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Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart voice concerns over NIL deals

Georgia coach Kirby Smart (l.) and Alabama coach Nick Saban after Monday night’s national championship game, won by Georgia.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart (l.) and Alabama coach Nick Saban after Monday night’s national championship game, won by Georgia.
Image: Getty Images

The NIL contracts for “student-athletes” have been an overwhelming success, according to many people, including us. They give an unpaid workforce access to a revenue stream, make for great stories when used right, and end this ruse that college athletics should be an altruistic endeavor because kids are getting an educational “opportunity of a lifetime.” (Justifying it by saying they’re getting an overpriced degree for free is idiotic on so many levels.)

Nick Saban and Kirby Smart aren’t against NIL deals because that would be bad for business, but they are for added regulation because they believe the gap between the haves and have nots will only grow, according to ESPN.

Saban cited concern that unregulated NIL deals would further widen the already massive expanse in recruiting.

“I think we probably need some kind of national legislation to sort of control that to some degree, because I think there will be an imbalance relative to who can dominate college football if that’s not regulated in some form or fashion.”

Smart, a protege of Saban, sounded a warning similar to his former boss’.

“You’re going to have the haves and have nots, and the separation that is already there is going to grow larger,” he said prior to the title game. “The schools that have the capacity and the ability and are more competitive in the NIL market are going to be schools that step ahead on top of other schools. So I don’t want (recruiting) decisions to be based on that, but ultimately a lot of young men want to make their decision based on that.”

Smart has turned Georgia into a “have” since he left Alabama and Saban to become the head coach of the Dawgs, finally beating the Crimson Tide on Monday for the school’s first title in 40-plus years. The championship probably cements Georgia’s place at the CFB Playoff club, which was already pretty exclusive before NIL deals.

In eight years of the playoff and a total of 32 openings, only 13 programs (of the 130 in college football) — Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Washington, Georgia, Notre Dame, LSU, and Cincinnati — have made it. There have been five different winners — Alabama (three times), Clemson (twice), Georgia, LSU, and Ohio State — in its eight years, which is somewhat diversified, but a mere six teams — Bama (six times), Clemson (four), Georgia (two), Ohio State (two), Oregon, and LSU — have accounted for all 16 appearances in the finale.

We’ve all known college football has a problem with its crowning moment getting a little stagnant. The exhaustion of another all-SEC title game was felt by more people than just my dad, who proclaimed he was recording the game but would only watch if Georgia won.

Getting your program to a Bama-Clemson-Georgia-Ohio State level of dominance only used to be attainable by winning. Life was so much easier when recruits’ main focuses were going to the school that gives them the best chance of reaching the NFL — and the most money under the table.

Yes, the rich getting richer because they’re already rich is a concern. However, acting like Alabama and Georgia are the only teams with boosters willing to spend/burn money is comical. Look at all the schools paying coaches not to coach. You think the same people who are willing to give Lincoln Riley $100 million are going to stop at the coach? You don’t think Nike and Phil Knight can’t throw money around to entice kids to choose Oregon?

In that same ESPN article, the two SEC coaches also complained about the transfer portal. Saban wasn’t super happy with players transferring because they want to … play. (Never mind the fact that Jameson Williams, their best receiver, transferred from Ohio State.) Smart said he’ll have to start emphasizing character because things “will get tough” in college athletics, and he wants athletes who persevere, not run away.

So let me get this straight: You don’t want the money to get out of control because it gives you a competitive advantage, but you don’t want student athletes transferring because it lessens your competitive advantage?

It sounds to me like they simply don’t want change — despite a large portion of college football fans begging for it.

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