Nick Saban discusses NIL, future SEC realignment + his loaded 2022 squad at SEC Media Days



Tuesday is always a big day at SEC Media Days, as the king, Nick Saban takes his throne.


This year was no different, as Saban's appearance is the most anticipated of the entire event.


While he wasn't asked about Jimbo Fisher (surprisingly), he was asked about how NIL is impacting recruiting, whether he believes the SEC will go beyond 16 teams and much more.


Here are some of his answers, from a busy day in Atlanta.


Nick Saban on: The impact of Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. on the rest of the team


Well, I don't like to compare players, but to have two players that make such a significant impact on our team as those two guys, I don't recall ever having a circumstance like that.


We've had some great impact players, but never one on offense, one on defense, of the caliber that these guys have been able to play on a consistent basis.


But I think probably bigger than that is the impact that they have on the players around them. These guys set a great example. They're players that other people on our team can emulate in a positive way because of the example that they set. These guys are very serving to their teammates in terms of they really do care about helping other people for their benefit.


So these guys have not only been great players, they've contributed from a leadership standpoint probably as significantly as any leaders that we've had - and we've had some really good leaders in our program and organization.


Really excited about having these guys on our team. You couldn't ask for two better people. I've always said that when the best players on your team are really good people with great attitude and great mindset, it's really helpful to developing the type of team chemistry you need to have a successful team.



Nick Saban: On the rise of HBCU's and if Alabama ever plans to schedule one


I think I certainly can see, we've tried to be very supportive. Miss Terry is on the Board of Trustees at Stillman College. I've always been an advocate of playing in-state schools because I think it sort of helps them raise their level and their ability to compete, which obviously if you do that, you also contribute to how successful the players in those organizations can be.


So I would be very much in favor of that.


I do think that some of the really, really good players -- I think it's going to work both ways. I think some of the really good players in that league are going to have opportunities to go other places, but I also think that there will be some players that come back to that league that will also be able to enhance their value as players because of the opportunity that will be created for them by playing at that level.


All good things.


Nick Saban: On the present and future of NIL


Well, I don't dislike name, image and likeness. I'm all for the players. I want our players to do well. Our players made over $3 million in name, image and likeness. I'm all for the players being able to do as well as they can and use their name, image and likeness to create value for themselves.


We have a great brand at Alabama, so players are certainly -- their value there is going to be enhanced because of the value that our brand can help them create.


But the thing that I have sort of expressed, not concerns about, but there's got to be some uniformity and protocol of how name, image and likeness is implemented. I think there's probably a couple factors that are important in that. How does this impact competitive balance in college athletics? And is there transparency to maintain fairness across the board in terms of college athletics? How do we protect the players? Because there's more and more people that are trying to get between the player and the money.


In the NFL they have guidelines for agents because the NFL Players Association sort of has rules and regulations about how they should professionally help the players. That's something that we really want to make sure that our players are not being misguided in any way.


The biggest concern is how does this impact and affect recruiting? On the recruiting trail right now, there's a lot of people using this as inducements to go to their school by making promises as to whether they may or may not be able to keep in terms of what players are doing.


I think that is what can create a competitive balance issue between the haves and have not's. We're one of the haves. Don't think that what I'm saying is a concern that we have at Alabama because we're one of the haves.


Everybody in college football cannot do these things relative to how they raise money in a collective or whatever, how they distribute money to players.


Those are the concerns that I have in terms of how do we place guidelines around this so that we can maintain a competitive balance.


There is no competitive sport anywhere that doesn't have guidelines on how they maintain some kind of competitive balance. I think that's important to college football. I think it's important to fans. That's why they have rules in the NFL where you have a salary cap, you have difficult schedules if you have a successful season, you draft later if you have a successful season, you draft early if you have an unsuccessful season.


All these things are created so there is competitive balance, which is great for the game and it's great for fans. Name, image and likeness is not an issue for us at Alabama. Our players I think did better than anybody in the country last year.




Nick Saban: On how to continue to help Bryce Young improve, after winning the Heisman Trophy


I think that's one of the biggest challenges, is the offensive line rebuild that we need to do. I'm excited about the coach that we have at that position, Coach Wolford has done a really good job with the players and relationship building, fundamental progress.


We do have some new players that may contribute to that that weren't there in the spring. That's something that we'll have to sort of assess in fall camp.


I think that one of the most important things for Bryce or any player who has success is to understand that success is not a continuum. You have to continue to -- success is momentary. So if you're going to continue to have success, you have to stay focused on the things you need to do to improve, to prepare, to lead, to impact and affect other people around you.


Bryce has shown every indication that he's got a willingness to do all those things. He's a perfectionist in terms of what he wants to do and what he wants to accomplish.


So far I've been pleased with the way he's been able to maintain the mindset that you need to do to continue to improve and make progress as a player.


Nick Saban: On if he believes the SEC will expand past 16 teams


I have no idea. Glen, you've been around me for 20 years now, and you know I don't like to answer hypothetical questions, which that could be as hypothetical as any I've ever been asked.


I do think there is some tendency, as current events sort of indicate, that mega conferences may be something in the future. It's not my job or my role to understand the dynamics of what's in the best interest of college football, the SEC, other conferences in terms of how they expand.


But this has always been something that has happened. I know one thing for sure, we have a great league. We made two really positive additions to our league that are going to come online in a few years.


I think there's a lot of underlying dynamics from a business standpoint that could impact and affect how this happens, if it does happen in the future.


But for right now, we have 14 teams in our league for the next couple years. We have some really, really good teams in our league. It's a very competitive league. You got to be on task each and every week that you play. That's kind of what we're trying to stay focused on.


That question's probably a better question for Greg Sankey or conference commissioners who maybe are looking at what's in the best interest of their league in the future. I'm sure they would say maybe yes and maybe no. Who knows what those circumstances may have an impact and effect in a positive way on each and every league and on college football in general.


But I do think if we move toward the mega conference, again, that whole thing about competitive balance is going to be in question.


Look, I'm not here to say we should have it or we shouldn't have it. But if we have two 20-team leagues, how is that going to impact all the people that are not in those leagues?


That's a question for all of you to speculate and answer on. I really can't speculate on that.


Nick Saban: On his first losses to his former assistant coaches last season (Jimbo Fisher and Kirby Smart)


Well, I think, first of all, all the coaches who have had opportunities to go on and be head coaches in Division I, I'm very proud of. I think they all did an outstanding job for us. They all had goals and aspirations that motivated them to do an outstanding job because they wanted to be head coaches. I'm happy for them and their family that they got that opportunity.


Sooner or later these people that get these opportunities would get in situations where they had a chance to have nationally recognized, nationally powerful, whatever you want to call it, top-ranked teams like Georgia was last year, like Texas will be I'm sure very soon with Sark being the head coach there, the staff that he has, the job that they're doing.


This is not something that is surprising to me. A lot of people are at really, really good schools. They've done a really, really good job. They've used their own personal imprint to maybe take a few things that they learned that we do that helped us be successful along with their imprint of what they want to do so they can have successful programs.


This is not a surprise to me. It was sort of expected actually. I'm happy to see each and every one of those guys do extremely well. Not extremely well against Alabama, but extremely well (smiling). I'm kind of proud of the fact that there are some of our coaches who have got some of the most successful programs in the country.