Saban: ‘Megaconferences’ likely ‘here to stay’

  • Covers the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of Auburn University.

Alabama coach Nick Saban believes college football is heading down the path of megaconferences.

During an appearance on the “Always College Football” podcast this week, Saban lamented the way realignment has stripped the tradition associated with playing in the same conference over a prolonged period of time.

Last month, USC and UCLA, which have been part of the Pac-12 since it was called the Pac-8, announced that they would be leaving to join the Big Ten. A year ago, longtime Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas agreed to join the SEC and, in response, the Big 12 added BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston.

Saban harked back to the Oklahoma-Nebraska series, which was discontinued when the Cornhuskers left the Big 12 for the Big Ten following the 2010 season.

“But I think we’re going to deal with it in a greater capacity than ever before because I think megaconferences are probably here to stay,” Saban said. “Market share, there’s a lot of that involved in why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Saban, 70, has been a head coach in college at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU and Alabama. He’s entering his 16th season with the Crimson Tide, having won six of his seven national titles during his time in Tuscaloosa.

But despite that success, Saban has expressed concern in recent years over the future of the sport, most recently drawing attention to the unintended consequence of athletes being able to earn money from name, image and likeness deals.

Saban said on the podcast, which is hosted by former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, that he’s in favor of players making money — as long as those opportunities are earned based on performance. But he sees NIL being used as a recruiting tool by some schools, luring high school prospects with promises of money.

In May, Saban said that Texas A&M “bought every player” in its top-ranked recruiting class, which drew a strong rebuttal from Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher.

This week, Saban lamented the erosion of “competitive balance” and how the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. Said Saban: “And we’re one of the haves!”

“We don’t have any guardrails on what we’re doing right now,” Saban said. “We have no restrictions on who can do what. Some people are gonna be capable of doing certain things other people aren’t going to be capable. But the bottom line is we’ll lose competitive balance. Which everything we’ve always done in college football is to maintain competitive balance. Same scholarship, everyone had to play by the same rules whether it was recruiting or whatever. Right now that’s not how it is.”

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