A day after Alabama coach Nick Saban declared that Texas A&M “bought every player on their team” to secure the No. 1 recruiting class this year, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher responded with an absolute diatribe of insults, defenses and return accusations.
Fisher held a brief news conference Thursday morning and labeled the accusations as untrue and “despicable” and called Saban a “narcissist” while implying that Saban had, for decades, run unethical programs and seemingly violated NCAA rules en route to becoming an iconic, seven-time national championship coach.
Fisher was an assistant at LSU under Saban from 2000-04 and repeatedly implied insider knowledge of Saban’s “tactics.”
“It’s despicable that someone can say something about someone, and more importantly 17-year-old kids, taking shots at 17-year-old kids and their families, that they broke state laws, that we bought every player in this group,” Fisher said. “We didn’t buy anybody.”
Saban said Wednesday night that Texas A&M was using name, image and likeness money to recruit top talent in violation of NCAA rules. It was a repeat of other allegations that A&M was aggressive using NIL in recruiting. Alabama finished second in the recruiting rankings after having tallied nine top-ranked classes across 13 years, per Rivals.com.
“[A&M] made a deal for name, image and likeness,” Saban said. “We didn’t buy one player. Aight? But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future, because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”
Saban’s comments were stunning because while coaches often allege rule violations to reporters off the record, they rarely are so bold in front of cameras. Fisher’s response was even more heated.
“Some people think they are God,” Fisher said of Saban. “Go dig into how God did his deal and you may find out a lot about a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be this czar of football, go dig into his past.
“You can find out anything you want to find out or what he does or how he does it.”
Saban apologized for his comments Thursday in a radio interview. Both coaches were reprimanded for the back-and-forth, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said.
Fisher, like Saban, didn't go into specifics of any wrongdoing.
“It’s despicable when a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way, when things don’t go his way,” Fisher continued. “The narcissist in him doesn’t allow that to happen.
“The parity in college football he’s talking about, go talk to coaches who coached for him. You’ll find all the parity. Go dig in. You can find out anything.”
Fisher railed on Saban as a grown man “who [didn’t] get [his] way and wants to pout and throw a fit and act up.”
Fisher said his time working under Saban was illuminating. He stayed at LSU after Saban left for the Miami Dolphins and didn’t join Saban’s staff when he returned to college football at Alabama a couple of years later. Fisher implied that was because he didn’t like how Saban operated.
“You coach with people like Bobby Bowden and learn how to do things,” Fisher said. “You coach with other people and learn how not to do things. There is a reason I don't go back and work with him. I don’t want to be associated with him.”
When A&M defeated Alabama last season, Fisher became the first former Saban assistant to defeat him. The two had always expressed a close relationship but Fisher said he hasn’t responded to Saban’s phone calls.
“Not going to, we’re done," Fisher said. "He’s shown you who he is. He’s the greatest ever, huh? When you’ve got all the advantages, it’s easy …
“I don’t cheat and I don't lie,” Fisher continued. “I learned that as a kid. If you did, the old man slapped the side of the head. Maybe someone should have slapped him.”
A&M travels to Alabama on Oct. 8.