Nick Saban raised more than a few eyebrows this month when he said he’s concerned name, image and likeness deals will disrupt college football’s parity. In particular, he sighted in on collectives brokering pay-for-play recruiting inducements.
A sign of the sport’s parity, Saban said, is that all FBS programs are permitted to award up to 85 scholarships. But many have wondered how the Alabama coach could think this sport enjoys parity when SEC teams have won 12 of the past 16 national championships, including six titles by Saban’s Crimson Tide.
Before rebuffing Saban’s comments, though, it’s worth examining this parity debate from multiple angles.
Here’s a snippet of the ways college football’s level playing field has been revealed throughout Saban’s Alabama tenure.
– Alabama lost to a Group of Five opponent as recently as 2007, when Louisiana-Monroe humbled the Tide.
– A 31-point bludgeoning at the hands of Alabama in 2020 proved Tennessee is reeling in its rival, coach Jeremy Pruitt said at the time. Unfortunately for Pruitt, his pursuit of the Tide got interrupted months later when he was fired after the Vols’ first six-game losing streak in more than 30 years.
– Arkansas State plundered a valuable intern off Saban’s staff, hiring Butch Jones as its coach in December 2020. Jones displayed his acumen throughout the Red Wolves’ two victories last season.
– Mississippi State played Alabama to a draw for nearly the first five minutes of last year’s matchup. The Tide didn’t amass a 40-point lead on its SEC West counterpart until the fourth quarter.
– New Mexico State increased its athletics revenue to $28.8 million in 2020, ahead of last season’s game against the Tide, to remain within $161 million of Alabama’s revenue.
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– Rutgers logged as many undefeated seasons during the 2010s as Alabama: zero. The Tide trailed UCF by one for undefeated seasons during that decade.
– Alabama spent $11.6 million on football recruiting during a six-year span beginning in fiscal year 2015, making it one of two schools to exceed $10 million. But the Tide didn’t even lead the nation, trailing upstart Georgia’s $14.8 million spent on football recruiting throughout that period.
– Alabama lists employing 12 football analysts and four special assistants to the head coach. Missouri also employs analysts (five) and a special assistant to the head coach.
– Southern Miss penetrated Alabama’s recruiting borders to sign three-star defensive end Ethan Edmondson as part of its 2018 recruiting class. Edmondson showed the Tide what it missed when the teams met a year later. Working against Alabama’s offensive line full of blue-chip recruits, Edmondson made two tackles in USM’s 49-7 defeat.
– South Carolina coach Shane Beamer earns a $2.75 million annual salary, which is $1.15 million more than Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding makes.
– Memphis, Boise State and Appalachian State won more games during the 2019 season than Alabama.
– UAB began playing its home games in a new $200 million stadium last season. Alabama last unveiled a new stadium in 1929.
– Vanderbilt’s 2022 recruiting class surged up the rankings compared to the previous year. Alabama’s signing class did not achieve a year-over-year rankings gain.
With parity like this, no wonder Saban will miss it.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.