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Nick Saban gives eye-opening account at Capitol Hill on why NIL should change in college football

Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports

He could be at home sipping a long island iced tea or whatever beverage he wants after 50 years of coaching — including 17 at the University of Alabama — but he would never do that. 

Nick Saban is about improving the sport he loves. He has been around football his entire life, both college and professional.

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He won seven national championships and mentored his athletes to be all-around great men. College football endured a change during his last few years with the Crimson Tide.

The introduction of the NCAA transfer and name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities bothered Saban to an extent. He is for players being compensated, but he never wanted the game he loved to become the only way the players participate is if they get paid. This is the slippery slope that is happening with NIL.

If players are not getting the money they want from NIL collectives, they are not playing.

Some have taken NIL funds from a school, did not play a snap, and transferred to another school. It has also become if a school is not offering a certain amount of NIL chances, players are not considering that program in the recruitment process. Saban provided an eye-opening account Tuesday at Capitol Hill with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz about how NIL needs to change.

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He said the things he believed in 50 years of coaching no longer exists.

“It was always about developing players,” Saban said. “It was always about helping people be more successful in life… my wife even said to me when we would have all the recruits over on Sundays with their parents for breakfast, and she would always meet with the mothers and talk about how she was going to help impact their sons and how they would be well taken care of. She came to me right before I retired and said, ‘why are we doing this?’  I said ‘what do you mean?’ She said “all they care about is how much you are going to pay them.’ They don’t care about how you are going to develop them, which is what we’ve always done, so why are we doing this?”

This is interesting coming from Saban and Miss Terry.

The fact she brought it up on mothers asking the question makes it something deeper to discuss.

Back then, the focus of college football players was to get to the National Football League for massive contracts. They would sweat and grind their way to become a first-round draft pick.

They believed in comradery in the locker room and playing for something bigger than themselves.

Today’s athlete has lost the value of hard work.

If it is not handed to them, its significance does not matter. The hunger is gone to do more, want more, or accomplish more if one is given marquee funds at 17, 18, or 19 years old.

College football has evolved and Saban understands it. He wants to have the players share in the revenue, but he does not want that taking away from the sport we enjoy as consumers. Saban revealed in an ESPN article from Chris Low that 70 to 80 percent of Alabama players were focused on how much NIL funds would they get if they chose to return to school. When he decided to retire in January, several players took the 30-day window to hop into the transfer portal and pursue different programs.

Saban wants to find parameters to put on NIL.

Alabama fans are hopeful that people truly listen to him.

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

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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