers’ 2003 national title team. That relationship is now badly damaged.

“We’re done,” Fisher said, adding Saban reached out by phone but he did not take the call. “He showed you who he is. He’s the greatest ever, huh? When you got all the advantages, it’s easy.

“There’s a reason I ain’t went back and worked for him, with opportunities. I don’t want to be associated with him,” Fisher added.

He said Saban’s comments were insulting to Texas A&M and the families of the players who signed with the Aggies.

“Some people think they’re God,” Fisher said. “Go dig into how God did His deal. You may find out about a guy, a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be this czar of football. Go dig into his past or anybody who’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out what he does and how he does it.”

Texas A&M plays at Alabama on Oct. 8. The Southeastern Conference holds its spring meetings in Florida the week after Memorial Day, with all football coaches and athletic directors gathering, along with Commissioner Greg Sankey. The event has not been held in person for the last two years.

The 56-year-old Fisher won a national championship in 2013 as head coach at Florida State before receiving a 10-year contract for $75 million to leave Tallahassee and coach Texas A&M in 2017.

“I don’t cheat. I don’t lie. If you did my old man slapped me across the face. Maybe someone should have slapped him (Saban),” Fisher said.

The NCAA lifted most of its rules barring athletes from earning money from sponsorship and endorsement deals last July, but there are concerns among many in college sports that NIL deals are being used as recruiting inducements and de facto pay-for-play. Last week, the NCAA issued guidance to Division I members to clarify its rules against boosters being involved in recruiting.

This is the second time this year Fisher has publicly defended his program after signing one the highest-rated recruiting classes in the history of rankings.

In February, Fisher went off on competitors who were pushing rumors that Texas A&M had spent $30 million on NIL deals to land its star-studded recruiting class.

“Clown acts,” Fisher said then. “Multiple coaches in our league.”

On Wednesday night, the 70-year-old Saban, who has won six national championships, was more targeted in his critique of the current state of college football then he has been in the past.

Saban also mentioned Jackson State and Miami in his remarks.

Jackson State coach Deion Sanders, an NFL Hall of Famer, landed one of the top recruits in the country in cornerback Travis Hunter, who had been committed to Florida State until a signing day flip in December.

Sanders has denied Jackson State made any impermissible offers to Hunter to get him to sign with the historically black college that competes in the second tier of Division I football.

“You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow,” Sanders tweeted Wednesday night. “We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE.”

Hunter also chimed in on social media Thursday.

“I got A mil? But my mom still stay in a 3 bed room house with five kids,” he tweeted.