For everything that has supposedly changed in the college athletics era of name, image and likeness, it has mostly brought the financial transactions that used to happen under the table into the public domain.
What a gift for us, though, that it has lifted the sport’s endemic pettiness into the light as well.
We were told for years by the college sports establishment that opening the market for athletes to make money was going to saddle them with responsibilities they were too young to handle. As it turns out, it’s the adults who are having way more problems adjusting to their new reality.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is 70 years old and universally revered as the greatest college football coach of all time. Jimbo Fisher is 56, a national champion at Florida State and currently one of the most highly compensated coaches in the country at ascendant Texas A&M.
And the moment a little bit of money started to flow to the players they’re trying to recruit, they have devolved into a pair of 9-year-olds on the playground squabbling over whose turn it is to climb the monkey bars.
In one corner we have Saban, who has lorded over the sport for more than a decade, uncharacteristically taking direct aim at Texas A&M’s program, saying at a public appearance in Birmingham on Wednesday that the Aggies straight-up bought their No. 1 recruiting class with NIL deals.
In the other we have Fisher, whose insistence that Texas A&M’s recruiting success isn’t in any way connected to NIL almost seems pathological.
As it turns out, even after all the money and success and power they’ve accumulated, they both have a vulnerable spot in their egos. And on Thursday, it led to one of the most remarkable moments college football has seen.
In a hastily called news conference to respond to Saban’s missive, Fisher didn’t just deny that A&M…