Nick Saban wants to be voice for change in college football

Saban on retirement: 'I thought it was the right time' (5:30)

Nick Saban sits down with Rece Davis to discuss why he decided to retire from coaching football. (5:30)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban is retired from coaching, but he emphasized Wednesday that he isn't retired from doing his part to help bring some reform, uniformity and "common sense" to college football and the lingering chaos surrounding the sport.

"If my voice can bring about some meaningful change, I want to help any way I can, because I love the players, and I love college football," Saban told ESPN. "What we have now is not college football -- not college football as we know it. You hear somebody use the word 'student-athlete.' That doesn't exist."

Saban, 72, retired in January after winning six national championships in 17 seasons at Alabama and another at LSU in 2003. He now occupies an office adjacent to the south end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium and works as an adviser to the university. He also will serve as a college football and NFL draft analyst for ESPN.

While still coaching at Alabama, Saban said, he understood that any critique he made of the current NIL climate combined with the transfer portal -- in particular the lack of rules on agents shopping around players in the portal and schools bidding on high school players through donor-based collectives -- could come across as self-serving. But now that he is no longer coaching, Saban plans to take an even stronger stance.

In fact, some coaches have suggested that Saban would be a perfect choice as college football commissioner if such a position is ever created.

"I'm not really looking for a job, but I do know I'd like to impact college football the best way I can, whether it's being a spokesperson or anything else," Saban said. "Listen, I'm for the players. It's not that I'm not for the players. I want to see the players have a great quality of life and be able to create value for themselves. But we've gone to nobody talking about education, nobody talking about creating value for their future, to talking only about how much money can I make while I'm in college.

"I think the consequence of this could come down the road when some of these guys get 28 and 29 years old that maybe they didn't prepare themselves for when they can't play football anymore, which is what you should do when you go to college."

As much as anything, Saban said, he wants to see some sensible dialogue about how to help college football start moving in the direction of solutions before the current model completely implodes, and he doesn't want the situation to get to a point where schools have to start cutting other sports.

One of the trickier issues is how to best compensate players, and Saban reiterated that he's for players earning money based on their name, image and likeness once they get on campus.

"But what you have now isn't name, image and likeness. A collective has nothing to do with name, image and likeness," Saban said.

Saban said he would like to see any player compensation model that is created to be brought in-house at the various schools and taken away from donor-based collectives. Of course, then there could be Title IX issues.

"People can give money to the university again and get a tax deduction for doing it, and the university in some kind of way shares, whether it's share revenue, whether it's buying marketing rights, which is a possibility," Saban suggested. "You can buy somebody's marketing rights as an institution, and I don't want to say cap because that sounds like a salary cap, but find a way for schools to invest the same amount of money in players, just like everybody can invest the same amount in a scholarship. This becomes a part of the scholarship."

And while Saban wants to see players get their share of the financial pie, he said the only way any of this works is if there's also a commitment on the players' side.

"Just like an NFL player has a contract or a coach has a contract, something in place so you don't have all this raiding of rosters and mass movement," he said. "I wonder what fans are going to say when they don't even know the team from year to year because there's no development of teams, just bringing in new players every year."

Saban said he is not nearly as well versed on the legality of everything as such people as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey or Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne.

"They would be more qualified [to serve in a college football commissioner's role] than I am. They're in it every day and know all the issues," Saban said. "That's why I'm hesitant to come up with a firm solution because you don't know the consequences of the solution relative to, 'All right, do we have to pass antitrust laws to be able to do it this way? What does it all entail?'

"It's one thing to come up with a solution. It's another thing to implement it. I'm just here to help."

The man replacing Saban at Alabama, Kalen DeBoer, said Wednesday that college football needs Saban more than ever before, especially now that Saban is outside the coaching ranks.

"Nobody can say it's about him or his team now," DeBoer said. "He wants to see the game move in the right direction. We need that, and if he can help make that happen, he will leave another legacy that might not go above what he's accomplished on the field but will be far-reaching for everybody in our sport."