Nick Saban declared his retirement earlier this week, marking the end of a remarkable college coaching career.
However, Reggie Bush didn’t let Saban exit without suggesting a different reason. Despite Saban attributing his departure to the demanding schedule and his age, Bush theorizes that the introduction of NIL deals, which allow players to earn money, played a role in Saban’s decision, claiming he could no longer control the players.
This perspective is shared to some extent by Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, though not as directly as Bush. However, there are counterarguments to this theory. Despite Saban expressing frustration with NILs and their impact on college football, he continued to dominate recruiting. In 2021 and 2023, Alabama secured the top-ranked recruiting class, and in 2022 and the ongoing 2024 season, they held the second position nationally.
Saban managed to attract 21 five-star recruits to Tuscaloosa during this period, showcasing his influence despite claims of a lack of control. It’s worth noting that while he criticized the modern NIL landscape’s lack of structure, Saban always supported players earning money.
In the end, at the age of 72, Saban decided it was time to retire. Age, rather than concerns about NIL deals, appears to be the primary factor. If he were a decade younger, it’s likely that Saban would continue leading the sidelines at Alabama, regardless of the evolving landscape of NIL agreements.