Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher Beef, pulls the curtain on the underbelly of college football’s recruiting culture

Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher are arguing. Maybe you’ve heard… and read and seen. The insult is real, and it’s spectacular. Power five could be redefined as the number of fingers the Texas A&M coach has clenched in a fist awaiting Saban at next week’s SEC spring meetings.

Yes, it’s absurd, ridiculous and must be seen on all platforms. But for now, it’s uncovered what decades of NCAA investigations, enforcements and penalties couldn’t: a bit of transparency.

The name, image and likeness have made it possible to pull the curtain on how the sausage is made. In this case, the sausage that is fatty enough recruits without attaching a breakfast analogy to it.

You can gossip about a man’s record, game calls, or the quality of the coaching staff, but you had better not go there with recruitment. Not public. And that’s what Saban did.

Recruiting is the heartbeat of sport. After all, everything about college football boils down to recruitment.

Through the Alabama coach’s allegations — and that’s really all they are for now — we’ve found out more about the recruiting process than we have at any time since SMU’s death penalty.

Jimbo “bought” his recruiting class? Tell us more. What was a rumor in the industry, Saban debunked as fact. Spring, his Fact. If that’s true, how is the climate different from before? Recruits have been bought since the first hundred-dollar handshake.

NIL has blurred the meaning of terms like “pay for play”, “incentive” and even “booster”.

The NCAA won’t tell us. So we have two Superstar trainers essentially arguing not over the extent of the misconduct, but over whether it’s dirty to set up a Recruit class with all the NIL perks available.

Nick says yes. Jimbo shot back, denigrates his former boss in the sharpest language. your relationship is over.

Does that stop the sniping? Because as a college football consumer… I want more.

A Power Five coach recently told me that all current discussions with recruits start with how much NIL money they can receive. Is that wrong, or is that just the way of the world?

Hugh Freeze laughs today. Remember that top 5 Ole Miss class that seemed so upset in 2013? The NCAA concluded in 2019 that there is “an unrestricted culture of booster involvement in football recruitment.” A bill is pending in Louisiana that would allow the participation of NIL boosters. Tennessee, Missouri and Mississippi have either legislation or pending legislation that would allow coaches to make ZERO deals.

One man’s cheating is another man’s recruitment.

I remember the scene from Casablanca where Louis Renault exclaims, “I’m shocked, shocked that it’s being played in here.”

All of this has a bit of a glass house aspect to it. Any coach who has ever “bought a player” or was aware of it – under the old rules – must exclude themselves from the discussion.

Is Fisher a renegade or a cutting-edge NIL opportunist?

At the end of the day, we witness a sizzling match between Trainers who have assembled the top two Recruitment Classes in the 2022 Cycle. Recruitment absolutes seem hard to find when questioning a person’s ethics.

At least under the old rules, we knew the rules. Or at least we had an idea. Six digits. New SUV. Money paid to an uncle’s church that can never be traced. The distribution of cryptocurrencies also seems to be on everyone’s lips.

The difference is that trainers are under more pressure in the NILE era. What used to happen under the table is above, public and – for the time being – largely legal. Sooner or later, these monster NIL deals will reflect a coach whose fan base is asking, “Why can’t we do this?”

What is different is that NIL has uncovered a black market economy which is more or less legal and decent now. To an extent, it’s legal, until someone can prove it’s against the rules, to offer a Kansas state security guard (Miami transfer Nijel Pack) an $800,000 contract to tweet and video for the deal to make a billionaire.

On the face of it, it’s permissible by both the spirit and the letter of the current NIL law. If so, we’re just arguing about the number of zeros associated with a deal.

Add in a Millionaires National Championship coach questioning the ethics of another Millionaires National Championship coach and you have a slugfest that never would have happened without ZERO.

Coaches had plausible denial. If they swam in these recruiting waters, they would not drown.

It used to be, “I don’t want to know how we’re going to get this guy, just get him.” Now it’s: “Why don’t we have a collective?”

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