So we've all heard the Nick Saban sound bite or at least read the clip from SEC media day Wednesday. You know, the one that goes like this:
I don't think it's anything but greed that's creating it right now on behalf of the agents. The agents that do this -- and I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. How would you feel if they did it to your child?
Folks have fallen into a couple different camps on this set of quotables. Jason Whitlock took the time to pen his response. Friend of the program Bomani Jones sounded off on the agent game during his show today after talking with us here at In The Bleachers last night. Jon Solomon of AL.com gave his take on the tirade. Dan Levy entered the mix and dropped his cookie jar reference.
Twitter conversations popped up over the pimping and through it all another pertinent analogy was put forth by RodimusPrime concerning the agents and more importantly the runners hitting college campuses:
@bomani_jones @AndyHutchins @sgw94 it's the same reason they used to set up credit card stands at colleges
Perhaps if Saban had made this reference we'd all be seeing eye to eye but alas he did not.
So now we have the biggest issue surrounding Nick Saban:
People don't like Saban. The job hopping (which we've discussed before here) and the hiding of his intentions from fans has soured a large portion of the population toward Coach Saban. Some folks don't like that he works with the college football world's most influential agent, Jimmy Sexton or that he makes over $4 million dollars a season while his players, the guys risking life and limb, exist off Pell grants, meal checks and any cash that their parents can kick their way.
Make no mistake I see the hypocrisy in that last sentence regarding the "pimp" aspect. Believe me, I do, but I feel that exploitation on the NCAA, conference, institution and coaching levels is a conversation better held on another day.
As is often the case today many folks fill up on the appetizer instead of waiting on the main course. "Pimp" and Saban are the low hanging fruit that folks have chose to dine on when the best stuff is up just a bit higher.
Read more to get why this Saban quotable is truly food for thought.
If you're focusing on Saban's job-hopping past you're blinded by bias. This quote is no less meaningful coming from Saban than if Mark Richt and sang it in unison with now retired Bobby Johnson while saying the supper blessing together in Hoover.
If you're focusing on the Jimmy Sexton angle then take a moment to review Sexton's client list and look at how few Saban players populate it. The man's a head football coach at one of the two or three premier powers in the nation in charge of handling the media, recruiting, gameplanning and fund raising; he doesn't have time to be funneling clients to agencies.
If you're focusing on the paying the players angle then you're looking for an entirely different discussion than what this quote is even about.
If you're focusing on Saban trying to "play the victim" or paint the players as sympathetic characters then this issue has completely gone over your head.
Saban is, simply put, a guy who is tired of having a hard time doing his job and would like some help from the other folks who have a financial stake in the program and larger system's success. He's not absolving the players of wrong-doing. He's not attempting to villify legitimate agents or agencies. He's not even out to say the NCAA is on a witch hunt.
He's just a guy that wants some aid from the only private entity capable of truly addressing his problem, the NFL AND he's flexed the only muscle that college programs such as Alabama possess in this situation; access.
Access to players for evaluation is the biggest, most under-discussed aspect of the pre-NFL draft business. Scouts going into programs midweek during the season to observe practice behavior, weightlifting sessions, pull some tape that they'd like to view, watch one-on-one battles and the like. They talk to position coaches, check out a players mannerisms where he isn't on-guard and truly learn who these players are before the draft "polishing" process.
This isn't just an idle vilification of the sleazy runners, financial planners and marketing agents that weasel their way into a players social circle. This was a phrasing to evoke uneasiness and solicit the same sentiments that Saban and his peers feel everytime they discover one of these types has "got" another player in the college football world.
To be fair, it is not the NFL's "job" to clean up college football's seedy underworld. It is not the NFL's "job" to police agents and their personnel.
However, it is in their best interest, especially if the NCAA, conferences and coaches do move to limit the NFL's access to programs through out both the season and offseason. Less access means less evaluations. More uncertainty on players and more risk on the NFL teams wallets during the draft.
The NCAA and institutions have done compliance. They've sat players through "lifeskills" meetings with their compliance staffers. Some schools have athletes take tests, participate in interactive games or even attend monthly meetings just to brush players up on the dangers that exist. There is no dearth of information available to players through their compliance department.
Hell, after having talked to folks in compliance at several schools and multiple former players from across the country of not just football but a myriad of sports I'd venture so far as to say the bulk of schools do a sound job of explaining most rules.
Saban's issue isn't compliance. No one's issue is the education on compliance, rather the issue is the repeated tempation of players by "new" or "first-time" agent-types attempting to "grow a relationship" in order to sign a big name player. These are the problem guys.
Make no mistake about it, the ultimate onus is on the kids to say no when they're offered something under the table. However, as Bomani Jones terms it so frequently, "Who do you know that's turning down free money?"
That's not okaying players making poor decisions.
That's not absolving them of guilt.
Saban and the NCAA still run compliance. They'll still preach "no extra benefits" and "don't talk to agents."
Is it wrong for Saban or any coach to ask for a little help policing the group they cannot touch, the runners, financial planners or marketing agents?
Is it wrong for a man who has seen three consecutive seasons touched by this aspect of the game to ask for the NFL to tighten the reins?
Perhaps you do think it is wrong and we ought to allow runners, financial planners and the like to crawl all over campus. Leave 17-22 year olds with the opportunity to make a bad decision that ultimately renders them ineligible. Perhaps you think limiting the temptation shouldn't be done.
I don't think like and, obviously, neither does Nick Saban. If you missed that part of his comment then you missed his whole point my friend.