Home NCAAF Nick Saban might not like the transfer portal rules, but he’s mastered...

Nick Saban might not like the transfer portal rules, but he’s mastered them


TYLER SISKY WANTS To be clear, he doesn’t see Alabama coach Nick Saban as a hypocrite when he says something is bad for college football and then goes out and does exactly what he complained about. Sisky, who worked in Saban’s HR department from 2013-14, knows his former boss was a pragmatic man.

So when Saban raised the red flag about the unforeseen consequences of the transfer portal back in 2019, Siskey heard genuine concerns about the state of the sport. Parity may be a myth in today’s NCAA, but it’s a myth that Saban holds dear. And the portal, according to Saban, threatens the concept of competitive balance, as it allows programs to poach players from struggling teams.

“So it will make the rich even richer?” Saban asked reporters during a press conference last year. “I dont know.”

For Siska and those who have been involved with Alabama over the past decade, Saban’s question served as a warning he had heard before.

“He’s telling you the truth that it’s not good,” Siskey said. “But he has rules and he’s going to follow them.”

What’s more, Sisky added, Saban has a knack for turning rules into an advantage.

“He didn’t like to spread insults either, you know,” Siskey continued. But you see what they did.

Saban once looked at the rapid spread of offenses – with their fast pace and linemen running across the field – and asked, “Do we want football to be like this?” At that time, he was severely abused. But then he went out and hired Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator and told him to step on the gas. Almost overnight, Alabama launched some of the most dynamic offenses in college football.

“If this is how the game goes,” Siskey said, “he will play it.”

And he will probably play it better than anyone. While Saban may not like what Portal is doing to college football, that didn’t stop him from mastering it last offseason, using it as an NFL free agency but without the pesky salary cap. Forget unproven talent or drafts from the lower levels of football. He aimed higher.

When Evan Neal, running back Brian Robinson Jr., cornerback Josh Job and wides Jon Metchi and Jameson Williams left the NFL Draft after last season, Alabama replaced them with proven Power 5 players. He signed Tyler Steen’s offensive tackle that started 33 straight games for Vanderbilt ; running back Jameer Gibbs, selected All-ACC for three different positions at Georgia Tech; cornerback Eli Ricks, former top 50 prospect and All-American in LSU; and wide receivers Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell, up and coming producers in Georgia and Louisville, respectively.

Siskey laughs at the absurdity of such a catch. Gibbs is battling for a Heisman Trophy contender after scoring 206 yards and two touchdowns against Arkansas last Saturday.

“Saban is the best at what he does, for a reason, right?” Siski said.

COLLEGE HEAD The coach from the southeast leans back in his chair and points to a cell phone that is face up on his desk. Every day, he says, he gets calls from college players all over the country — from former high school coaches, coaches, so-called mentors. He retells the gist of each conversation: “Hey, so-and-so isn’t happy.”

This is the first month of the college football season, the transfer window is closed to non-graduates, but players are already looking for potential destinations outside of the portal. The coach says that there are all these “underground connections” that lead to the next player schools. “How confusing it is, you’re like, ‘Wow,'” he says.

Take Alabama. Steen attended the same high school in South Florida as defenseman Jordan Battle and linebacker Dallas Turner. Burton knew quarterback Bryce Young from California. Ricks played with Young at Mater Dei High School.

Gibbs, it turns out, was originally recruited by Alabama from Dalton High School in Georgia. He was also offered a scholarship and was hired by North Carolina running back coach Robert Gillespie, who joined the Alabama staff in 2021.

A source at the Georgia Institute of Technology said employees were shocked when they learned that Gibbs – the team’s most talented player – was planning to leave. But they did not understand that he enters the portal for money through the name, image and possibilities of likeness. “The kid just wanted to win,” the source said.

But the same source said the transfer landscape is changing and becoming more “out of control” as HR departments maintain lists of potential transfer targets with geographic or personal ties to the team.

Less than two years ago, when the NCAA once allowed players to transition with immediate eligibility and the portal exploded with activity, coaches were concerned about what is known in basketball as an upward transition: players moving from Division II to Division I or from Group 5 to Strength 5. But blue-blooded people like Alabama are showing that movement can occur at the highest levels.

Jordan Addison won the Biletnikoff Award at Pitt and entered Portal in May. He and Bryce Young worked in California while he was in limbo. According to sources, Alabama even made attempts to invite him to Tuscaloosa, but the case never progressed because he intended to join USC and his new coach, Lincoln Riley.

Pitt’s coach Pat Narduzzi was unhappy with Riley about the way the Addison saga was unfolding. But it is unlikely that Narduzzi was the only one who questioned the transfer process. Louisville coach Scott Satterfield suggested to 247Sports that Harrell was tampered with after he left for Alabama; Saban denied any wrongdoing.

The Power 5 assistant said the game has changed. “The whole purpose of shaking hands after a game,” he said, “is to start recruiting the other team.”

The paranoia is real, and the quick commitments after the player enters the portal only fuel the speculation.

On January 10, Alabama lost to Georgia in the national championship game. Eight days later, Burton entered the portal. And four days later he announced that he was moving to Alabama.

In February, Saban turned to using the portal. He said that Burton “had production this year” in Georgia.

Then he paused and shrugged.

Burton had 26 catches for 497 yards and 5 touchdowns.

“But [he] could probably see a better opportunity because we open a little wider and throw the ball more with a good quarterback,” Saban added. “Maybe that was his intention.”

When Burton finally spoke to reporters this summer, he said he had retired from Georgia and the championship.

“Honestly, I forgot about this game. I want to win with this team.”

LAST YEAR, MISSOURI coach Elia Drinkwitz tried to look into the future.

“We’re about a stone’s throw away from a mile run,” he said of the transfer portal, “and I don’t think anyone knows pace and I don’t think anyone knows strategy and I don’t think anyone -someone knows what the rules will be when it’s over.”

In short: no one knows, or at least no one has decided what is the right thing to do.

The NCAA set windows for transfer activity in August, but it’s just a way to shut down the river and pretend the pressure isn’t building up on the other side. Because there certainly is.

Strategies varied greatly from one school to another. Georgia did not take a single transfer this off-season. Ole Miss took over a dozen.

Siskey, who has also worked in Ole Miss and Arkansas, expects Alabama to continue to be selective. “They don’t have to reach for the guy in the portal,” he said, because Saban and his staff are recruiting high schools at such a high level; The Tide has been ranked in the top three in Sportzshala’s class rankings every year since 2008. Schools that are also filled with 4- and 5-star applicants (Ohio State, Clemson, etc.) may instead use the portal as a supplement to fill in the gaps. when a player leaves early for the NFL Draft.

Drawing on the free agent analogy, Siskey said there are two most common motivating factors when it comes to players signing their next contracts: money and the chance to win a championship.

According to him, in Alabama there is no need to sacrifice one for the other.

Crimson Tide have won six national championships since 2009. During this time, no other team has won more than two.

NIL, according to Saban, “is not a problem for us.” He claimed that players made over $3 million last season from name, picture, and image deals.

Siskey pointed to future earnings as another indicator. In April of this year, Saban claimed that Alabama players had earned $1.7 billion in the NFL.

Steen received a Vanderbilt degree and said he was looking for something new when he decided to move after last season.

And while adapting to a new textbook, new locker room, and new culture in Alabama isn’t easy, it seems like the transition has been a success. He started every game with a left tackle.

Steen said he accepted “different expectations” in his new home and how many people are pushing him to reach his full potential.

“It’s definitely different here.

Source: www.espn.com