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Nick Saban: Name, image and likeness ‘isn’t an issue’ for Alabama — ‘We have a great brand’

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban headlined the second day of 2022 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Media Days on Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame and Omni Hotel in Atlanta.

The issue of name, image and likeness (NIL), an NCAA instituted rule that allows collegiate student-athletes to profit from their personal brand, has been a leading topic throughout the 2022 offseason.

Discussion around the issue intensified in May when Saban asserted that certain schools, namely SEC West Division rival program Texas A&M, were using NIL as a recruiting tool against the spirit of the policy to entice high school prospects.

Media pundits used Saban’s comments on the matter to drive speculation that the state of the game had passed him, which has become a narrative that is peddled each time the Crimson Tide head coach partakes in public discourse regarding changes to the game.

During questioning after his opening remarks on Tuesday, Saban was asked by Wall Street Journal sports reporter Laine Higgins how Alabama could utilize NIL to the program’s advantage given that it was altering the “dynamics” of the sport “whether you like them or not.”

Saban advised that he did not hold contempt for NIL and detailed how his program had served to enhance players’ ability to profit off their brands by playing at The Capstone.

“Yeah, well I don’t dislike name, image and likeness. I’m all for the players. I want players to do well,” responded Saban. “Our players did extremely well last year. They made over $3 million in name, image and likeness. So, 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 our brand can help them create.”

Just as he has consistently done concerning issues facing the sport, Saban provided analysis of NIL beyond how the issue affected his program. The seven-time national champion gave insight into the rule change from a holistic, rather than narrow, perspective.

According to Saban, additional safeguards must be instituted to ensure players’ interests are being protected.

“[T]here’s got to be some uniformity in protocol of how name, image and likeness is implemented,” he continued. “And I think there’s a couple of factors I think are important in that. How does this impact competitive balance, you know, in college athletics? And is there transparency to maintain fairness across the board in terms of college athletics? And how do we protect the players? Because there’s more and more people that are trying to get between the player and the money. And 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. So that’s something that we want to really make sure our players are not being misguided in any way.”

To clarify his stance on the issue, Saban noted that NIL was not “a concern” for his program due to Alabama’s status as a perennial powerhouse. However, he questioned if the current structure of how NIL was regulated would be of long-term benefit for college football.

“The biggest concern is how does this impact and affect recruiting. Because 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,” he informed. “And I think that is what can create a competitive balance issue between the haves and have-nots. And we’re one of the haves. So, you know, don’t think that what I’m saying is a concern at Alabama because we’re one of the haves.”

“[S]o, those are the concerns I have in terms of how do we place guidelines around this so that we can maintain a competitive balance. There’s no competitive sport anywhere that doesn’t have guidelines on how they maintain some kind of competitive balance. And I think that’s important to college football. That’s important to fans… Name, image and likeness isn’t an issue for us at Alabama. And our players I think did better than anybody in the country last year,” finished Saban.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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