'What we have now is not college football': Nick Saban voices frustration after retirement

The college football world Nick Saban is leaving with his retirement from Alabama is drastically different from the one he re-entered when he first arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007 from the Miami Dolphins.

To Saban, those changes aren’t necessarily for the better.

In an interview with ESPN on Wednesday, the legendary Crimson Tide coach said he wants to "help any way I can" even as he’s no longer roaming the sideline, but bemoaned the current state of the sport.

"What we have now is not college football – not college football as we know it," he said. "You hear somebody use the word 'student-athlete.' That doesn't exist."

The passage of a one-time transfer exemption and more lax rules governing athletes' ability to profit from their name, image and likeness have fundamentally changed the sport and the way that rosters are assembled over the past several years.

While those measures have given college athletes a level of agency they were long denied, they have become a source of consternation for coaches and administrators as player movement between programs has increased dramatically and the recruiting process has been fundamentally altered. Those trends have been compounded by a lack of rules regulating the NIL space, particularly when it comes to collectives and agents.

Saban shares those frustrations.

"What you have now isn't name, image and likeness," he said. "A collective has nothing to do with name, image and likeness."

What he suggested as a salve more closely resembles a traditional employer-employee relationship between school and athlete.

"Just like an NFL player has a contract or a coach has a contract, something in place so you don't have all this raiding of rosters and mass movement," he said. "I wonder what fans are going to say when they don't even know the team from year to year because there's no development of teams, just bringing in new players every year."

Saban retired after the 2023 season, his 17th with the Tide. During that time, he pieced together the most decorated run in program history, which, considering the program in question, is quite the feat.

In those nearly two full decades, Saban led Alabama to six national championships, nine SEC titles and a 206-29 record. In eight of the 10 years there was a College Football Playoff, his team made the four-team field, including in his final year, when it lost in overtime in the Rose Bowl to eventual national champion Michigan.

After his retirement, Saban will work as an adviser to the university, as well as be a college football and NFL Draft analyst for ESPN.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Nick Saban lashes out: 'What we have now is not college football'