Will Congress Listen to Nick Saban? All Things CW
By Christopher Walsh,2023-06-07
Last Friday, Nick and Terry Saban helped dedicate the 20th house funded by the Nick's Kids Foundation for Habitat for Humanity in Tuscaloosa.
On Monday, the Alabama Crimson Tide coach held Leadership Day on the lake, where he's the instigator of inner tube demolition derby behind his boat, complete with football players launched into the air and struggling to keep from donating their shorts to the deep.
On Tuesday, the coach and his wife were all smiles while visiting children with cancer at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, and handed out toy mechanical ducks that talk. Aflac had donated more than 23,000 domestically and internationally, and with Saban a local pitch man to help fund some of those Nick's Kids initiatives he took advantage to help bring a little joy to some very sick kids.
The perspective from all three recent days can only help with what's on Saban's schedule for Wednesday, when he'll visit the biggest circus of all in Washington DC. Saban, along with some other Southeastern Conference coaches, and league commissioner Greg Sankey, will meet with Congressional leaders and lobby for help with stabilizing collegiate sports.
At the top of the wish list is establishing some uniformity with Name, Image and Likeness rules for player compensation, in hopes of creating a more even playing field across the board.
“I think that the whole idea is, we want to provide information based on our experience, so that maybe people that are involved in the House and Senate both sort of have an idea of what the issues really are and how it can impact and affect college football in the future,” Saban told The Associated Press at Children’s Hospital.
“I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but I think if we can get more people aware of what the issues are for them to have input on how we can sort of create a model that would help create some competitive balance but still give people opportunities to use their name, image and likeness to earn, I think, will be a good thing."
The trip will include a reception for lawmakers and congressional staffers, and meetings with with individual representatives and senators in the SEC footprint. Those 11 SEC states all have different laws governing college sports, most of which were written with the intent of giving their schools a leg up.
Saban doesn't have to be there, just like he didn't need to be at the hospital or even at the house dedication. He also doesn't need to take the players out on the lake either, but in all three cases there was more going on than having a little fun. Alabama will probably be fine regardless of what happens with NIL.
Saban has been saying for a while that the current track in college football will lead to less competitive balance, and anyone who can't see that is being naive. It's also easy to say that the NCAA helped make this mess by not being proactive and now has to lie in it (which is true), but things have quickly gotten out of hand and are only going to get worse.
When Saban says things like "Is this what you really want?" like he did again at the recent SEC spring meetings, it's more than his way of questioning the direction of things, but a warning.
Collegiate athletics are getting close to a breaking point. Maybe very close. Some say that may not be a bad thing, and many of the power schools and top conferences could be on the verge of leaving the NCAA and establishing something new.
It was roughly only a year ago when Sankey and Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff met with U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill, asking for help. That was before USC and UCLA announced they were leaving for the Big Ten, leaving yet another conference with a questionable future. Just last month the ACC nearly imploded, and everyone's wondering what'll be next.
Thus, the real reason behind the trip to Washington. By this time next year not only will we be well into a presidential election, when Congress will be unlikely to act on something like NIL, but no one knows what college football could look like by then.
So the SEC is bringing along Saban and a bunch of other big-name coaches in an effort to get attention, be bolder with its message, and make it clear that there's a sense of urgency.
Perhaps Saban should bring some of those ducks with him.
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Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW regularly appears on BamaCentral.