Alabama head coach Nick Saban turned heads on Wednesday night after feisty remarks about a pair of recruiting rivals with respect to name, image and likeness deals.
The seven-time national title winner, speaking at a promotional event in Birmingham, Alabama, suggested that SEC rival Texas A&M and Deion Sanders-coached Jackson State weren't doing NIL deals "the right way."
"We were second in recruiting last year, A&M was first," Saban said. "A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn't buy one player. 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."
The legendary coach said he's not opposed to NIL in theory but implied some schools are exploiting loopholes in the rules.
"Our players last year created $3 million worth of opportunity for themselves by doing it the right way," Saban said. "I have no problem with that, and nobody had a problem on our team with that because the guys who got the money earned it. ... The issue and the problem with name, image and likeness is coaches trying to create an advantage for themselves."
He even claimed Jackson State paid "a million dollars" to land cornerback Travis Hunter, a top recruit who became one of the highest-rated prospects ever to sign with an HBCU.
"Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school," Saban said. "It was in the paper. They bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it."
Sanders responded early on Thursday morning, calling Saban's assertion a "lie."
"You best believe I will address that LIE Coach SABAN told tomorrow," Sanders said. "I was & awakened by my son @ShedeurSanders that sent me the article stating that WE PAYED @TravisHunterJr a Million to play at @GoJSUTigersFB ! We as a PEOPLE don’t have to pay our PEOPLE to play with our PEOPLE."
Hunter, for his part, denied Saban's allegation with some humor.
"I got A mil? But my mom still stay in a 3 bed room house with five kids"
Meanwhile Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher has previously denied suggestions of impropriety in securing the top-ranked recruiting class.
Saban was alluding to the prospect of football programs hiring outside agencies linked to boosters for the purpose of funneling money to players to circumvent NIL rules, Yahoo Sports reported.
The 70-year-old former Michigan State and LSU coach cautioned that such a development could herald the demise of college sports.
But despite his finger-pointing at others, Saban also "lamented" that his school would have no choice but to engage in similar tactics -- if it's not already.
Prized quarterback recruit Bryce Young was reported to have secured around $800,000 in NIL deals before he'd ever started a game under center for the Crimson Tide.