By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams
SANDESTIN, Fla. – Nick Saban said he has attended 19 SEC Spring Meetings.
I’ve been to every one. I’ve seen the Alabama coach in action year after year in this resort setting.
But I’ve never seen him like he was Tuesday morning when he met with the media.
Right off the bat, Saban was asked what evidence he had that Texas A&M bought football recruits, a comment Saban made last week.
As Saban answered that he didn’t accuse anyone of doing anything wrong, the reporter interjected that Saban accused A&M of buying players.
Saban was clearly flustered. He said, once again, that he should not have named schools. He said, once again, that he didn’t say the Aggies cheated. He said one again that he favors name, imagine and likeness, but not in its current Wild, Wild West format, where anything goes and offers can be made to prospects in an attempt to entice them to a particular school.
Saban did add this: “We need transparency on NIL deals to verify players do what they need to do.’’
Saban said Alabama players made plenty of money AFTER they arrived in Tuscaloosa. He also said players need “protection from unfair NIL deals’’ that relinquish their freedom.
He also said boosters should be “precluded’’ from striking deals with prospects prior to them signing with a school.
He said “guardrails’’ are needed to make sure schools are playing by the same rules.
“Right now, everybody is looking for solutions,’’ Saban said. “The SEC is looking for solutions. The NCAA is looking for solutions on how we can have equitable national competition and continue to benefit the players.’’
He said “maybe the federal government can create standards’’ to even the playing field.
Regarding the public feud with his former assistant and A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, Saban said: “I have no problem with Jimbo at all.’’
Is that a public stance? A play nice stance? A let’s-put-this-behind-us stance?
Fisher has not addressed the media at the SEC Spring Meetings.
He’s not scheduled to, but it’s still early in the week.
Florida coach Billy Napier, hired twice at Alabama by Saban, was asked if there was any truth to the charges Fisher directed at Saban.
“Coach Saban has been really good to me and my career,’’ Napier said. “I would not be standing here without him.
“I’m not foolish enough to comment on that situation. … Both are competitors.
“In this profession, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat. I’m thankful for what coach Saban did for my career.’’
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz was asked about the Saban-Fisher feud.
He said sometimes “tensions are high’’ and “we’re all competitors.’’ He called them “two greats in the game’’ but the comments “probably shouldn’t occur in public. It’s unfortunate that it did. You can have (comments) behind closed doors and share opinions without it coming back to hurt us.’’
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked how football meetings can be conducted if two coaches aren’t speaking to one another.
Smart said it’s not unusual for coaches not to speak to each other since they compete against each other: “It’s not common place to reach out and be friendly.’’
Asked if what Fisher said about Saban was accurate, Smart smartly said: “I’ve not thought about it.’’ Instead, he said, he’s worried about his program, his recruits.
He added: “You guys should be on the headphones (to hear coaches feuding during games). It’s no Mickey Mouse.’