Even Saint Nick doesn’t have all the answers
HOOVER, Ala. — Uh, oh. It’s worse than we ever imagined.
College football, that is.
That dreaded transfer portal is always lurking out there. The debate and uncertainties over NIL — Name, Image, Likeness in more formal settings — rages on.
And maybe the COVID complications aren’t quite as far in the rearview mirror as we hoped.
What’s it all mean? Where do we go from here?
This week — specifically this day (Wednesday) —was supposed to sort all of these unknowns out, bring some clarity to a confusing college football landscape and un-muddy the waters.
Mainly, Nick Saban was supposed to come explain it all to us.
The Alabama coach has done it before. He’s the best there ever was, always analyzing, forever adjusting, usually two steps ahead of the latest gridiron fad or crisis.
And when he speaks, college football goes all E.F. Hutton and turns its lonely eyes to Saint Nick.
So Wednesday the SEC Media Days ballroom was packed, albeit in a semi-socially distanced way, with confused souls begging, finally, for some clarity.
Portals … NIL … vaccinations and contact tracing, they’re all running together in our heads. Running amuck, as it were.
Explain it all, pleeeease. Make some sense of it.
Well, guess what?
In this day and age, even the all-knowing Saban isn’t sure what it all means or what lays ahead. He probably knows more than you or me or any of our cousins.
But he, too, is kind of in the dark.
“I almost feel that anything that I say will probably be wrong,” Saban said when acknowledging the uncharted waters ahead.
Saban wrong? Or even in doubt? Perish the thought.
“There’s no precedent for the consequences (of) some of the things that we are creating,” he said of players being basically free to change schools on a whim, of the ability of college kids to make real money off their NIL, or to just say no to the vaccine. “Because there’s no precedent for it, you don’t really know how it’s going to affect things.”
Basically he told the flock to come back next year, to check in again when he’s had a chance to live with and sort out the new age of college football.
What a letdown. We needed instant answers.
It’s like finding out your big brother can’t whip the bully next door.
But at least we know we can call him “Nick.”
That was suddenly a runaway story line here after there was a Deion Sanders flare-up at the SWAC Media Days in nearby Birmingham.
The Jackson State coach walked away from his podium when a reporter addressed him by his first name.
“You don’t call Nick Saban, ‘Nick.’ Don’t call me Deion,” he told reporters there. “If you call Nick ‘Nick,’ you’ll get cussed out on the spot, so don’t do that to me.”
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Saban was addressed as Nick no less than eight times during his main interview session and the whole affair went off without a hint of an incident.
“I’ve been called a lot of things,” Saban said in later shrugging if off.
So at least that’s cleared up.
As for the other big crises in the game, well, he does have some thoughts.
He made news before arriving when he said quarterback Bryce Young, who has yet to start a game for the Tide, was close to hitting the $1 million mark in endorsement deals, courtesy of the relaxed NIL rules.
“Some positions, some players will have more opportunities than others,” he said. “How’s that going to impact your team, our team, the players on the team?”
But, again, he had no answer — “I really can’t answer because we don’t have any precedent for it.”
Vaccines? The Tide, he said, is 90-percent there. But he can’t force the rest of them.
“That’s a personal decision that everybody has the right to make,” he said.
“You’re going to be a part of a team … Players have to understand that you are putting your teammates in a circumstance and situation.”
Still, he didn’t claim to have all the answers.
But give him time.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at