In the world of the NIL, Nick Saban wondered if “maybe this doesn't work anymore.”

From the moment college football players gained the freedom to change teams and make money — freedoms that college coaches have enjoyed for years — it was clear that former Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't like it.

Eventually he didn't like it enough that he decided it was time to move on.

In an interview with ESPN, Saban mentioned some of the changes brought about by the new era of player empowerment to the game.

“I thought we could have a great team next year, and then maybe 70 or 80 percent of the players you talk to, all they want to know is two things: What guarantees do I have that I'll play because I'll play because I'll play? They're thinking about transferring, How much will you pay me? Saban said, via Will Backus of CBSSports.com. “Our program here has always been built on how much value we can create for your future and personal development, academic success in graduation and the development of an NFL career on the field.

“So I say to myself,”Maybe this doesn't work anymore, that the goals and aspirations are completely different and it's all about how much money can I make as a college athlete? I'm not saying this is bad. I'm not saying that's wrong, I'm just saying that's never been who we were, and that's not why we've been so successful over the years.

They were successful, frankly, because in a climate where all things were equal financially, Saban was able to recruit the best players. Once players had the ability to change teams and win money, it became difficult for him to stack the deck – and keep the deck stacked – as he had done before.

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“I want to be clear that this was not the cause, but some of those events certainly contributed,” Saban said. “I was really disappointed with the way the players behaved after the match [Rose Bowl loss to Michigan]. You have to win with class. You have to lose with class. We had chances to win the game and we didn't, and then you show your ass up and get frustrated and throw helmets and do those things. . . This is not who we are and what we have promoted on our platform.

Football players feel frustrated. Football coaches are frustrated. They are human beings. Sometimes they act on it. The idea of ​​players reacting humanely to a disappointing result should not amount to a condemnation of players.

It's understandable that Saban would be upset about the impact of college football's new system. His cheese moved. It was clear from the beginning; He complained about it enough to make it clear that he feared not being able to have the same kind of dominance he had when players had little or no power.

We've written about it. Some mocked our interpretation of reality. Some suggested that Saban was playing the long game, that he was simply giving college football fair notice that if the system didn't change, he would take full advantage of it and keep kicking everyone's ass.

The events that follow prove this to be completely wrong. The world has changed. He lost control of the program. If he had been 10 years younger, maybe he would have adapted. Maybe he would try to go to a school that had enough money to fund the program and pay the players' salaries. In this new era of big-time college athletics, Alabama simply doesn't have the money to keep up with the biggest schools backed by the wealthiest backers.

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So take advantage. He rolled up the tents. If he was jaded enough by the way the game had changed, would he have accepted a job at ESPN that would give him a platform to commentate on college football, every week.

He's not exhausted. It's realistic. The Tuscaloosa gravy train arrived at the station. He didn't want to start over with a bigger program that could buy the best players. It's not about players throwing helmets. It's about other programs that can throw money that he can't.

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