“I have no problem with Jimbo”

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DESTIN, Fla. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban tried to end his feud with Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M on Tuesday as Southeastern Conference leaders gathered for meetings of spring at a Florida Gulf Coast resort.

“I didn’t really say anyone did anything wrong,” Saban said when asked if he had any evidence that Texas A&M was buying players with name compensation deals, d image and likeness. “OK, and I said everything I wanted to say about it. I should never have mentioned individual institutions as I said before.

Saban added: “I have no problem with Jimbo. I have no problem with Jimbo.

Saban triggered Fisher two weeks ago when he called Texas A&M and other schools while talking about the need for NIL regulations in college sports.

Fisher responded angrily, saying Saban’s comments were despicable and calling his former LSU boss “narcissistic” while denying any wrongdoing with his program that landed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for 2022.

The SEC Spring Meetings — which are being held in person for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic — were the first opportunity for the two superstar coaches to meet face-to-face since the dust. Fisher was not expected to meet with reporters on Tuesday.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart played down back and forth between Fisher and Saban. Smart worked under Saban for years, including a season at LSU when Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator.

“You should be on headphones sometimes,” Smart said, referring to the interaction between coaches on game days. “It just happened in front of everyone.”

Before embarking on what was supposed to be a five-hour meeting with all 14 SEC coaches, Saban met with reporters for about 10 minutes. about NIL.

“Some kind of uniform standard of name and image and likeness that supports some kind of fair national competition, I think, is really, really important in college athletics and college football,” Saban said.

Saban said transparency was needed to ensure athletes sign legitimate agreements that compensate them for their services and that boosters should be kept out of recruitment.

The NCAA lifted most of its rules barring athletes from making money through sponsorship and endorsement deals last July, but many college athletes worry that NIL deals are being used as recruiting incentives and de facto pay to play. The NCAA issued guidance to Division I members in early May to make it clear that recall-funded collectives involved in recruiting are a violation of the rules.

“Believe me, I’m all for players winning as much as they can,” Saban said. “But I also think we need to have a uniform and transparent way of doing it.”

Florida coach Billy Napier, another former Saban assistant and SEC newcomer in his freshman year at Gainesville, dodged comments about Saban and Fisher but agreed the current situation with NIL compensation is difficult. to manage.

“We live in a country without laws,” Napier said, but added that he had no qualms about football players taking home some of the millions in revenue they generate.

“It’s stupid to say the players don’t deserve a piece of the pie,” Napier said. “If there are no players in the stadium, there is no one sitting in the stands, and no one sitting at home watching TV.”

Saban reiterated that Alabama players made big money with NIL deals last year, hiring agents to guide them through the process.

He just wants those deals done after a player enrolls in a school.

“It’s not about Alabama,” Saban said. “It’s not about what’s best for us. I just hope that we can somehow put safeguards on all of this.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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