Saban holds court in Atlanta

ATLANTA — When Nick Saban and three Alabama football players arrived for SEC Football Media Days in Birmingham, Alabama, it was chaos.

The lobby of the hotel hosting the event had to demarcate an area for Crimson Tide fans, leaving a path for players, coaches and members of the media.

Here in Atlanta, there were a few wildly enthusiastic fans, but nothing compared to B-Ham, so College Football Hall of Fame precautions weren’t really necessary.

Also, it’s Georgia Bulldog Country, and it was the Bulldogs who beat Saban and the Tide for the national championship last year.

The College Football Hall of Fame, which should be on every college football fan’s bucket list, ushered the media in through a side door and only allowed a handful of Bama fans into the lobby.

Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young was able to move freely, and when he got off the second-floor elevator for a few interviews selected from dozens of radio shows, he didn’t could not help noticing the showcase that honored him.

He looked at it almost in awe, and after the interviews, he came back to take another look, which attracted a large number of photographers.

It was a few minutes before Saban opened the second day session.

It was when a thunderstorm hit hard.

When Saban came on stage, the rain stopped.

It looked like he might fire one of his buccaneers when he talks so long there’s only time for a few questions, but he stopped after 13 minutes and opened the door for questions.

As he always does, he thanked the media for being there.

It was not a warm welcome. Never is.

He said he was happy to be there.

He didn’t look or look like it, although he said he was the head of an organization but not on vacation, and was glad his household chores were done so he could get away focus on football.

It’s hard to imagine the winner of seven national championships putting the trash can on the sidewalk or a vacuum cleaner in his clenched fist.

It’s also hard to imagine Saban and Alabama not being a beast in the hunt for championships.

Times are changing, and while Saban shows no signs of slowing down — despite turning 71 on Halloween — college football and its landscape have been altered.

Although he said Alabama was a have and not a have-not, he expressed concern over the name, image and likeness, but admitted that Bama players earned $3 million the last year.

Earlier this year, he blasted Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M for spending $30 million on his new recruiting class, which ranked No. 1 ahead of No. 2 Alabama.

On Tuesday, he just expressed a concern:

“There needs to be some consistency and protocol on how the name, image and likeness are implemented. I think there are probably a few factors that are important in that regard. How does this affect competitive balance in college athletics? And is there transparency to maintain fairness at all levels in terms of college athletics? How are players protected? Because there are more and more people trying to come between the player and the money.

He pointed out that the NFL has guidelines, rules and regulations, including a salary cap.

Saban isn’t the only coach concerned about NIL, or the transfer portal that’s nothing more than free agency.

NIL and the Portal have created a wild, wild west for college athletics.

Saban works best in a controlled environment, especially when controlled by him and even he cannot control the current bidding wars for rookies.

Saban will survive. He’s a great coach who can resist change, but in the end he does whatever it takes to win.

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