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Nick Saban’s million dollar comment about Bryce Young proves again the unparalleled knowledge of the Alabama coach

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HOOVER, Ala. — If you want the latest answer to an age-old question — Does Nick Saban still have his fastball? — the 69-year-old Alabama coach zipped a 98 mph heater under everyone’s chin this week.

His proclamation Tuesday that quarterback Bryce Young has so far made “nearly seven figures” in name, image and likeness was brilliant. Genius, really. The ruling raised eyebrows, as did the temperature in every recruitment agency.

You see, it doesn’t even have to be true that Young makes $1 million in NIL money. In fact, three people with a direct hand in developing NIL rights told me that the figure was probably unlikely at this point. Young’s father, Craig, had no comment when CBS Sports contacted him.

But it sends the message that it is possible in Alabama. In fact, it sends the message that anything is possible.

“… that’s because of our brand,” Saban told the Texas High School Coaches Association at their convention.

The brand, if you haven’t noticed, is the best in college sports. The brand has entered the No. 1 recruiting class in nine of the past 11 years, according to 247Sports. The brand may only be matched by teams like the New York Yankees and New England Patriots. It screams: come here and win.

Now it screams cold, loud, this could be you, totally legal money.

In the short three weeks that NIL benefits have been allowed, Saban has scoured the country and recognized the competition.

The owner of a string of mixed martial arts gyms has promised every Miami scholarship player Saban’s Week 1 opponent $6,000 a year for endorsements if they sign up. Even if the NCAA rulebook is anything but disputable, that’s clearly an incentive to play ahead of the hurricanes.

So with a NIL free-for-all in full effect, it’s up to coaches like Saban to respond. Other programs in larger cities include oceans, resort-level weather, and Fortune 500 companies. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has plenty of championship hardware thanks to Saban, but T-Town has none of those other amenities.

The big equalizer is that script A. The logo. Symbolized the dream of a championship. It should come as no surprise that Alabama’s internal NIL platform is called “The Advantage.”

Therefore, Tuesday’s statement should be interpreted as the opening salvo of a man armed with an extension that will take him to 77 years.

I’m going nowhere.

Saban does not want to say that, but he did not reach his high position with a mere iron will. It takes a deft touch from a savvy marketer. Few of us have ever seen Saban recruit in a living room, but after Tuesday it’s easy to understand his success.

When asked Wednesday at the 2021 SEC Media Days to expand on Young’s comments, he went philosophical.

Players have always been able to work, he said, but could not earn much. Summer school came along and was covered by the scholarship. That pretty much put an end to the work. College football became a 12-month-a-year venture.

Then NIL arrived, and three weeks later, anything seems possible. That includes Young, a five-star Southern California quarterback, who has enough cash to open a 401(K) before throwing his first pass as a starter.

“That number just blew me away,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said on Tuesday when he heard the news. “You didn’t prepare me for that. That’s great. He’s made $1 million and hasn’t started a game yet? Wow.”

Young has only rolled 22 career passes, but that’s American, right? You are worth what someone will pay you. Saban was asked about a possible problem in the locker room when his quarterback makes seven figures. But that question in the new NIL world has yet to be fully answered.

“Everything we’ve done is create an opportunity for our players to work,” said Saban. “The only thing is it’s not equal.”

It certainly isn’t. In fact, college football has arguably never been more unbalanced. With NIL, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and their ilk have another tool at their disposal. If Young is really in the seven-figure range, it’s an indicator that there really isn’t an immediate cap on NIL earnings. That may never happen if Congress doesn’t intervene.

Judging by the initial results, that could be OK. Again, it’s America where an idiot can make a living stuffing hot dogs down his throat. Why not a Georgia lineman or a Texas running back or… the Alabama quarterback?

We do know from reports that Young has signed for his NIL deals with mega talent representation CAA. We also know that Saban is represented by CAA mega-talent agent Jimmy Sexton.

That’s not surprising and not necessarily a recruiting advantage. It’s the way of the world now. Several of the university’s top quarterbacks have signed to entities likely to represent them in the NFL. Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler is with Chris Cabott of Steinberg Sports. Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei is at VaynerSports. North Carolina QB Sam Howell is at ESM.

It’s not just what Saban said, it’s who he said it to — those 5,000 Texas coaches. Texas has become (more) an SEC recruiting hotbed since Texas A&M joined the league in 2012. The Aggies just finished with their highest ranking (No. 4) in 82 years.

In a few sentences, Saban has courted Texas high school talent superintendents more than any Texas Longhorns coach since Mack Brown left in 2013. And if you have the Texas high school coaches in your pocket, you have a chance to do some good things.

Alabama is already there, of course. Saban currently has 10 Native Texans on its roster, including brothers James and Tommy Brockermeyer — five-star stallions on the offensive line. Not only did he land those prospects, Texas A&M and Texas didn’t. The Brockermeyers’ father, Blake, was an All-American offensive tackle in Texas.

This will be one of Saban’s biggest recruiting efforts, and he didn’t have to walk into any living room to do it.

“There is no precedent for this,” Saban said. whoever added that context on the subject is best left to next year when we know more about NIL.

If so, what hope is there right now for Kiffin, who will return the SEC’s main returning passer-by in Corral?

“I’m still stunned by this Bryce Young,” Kiffin said. ‘That man has already made a million dollars? Then he won’t have to play against us next year.’

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