Two of the biggest names in the college football coaching world voiced pointed remarks aimed at one another over comments relating to name, image and likeness deals.

One day after Alabama coach Nick Saban said Texas A&M “bought every player on their team” after signing the No. 1 recruiting class in February, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher called Saban’s character into question, saying, “It’s ridiculous, when he’s not on top.”

What did Nick Saban say about Texas A&M and buying players?

Saban spent nearly seven minutes discussing NIL and his beliefs on its purpose and how it should run during an event promoting The World Games on Wednesday night, according to reporting from AL.com

A little over five minutes into this discussion, Saban began to discuss specific instances he believes have exploited the ever-changing NIL situation, with his first example directly pointed at fellow SEC school Texas A&M.

“I know the consequence is going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players,” Saban said. “You read about it, you know who they are. We were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness.

“We didn’t buy one player. Aight? But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future, because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”

Texas A&M brought in the No. 1 recruiting class in 2022, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings, edging out Alabama for the top spot. 

The Aggies signed eight five-star recruits in their 2022 class, more than Fisher — who took over at Texas A&M in 2018 — had signed in his entire tenure prior to this offseason, according to CBS Sports.

What was Jimbo Fisher’s response to Nick Saban’s accusations?

On Thursday morning, Fisher, once an assistant coach under Saban, had his chance to respond to what Saban said during a nearly 10-minute press conference.

“It’s a shame that we have to do this,” Fisher said. “It’s really despicable. It’s despicable that somebody can say something about somebody, more importantly 17-year-old kids. You’re taking shots at 17-year-old kids and their families, that they broke state laws.” 

Fisher, who beat Saban last October, said Texas A&M never bought players. 

“It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way or things don’t go his way,” Fisher continued. “The narcissistic in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. It’s ridiculous, when he’s not on top.” 

Without ever using his name, Fisher further called Saban’s character into question. Saban has won six national championships in his 15 seasons at Alabama.

“You might find out about a guy, a lot of things you don’t want to know,” Fisher said. “We build him up to be this czar of football. Go dig into his past or anybody who has ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to know about what he does and how he does it. It’s despicable.”

When asked if he’s had any contact with Saban, Fisher said Saban has called, but he won’t be answering.

“We’re done,” Fisher said. “He showed you who he is. He’s the greatest ever, huh?” 

What other accusations did Nick Saban make about other schools regarding NIL deals? 

Saban also spoke about a pair of other instances where he believed schools overstepped and enticed student-athletes to sign by luring them with NIL deals. 

Among them was Jackson State. While Saban didn’t say any names, 247 Sports’ top-rated prospect in the 2022 class, cornerback Travis Hunter Jr., flipped from his commitment from Florida State to sign with the FCS school, which is coached by Deion Sanders. Sanders later denied a report that Hunter had received a $1.5 million NIL deal.

“We have a rule right now that said you cannot use name, image and likeness to entice a player to come to your school,” Saban said, per AL.com. “I mean, Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school. It was in the paper and they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it.”

Sanders responded back Wednesday night on Twitter. 

“You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow,” he wrote. “... We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE.”

Saban was also critical about how billionaire John Ruiz, through his company LifeWallet, is funding lucrative NIL deals for student-athletes at the University of Miami, as chronicled by the Miami Herald

“I mean, those guys from Miami that are going to play basketball there for $400,000, that’s in the newspaper. The guy tells you how he’s doing it,” Saban said.

“But the NCAA can’t enforce their rules because it’s not against the law, and that’s an issue. That’s a problem. Unless we get something that protects them from litigation, I don’t know what we’re going to do about it.”

How did the SEC respond?

Later Thursday, the SEC — of which both Alabama and Texas A&M are members of — released a statement from commissioner Greg Sankey regarding the situation, while handing out reprimands to both Saban and Fisher.

“The membership of the Southeastern Conference has established expectations for conduct and sportsmanship that were not met last night nor today,” said Sankey. “A hallmark of the SEC is intense competition within an environment of collaboration.

“Public criticism of any kind does not resolve issues and creates a distraction from seeking solutions for the issues facing college athletics today. There is tremendous frustration concerning the absence of consistent rules from state to state related to name, image and likeness. We need to work together to find solutions and that will be our focus at the upcoming SEC Spring Meetings.”