Two SEC football coaches locked horns in a verbal battle over NIL and allegations of paying for players. Now, the SEC has stepped in to reprimand them both.
Nick Saban kicked off the firestorm on Wednesday night, calling out Texas A&M and Jackson State for using NIL deals to “buy” players. Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher responded by torching Saban in a Thursday press conference in which he inferred the Alabama coach has some skeletons in his closet that need to be dug up. The rest of the college football world chimed in as well, including rival coaches, ESPN commentators, Texas A&M administrators, and Alabama players.
Saban apologized on Thursday, saying that it was a “mistake” to single out any one person or school and that his issue is with NIL collectives.
It was inevitable that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey would need to step in and make a statement. He did that on Thursday afternoon, officially reprimanding both coaches over derogatory comments and public criticism of fellow conference members.
The SEC has issued public reprimands for both Saban and Jimbo: pic.twitter.com/Ya72FMtXJP
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) May 19, 2022
“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.”
According to the statement, Saban was publicly reprimanded for “comments he made in violation of SEC Bylaws 10.2.3 and 10.5.2 related to Ethical Conduct for derogatory comments and public criticism of another institution’s athletics program.”
SEC Bylaw 10.2.3 states that “Coaches and other member personnel shall advocate the positive advantages and attributes of their university and its intercollegiate athletics program and shall avoid making any derogatory statements concerning another member institution’s athletics program, facilities or educational opportunities.”
As for Fisher, he was reprimanded for “comments he made in violation of SEC Bylaw 10.5.2 related to Ethical Conduct for public criticism of another member institution’s staff.”
While cooler heads may have prevailed, for now, this firestorm isn’t going away. The SEC holds its media days for the upcoming football season in two weeks, and both coaches will be present for that. And then there’s the matter of that October 8 game between the Aggies and Tide which already had the subplot of Alabama’s revenge for losing last season.
Somehow, SEC football always finds a way to get more interesting.