Whether it be conference realignment, College Football Playoff expansion or name, image and likeness (NIL) rule changes, the college football landscape is undoubtedly traveling into some uncharted territory. And as more power shifts from the NCAA to individual programs and their players, more people are beginning to liken the college game to the NFL model.
During a recent interview with ESPN, Saban explained how paying players will take away from the original allure of collegiate athletics.
“It kind of looks like it,” the all-time great coach said when asked if college football was heading towards and NFL model. “College football is for guys to get an education, and the more we pay players, the less sports we’re going to have. If we start paying players, instead of having 21 sports, we’re going to have nine. There will be no something — golf team, track team, something. Then you’re eliminating opportunities for people in non-revenue sports.”
Saban spent two seasons of head coaching at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (2004-05). He used that experience to inform his statements — contrasting the business-first pro model with the college game.
“Where everybody misses the boat a little bit is that college athletics is not a business,” he said. “People who think it’s a business, I think they have the wrong perception. It’s revenue producing, but nobody takes the profit. When Wayne Huizenga owned the Dolphins, he paid $500 million for the team, he made $50 million a year, and he sold it for $950 million. That’s business. Well, in college, all you do is reinvest all of the money into all of the other sports, facilities and scholarships. There’s more than 300 people having an opportunity, and not just 85 football players.
“Then the argument is, ‘Well, the coaches make a lot of money.’ But do we create value or not? Alabama is making more money than they ever made before I came here, whether they pay me more or not.”
Saban signed a contract extension with the Crimson Tide program earlier this month. In 2021, the longtime Bama head coach will make $8.7 million. That figure will increase by units of $400,000 every year through 2028.
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