LSU's Kelly on Saban and Fisher: 'They weren't wrestling in there'

Those expecting Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M counterpart Jimbo Fisher to hurl chairs or jump from the turnbuckle during Tuesday's start to the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings in Destin, Florida, came away disappointed.

"They weren't wrestling in there. I can tell you that," LSU first-year coach Brian Kelly told reporters.

The SEC meetings, which are being held in Destin again for the first time since 2019, marked the first gathering of coaches since Saban and Fisher feuded publicly two weeks ago over the name, image and likeness landscape. Saban stated in Birmingham that the Aggies "bought every player" in their top-rated signing class, which caused Fisher to hold a news conference and exclaim it was "despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn't get his way or things don't go his way."

On Tuesday, Saban was asked in a news conference what evidence he had that Texas A&M paid for its class.

"I didn't really say that anybody did anything wrong," Saban said. "I didn't say anybody did anything wrong, and I've said everything I'm going to say about this. I should have never mentioned any individual institutions, but some kind of uniform name, image and likeness standard that supports some kind of equitable, national competition I think is really, really important in college athletics and in college football.

"We have no oversight for players when it comes to this, and I think boosters should continue to be precluded from recruiting, including name, image and likeness offers prior to enrollment."

Immediately after the spat, league commissioner Greg Sankey reprimanded both coaches, and it remained quite the popular topic Tuesday as multiple coaches were asked about it.

"My phone started blowing up right when Jimbo's press conference started, but I haven't thought about it a day since," Georgia's Kirby Smart said. "In the world we operate in, you're worried about what's in front of you right now, like 15 recruits I'm trying to get on the phone. I'm not really worried about a feud between two guys who used to sit in the same staff meeting, and, at the end of the day, sometimes things get heated.

"You would rather it not be in the public arena, but you guys should be on the headphones sometimes. You would think this is Mickey Mouse."

Missouri's Eli Drinkwitz agreed that it shouldn't have occurred publicly but added, "It is a real issue, and we've got to find real solutions. I think that's why we're here."

Kelly ranked NIL as the chief topic in Tuesday's meetings, followed by the transfer portal, the recruiting calendar, scheduling and playoff formats.

"This has turned into a runaway train that has moved well past the student-athlete," Kelly said. "Boosters have never been a part of this, and now it's OK to have a collective? Can we get the boosters out of this?

"That would be my first thing."

As for scheduling possibilities once Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC in 2025, both the eight- and nine-game league options are being discussed. Sankey said talks have focused on a single division, which would end the two-division format that has been in place since 1992 and would eliminate the potential of the conference moving to four four-team pods.

"There are a lot of options on the table, probably more than you guys have mentioned," Smart said. "I'm not into whether we have divisions, pods or permanent rivals. I want what's best long term for our conference and what gives us the best opportunity to create national champions."

The possibility of the SEC staging its own eight-team playoff doesn't seem to have any momentum whatsoever, with Sankey saying that concept is "in a folder some place."

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