Nick Saban

Remarks to Local Business Leaders on NCAA Name, Image and Likeness Policy and Practice

delivered 18 May 2022, Birmingham, Alabama

 

[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Well, you know "Name, Image and Likeness" [NIL] to me is a great concept for players. Players have always been allowed to work. This is just a different opportunity for them to make money by working and using their own name, image, and likeness -- whether it's signing autographs, whether it's doing commercials, or ads for some company, or whatever. So, there's nothing wrong with that. And I told our players when this whole thing started to get agents, get representation.

And so you create opportunities for yourself. And our players last year created three million dollars worth of opportunity for themselves by doing it the right way. And I have no problem with that. And nobody had a problem on our team with that because the guys that got the money earned it. Now, there were only 25 guys on our team that had the opportunity to earn money.

The issue and the problem with Name, Image and Likeness is coaches trying to create an advantage for themselves, all right? [They] went out and said, "Okay, how could we use this to our advantage." They created what's called a "collective." All right? A collective is a outside marketing agency that's not tied to the university, that's funded by alumni from the university, and they give this collective millions of dollars. And that marketing agency then funnels it to the players. All right.

And the coach actually knows how much money is in the collective. So, he knows how much he can promise every player. That's not what Name, Image and Likeness was supposed to be. That's what it's become. And that's the problem in college athletics right now.

And now every player is saying, "Well, what am I going to get?" Well, my philosophy is my job is to create a platform for our players to create value for themselves and their future by becoming better people, by graduating from school and developing a career off the field, and by seeing if they can develop a career on the field and play at the next level in the NFL [National Football League]. Our players have made 1.7 billion dollars in the NFL since 2010.

All right, so we've created a lot of opportunity. We also have one of the highest graduation rates, you know, in college athletics. We have the most guys that graduate inside of four years. So, we've done a good job of that.

But now in recruiting, we have players in our state that grew up wanting to come to Alabama -- that they won't commit to us unless we say we're going to give them what somebody else is going to give them. And my theory on that is everything that we've done in college athletics has always been equal. Your scholarship is equal. They get equal Austin -- Alston money. They get equal cost of attendance. They get equal academic support. They get equal medical attention. Everything has always been equal. So, I told our players -- I said we're going to have a collective, but everybody's going to get the same amount of opportunity from that collective.

Now, you can go earn however much you want. And I tell the recruits the same thing, because our job is not to buy you to come to school here. And I don't know how you manage your locker room, and I don't know if this is a sustainable model because one of you folks are going to give some player that comes to our school a bunch of money to come to our school. And then you're going to come to the game in full strut, all right, I think, and I'm going to tell everybody I got that guy to come to Alabama. And then he's not going to play, and he's going to transfer, and you're going to say, "I am never going to do this again!" All right? So I don't know how it works. I don't -- I don't know how you sustain a model like that.

Now, I know that we're going to lose recruits because somebody else is going to be willing to pay them more. But Name, Image and Likeness is something that's here. And I think the more supporters that we have for the university of Alabama, in all sports -- all right? -- that are willing to sponsor players -- whatever you want to call it -- use them in your business to help your business, that's going to help our programs.

The thing that I fear is at some point in time they're just going to say, "We're going to have to pay players." If we start paying players, we're going to have to eliminate sports, all right? And this is -- this is all bad for college sports. I mean, we probably have, what, 450 people on scholarship at Alabama -- whether they're women's tennis players, women's softball players, golfers, you know, baseball players; non-revenue sports that should -- that have for years and years and years been able to create a better life for themselves because they've been able to get scholarships and participate in college athletics.

That's what college athletics is supposed to be. It's not supposed to be something where people come and make money, and you make a decision about where you go to school based on how much money you're going to make. You should make a decision based on where you have the best chance to develop as a person, as a student, and as a player, which is what we've always tried to major in. And we're going to continue to do that, and hopefully there's enough people out there that are want to do it.

But I know the consequence is going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players. And you've read about them. You know who they are. I mean, we were second in recruiting last year. [Texas] A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team -- made a deal for Name, Image and Likeness, all right? We didn't buy one player, all right? 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.  So, it's -- it's tough.

And people blame the NCAA, but in defense of the NCAA we are where, all right, because of the litigation that the NCAA gets. Like the transfer portal. Every time somebody wanted to transfer they'd apply for a waiver. All right. If you didn't give them -- if the NCAA didn't give them a waiver so they could be immediately eligible, they filed suit. So the NCAA would back off and give them a waiver.

So they just said, "We're just going to make a rule where everybody can transfer." That's how that happened. So, if the NCAA doesn't get some protection from litigation, whether we got to get an anti-trust or whatever it is from a federal government standpoint, this is not going to change because they cannot enforce their rules, just like Nate [Oats] said.

We have a rule right now that says you cannot use Name, Image and Likeness to entice a player to come to your school. Hell, read about it in the paper. 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. I mean, these guys at Miami that are going to play basketball there for 400,000 [dollars] -- it's in the newspaper. The guy tells you how he's doing it.

So -- But the NCAA can't enforce their rules because it's not against the law. And that's an issue. That's a problem. And -- And unless we get something that protects them from litigation, I don't know what we're going to do about it.


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