Saban goes off: 'We are the one sport where the high school coach still matters'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday May 31, 2016

Nick Saban was in mid-season press conference form Tuesday at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla.. That included him going off about satellite camps again and smacking the podium.

Satellite camps are about to begin, and the SEC is involved for the first time this year. Saban was plenty outspoken against them, but the brief ban was overturned. Now Saban wants to know exactly how these situations will be regulated, and he doesn't like how high school coaches are less involved in the recruitment of their players.

“We are the one sport that the high school coach still matters,” Saban said. “Until this satellite issue came up, which I don’t really care to talk about, you still had to go to the high school, go through the high school coach, the players came to your campus if they were interested in learning and developing or interested from a recruiting standpoint. By doing what we’re doing now, we’re doing what we’ve done in every other sport that we complain about every day — AAU basketball and all this — because that’s what’s happening out there.

“Anybody can have a camp now. If they have a prospect, they can have a camp, and you’re expected to go to that camp, and they can use you to promote that camp, because Ohio State’s coming, Alabama’s coming. If somebody’s sponsoring a camp, they pay them the money. What do they do with the money? Who makes sure the kid paid to go to the camp? This is the wild, wild west at its best, because there’s been no specific guidelines relative to how we’re managing and controlling this stuff.

“It’s happening outside our normal evaluation window, which means we’re taking time away from our players — our players come back to school today, and we make sure they’re doing the right things, with our strength coaches, our academic people with the limited number of meetings. We’re not going to be there, because we’re going to be going someplace else to look at some other guy.”

Saban questioned if the camps benefit anybody. Many players and small-school coaches have noted how the camps can get players seen by more coaches. Yeah, it’s recruiting, but players have said they wouldn’t have ended up at their college if not for a satellite camp, because they didn’t have the means to perhaps travel a far distance to see the campus first.

Saban said he doesn’t blame Jim Harbaugh for what he’s doing in June and reiterated that there needs to be a college football commissioner to look out for “the integrity of the game.” There’s no sign of anything like that happening, but Saban tried to make his case again on Tuesday.

“Every high school can have their own camp. Why do they have to use us? We want to have our own camp,” Saban said. “We want people to come to our campus. It’s not just about recruiting. We have a camp for little kids, 1,200 of them, because we’re tying to promote the game and develop players, and we still coach the 600 who come to our camps, just like we coach our players. We have prospects at those camps and see how they do, but that’s not what the camp is for, not from our standpoint.

“Why should we be promoting somebody else’s camp anyway? It’s the same thing I said before: This is the only sport where the high school coach still mattered, what they did at the high school mattered, so all you’re doing is allowing all these people who we spend all our time at the NCAA saying ‘You can’t recruit through a third party. You can’t be involved with third-party people,’ [Saban smacks table] and that’s exactly what you’re doing.

“It’s creating all these third parties that are going to be involved with prospects and all that, and who gets exposed on that? I go to a camp, I talk to some guy I don’t know, and he’s representing some kid because he put the camp on, and I’m in trouble for talking to this guy? And who even knows if the guy paid to go to the camp? Is the NCAA going to do that? We do that at our camp. We have people responsible for that. It’s called compliance folks. What kind of compliance people do we have at these camps?”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to