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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Coaches Aren’t Happy With College Football—Some Are Getting Out While They Can

  • Nick Saban is one of many coaches fed up with the state of college football.
  • Coaches are fleeing to the NFL or taking on lower positions within the college game.
Nick Saban
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban gave a fiery interview to ESPN about the current landscape of college football and why he wants to fix it.

“What we have now is not college football—not college football as we know it,” the retired former Alabama coach told his new company.

Saban criticized name, image, and likeness collectives, which he argued have “nothing to do” with NIL, and constant roster turnover caused by the transfer portal. He said he supports players earning their fair share but wants to help players prepare for their future after football instead of just trying to make as much money as they can in college, and he wants to be part of the solution somehow.

Saban is speaking to a wider trend of college coaches fed up with the new age of college football, with many taking steps during the offseason to get out of it.

As ESPN’s Adam Schefter put it on X (formerly Twitter): “A trend that has emerged this winter: many college coaches are tired of the transfer portal, the NIL money and the new NCAA world—and prefer to work in the NFL. Many college coaches already have left; many more want to.”

More than 25 FBS assistant coaches have fled to the NFL this year, and more than 40% of them took on a smaller job title, per CBS Sports. Some, like Kiel McDonald (USC running backs coach reportedly heading to the Los Angeles Chargers), are choosing the same job title in the NFL over a more significant role in college sports.

Two head coaches have left college football for the NFL this offseason. Jim Harbaugh turned down being the highest-paid coach in college football when he departed Michigan for the Chargers, and Jeff Hafley reduced his title from head coach at Boston College to become defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers with three years left on his contract. Harbaugh has been vocal in supporting revenue-sharing and athlete unionization, a different but significant example of coaches’ disapproval of the current college football system.

Many coaches are also taking smaller positions within college sports. In one extreme case, Jerry Kill, the head coach at New Mexico State, left to become a consultant at Vanderbilt and told CBS Sports he’s “living the dream” because he enjoys country music and doesn’t need to raise money for NIL. Others taking lesser positions within college football include Chip Kelly, forgoing his head coaching job at UCLA to become Ryan Day’s offensive coordinator at Ohio State, as well as multiple Group of 5 head coaches.

It’s not uncommon for college coaches to move up to the NFL, retire, or take a smaller role at a bigger team. But the number of coaches getting out of college football and what they say about the system on their way out, hints at a larger problem.

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