Nick Saban is, arguably, the greatest college football coach ever, winning six national titles and appearing in a game that decided a national championship eight times overall. But we all know that the Alabama football coach is also pretty surly at times, which can rub people the wrong way more often than not.
The most recent example of that came with one of Nick Saban’s former Crimson Tide players, Ronnie Harrison, who currently plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars after entering the NFL Draft in 2018, ultimately becoming a third-round pick. Saban didn’t seem to agree with his former safety’s decision to turn pro back then, and, while he didn’t use Harrison’s exact name, he did refer to the dude in generalization while speaking to reporters the other day about evaluating his players when they’re thinking about entering the NFL Draft.
With Ronnie Harrison deciding to turn pro in 2018, he ended up slipping into the third-round — which, in effect, hurt the overall earnings of his contract. Sure, he did make $1.2 million, per Spotrac, which is money he wouldn’t make had he played at Alabama, but Nick Saban thinks it was the wrong decision because of all the potential money he could have earned otherwise. Listen to what the head coach had to say, per 247Sports.
“If you look at the number of guys that were first- and second-round draft picks, there were very few guys that had failed careers.
“Now, we have guys that have no draft grades, seventh-round grades, free-agent grades, fifth-round grades that are going out of the draft. And the person that loses in that is the player.
“If you’re a third-round draft pick, and we had one here last year — I’m not going to say any names — goes and starts for his team, so he’s making third-round money, which is not that great,” Saban told reporters on Saturday. (Harrison was the only Alabama player taken in the third round in 2018.) “He’d be the first guy taken at his position this year, probably, and make $15 (million) to $18 million more. So, the agent makes out, the club makes out, and now they’ve got a guy that’s going to play for that kind of money for three more years.”
While it’s true that Nick Saban’s job is to win games and compete for national titles on the college level, he also has a responsibility to help his players get to the next level and play in the NFL. That’s where evaluating their talents and helping them decide if staying in college or going pro is the right move. Apparently, Saban wasn’t a big fan of the decision that Ronnie Harrison made in 2018 — as referenced above — and Harrison wasn’t shy to fire back at his former college coach, taking to Twitter to share his thoughts.
Sure, Nick Saban brings up a good point about having a player leave too early and not get the most earning potential, but who’s to say that Ronnie Harrison staying in school would have been the best decision for him and his family? What would have happened had the safety got hurt and couldn’t turn pro at all? Or what if his performance dipped and get moved down the depth chart? There’s no guarantee Harrison would have gone to the NFL, and, thus, he would’ve missed out on a big payday.
Until college athletes get paid for play, this type of conversation will continue to happen, because, even if it’s not millions of dollars that the NCAA would offer, it’d be something for the player to at least have as disposable income. Hey, everyone’s eating — schools and coaches especially — but the people putting their bodies on the line, the players, don’t see a dime, so Ronnie Harrison was just doing what was best for him and his family; can’t fault him for that.