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Are new NIL NCAA rules forcing old-school coaches like Nick Saban to retire?

Nick Saban smiling on the field in Alabama's 2022 Spring Football Practice
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics

College football is a different sport now more than ever before.

The introduction of name, image, and likeness or NIL has people on both sides of the argument. Some are excited for athletes to get compensated for their likeness, but others see it as a big problem. No matter what one’s stance is, NIL is not going away.

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It has impacted recruiting, the transfer portal, and attractive schools for coaches to find jobs.

Young faces in the coaching profession have been able to maneuver. They have found ways to make NIL work for them and create a ‘you can have it all’ culture for their respective schools. Older coaches see NIL as a challenge, and it is difficult for them to adapt.

Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and Mack Brown have been adamant about how NIL needs to be regulated, and college football should not get to a point where we are just paying student-athletes. All three are not pleased with the current NIL model and believe it needs oversight, but others question if the trio will adjust to the new obstacle.

Jay Wright, an elite NCAA men’s head basketball coach for Villanova, retired at 60. He’s won two NCAA Tournament Championships, made four Final Four appearances, won five Big East Tournament titles, and is an eight-time Big East regular-season champion. The new NIL rules for the NCAA had nothing to do with Wright’s decision, but it does raise the question of how long will old-school coaches adjust to changes in an evolving sport? Saban’s mentality to not be stagnant may help him survive it.

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He has endured two recruiting periods, losing coaches and players every offseason and the NCAA transfer portal.

NIL is a different monster, but Saban’s experience in other areas has equipped him for it. It could wear on him, but the resources at Alabama will not allow it to break Saban down. He will create a way to make NIL hold the Crimson Tide as an attractive place for recruits and transfers while still winning national championships. He is 70 years old, but Saban’s mind is not his age.

He should continue to remain at the top of the sport until he’s physically unable to coach.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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