Scooter Hobbs column: War of words gets personal

Published 12:00 pm Friday, May 20, 2022

Gee, and it seemed like such a good idea at the time, too.

College football having a few problems getting its act together?

No problem. Let the federal government step in and lend a hand.

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Sure, that always works.

You know those scariest of words — “We’re from the government, we’re here to help you.”

So it was the United States Supreme Court itself that decreed, by a rare 9-0 vote, that the people who run college sports could no longer keep their pseudo-amateur players, uh, student-athletes, from profiting financially from their chores while entertaining dear ol’ State U.

You know it as Name, Image and Likeness, NIL.

And how’s that working out?

Well, here we are still tiptoeing through the formative years of the monumental ruling and … college football is running off the rails, looking as chaotic and out of control as the closing scene of “Blazing Saddles.”

It’s like the Supreme Court issued a ruling on free speech and forgot to add the disclaimer about “Shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.”

The ruling was just tossed out there smugly, leaving it to college athletics to deal with Unintended Consequences run amuck.

The latest meltdown comes from — where else? — the Southeastern Conference, where It Just Means More — Enough More That It Needs a Gentleman’s Agreement Not To Go Tattling On Each Other.

The smartest man in college football, Nick Saban, said while speaking to some business leaders in Alabama Wednesday night that, in landing the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country, Texas A&M “bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness. We didn’t buy one player, all right? But I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”

After a night to mull it over, A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, who of course was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000-2004, called a news conference, wherein he called Saban “despicable” and a “narcissist” and suggested that “maybe somebody should’ve slapped him.”

“Go dig into Saban’s past,” Fisher said. “It’s despicable. It’s personal to us, and I know the guy really well.”

And, “Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God (Saban) did his deal. You may find out about a lot of things you don’t want to know.”

So by Thursday afternoon SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey had to issue a stern public reprimand to both coaches, although they should be back on solid foods fairly soon.

“Public criticism of any kind does not resolve issues and creates a distraction from seeking solutions for the issues facing college athletics today,” the reprimand said, with some other blah-blah-blah.

Maybe, but the rest of the SEC was grabbing some popcorn and pulling up a seat anyway — Rasinets!!! — just hoping their names didn’t come up.

Saban was taking to national radio to apologize, admitting he should not have named names in his tirade.

He said he tried to call Fisher to apologize personally, but Fisher said he wasn’t answering Saban’s calls.

“We’re done,” Fisher said of their relationship, which will next be on public display in less than two weeks when the SEC has its spring meetings in Destin, Fla.

So Saban then pointed out that “I wasn’t saying that anybody did anything illegal.

“It’s the system that allows it. That’s what I have a problem with.”

And there’s the rub with this Wild, Wild West farce.

If anybody is in charge, they are armed only with rules that are either nonexistent or unenforceable.

Bottom line: Paying college players was so much simpler, maybe even tidier, when it was done under the table.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at