The Empire Strikes Back and Kiffin Blows the College Football World Apart

Nick Saban said that Texas A&M paid players to sign with their football team and A&M coach Jimbo Fisher went ballistic. Fisher did nothing wrong as far as the letter, but he ran the spirit off like Bill Murray with an electron proton pack. Fisher freaked the hell out and held a press conference blaming Saban for everything from the Hindenburg disaster to New Coke and told the world that he was done with the Alabama coach and that many coaches who worked with him never would again.

The last time the two worked together was during the 2004 season and Fisher was so apparently disgusted by the “despicable” “narcissist” Saban who he strongly implied is a cheater, that he was done with the man except when in 2018 he talked to reporters outside the Alabama locker room praising his former head coach while waiting to congratulate Nick on a National Championship. Fish deal with waves and Fisher’s disgust seems to crest and through.

I’ve got a piece on this over at and spoke about it with editor Andrew Donaldson (@four4thefire) on his podcast Heard Tell (@HeardTellShow.) I linked to the parts that are specific to this post but the whole is worth your time.

Since the links are up, I don’t want to cover too much of what I’ve already written but an in-conference coach fight like this is pretty much unheard of unless there is a Fulmer involved.

Ole Miss coach, Lane Kiffin, who I’ll get back to in a minute, said he was “speechless.” He was scheduled for an interview with Dan Patrick but SEC commissioner Greg Sanky put an end to all discussion about the matter and we missed out on what should have been Joey Freshwater turned up to 11 (Joey Freshwater means Kiffin.)

At least it seemed to be the end of discussion.

After his original defensive and unhinged press conference, Fisher showed up for a one on one interview and berated journalist Jim Simmons, displayed even more nervous defensiveness, and dismissed a distressed handler who was off camera trying to get him to rein it back.

I didn’t think things could get much better, but it did.

Yesterday, Eli Holstein, Texas A&M’s top quarterback recruit for the 2023 class, decided he’d rather go to Alabama. I’m guessing a side table, but any one of Fisher’s office furniture could have been destroyed after that revelation.

This started as Saban ruing the effect that NIL will have on college football and pointing out that Jimbo and Deon Sanders had stretched the limits. But that’s the job of a coach. You may hate the rule change, but you have to live with it and exploit it in every way possible to be competitive.

Lane Kiffin just leapt ahead of the rest of the college coaching community in adapting to and availing himself of the new rules. He suggested that Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young should have jumped into the transfer portal. He’s a genius.

It’s not okay for a coach to contact a player of another team and offer them money via NIL or otherwise, but that’s not what Kiffin did. He said that Young could have leveraged his position to get more out of Alabama (boosters or university – he didn’t make clear as far as I can see) and returned to the Capstone. Kiffin did nothing wrong. What he did do, without breaking any rules about talking to individual players, is signal that whatever their situation, maybe they should come and have a chat with him and see if they can do better. He just offered every player in the country a sit down with Ole Miss.

Kiffin never ceases to amaze. The guy’s clever. The college football game is over, and I hate that, but who can blame these coaches? They just got thrown into a pro league.

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