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Nick Saban Said the Way Players Acted After Losing to Michigan and NIL Discussions in Postseason Interviews Contributed to His Retirement Decision

ESPN — But Alabama's 27-20 overtime loss to Michigan in the CFP semifinal at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 was a hard one for Saban to digest. Not only was Saban upset about the way his team played, he was especially disheartened about some of the things that happened afterward -- in the Rose Bowl locker room and back on campus, when he met with some of the players.

"I want to be clear that wasn't the reason, but some of those events certainly contributed," Saban said of his decision to retire. "I was really disappointed in the way that the players acted after the game. You gotta win with class. You gotta lose with class. We had our opportunities to win the game and we didn't do it, and then showing your ass and being frustrated and throwing helmets and doing that stuff ... that's not who we are and what we've promoted in our program."

Once back in Tuscaloosa, as Saban began meeting with players, it became even more apparent to him that his message wasn't resonating like it once did.

"I thought we could have a hell of a 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 assurances do I have that I'm going to play because they're thinking about transferring, and how much are you going to pay me?" Saban recounted. "Our program here was always built on how much value can we create for your future and your personal development, academic success in graduating and developing an NFL career on the field.

"So I'm saying to myself, 'Maybe this doesn't work anymore, that the goals and aspirations are just different and that it's all about how much money can I make as a college player?' I'm not saying that's bad. I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm just saying that's never been what we were all about, and it's not why we had success through the years."

If you needed any more evidence that college football is a different game than it was even just a few years ago, the way things go in 2024 apparently led, at least partially, to Nick Saban's decision to call it quits.

I obviously can't speak to how upset Saban was about how his players acted after losing to Michigan, but I can't imagine it was much worse than players act after losing any game, particularly one with the stakes of a College Football Playoff game. Saban had a player punch a girl in the face after a loss last year and that didn't seem to faze him.

But I think what Saban went on to say about the relationships with players now had much more to do with however much all of this contributed to his retirement. For 15 years, Saban was able to sell a vision of coming to Alabama, competing against the best players in the country every day, eventually earning your spot and then moving on to the NFL where you would make millions of dollars. Well now kids are making millions of dollars playing college football and all of a sudden sitting for two years and making $50,000 doesn't sound so appealing when you can make 10 times that and play immediately somewhere else. You can like a coach as much as you want, but at the end of the day, there is serious money being thrown around right now and relationships can only take you so far.

The sport has fundamentally changed from what Saban had been used to his entire career.

And like Saban said, it was about time for him to hang it up anyway, but I don't think it's unreasonable to think he could have easily coached another two or three seasons if he wanted to. It's just a completely different game now.

I'm happy for Nick. Go enjoy Lake Burton, brother. You've done enough.