Alabama has been the class of college football for the past decade, but the rest of the country is closing the gap, so the powerhouse leaves no stone unturned in its quest to recapture its place at the top of the college football world.
The Crimson Tide recently extended its relationship with multimedia giant Learfield, and on Tuesday it was announced that the two sides came to an agreement on a state of the art, first-of-its-kind NIL hub called The Advantage Center.
A highlight of the new agreement is a first-of-its-kind, dedicated NIL hub called The Advantage Center, which will serve as the epicenter of support for NIL endeavors for the more than 600 Crimson Tide student-athletes.#RollTide | @Learfield pic.twitter.com/hqtDiKHGoW
— Alabama Athletics (@UA_Athletics) January 24, 2023
Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne issued a statement about the agreement:
“LEARFIELD is the industry leader in cutting-edge fan engagement and brand connectivity. Continuing to partner with LEARFIELD, will provide us with the resources and innovative solutions to deliver on our mission of providing the best student-athlete and fan experiences possible. The new NIL center and and plans for exciting new content for our fans are just a few examples in which LEARFIELD will continue to help be the leader in college athletics for years to come.”
The old guard of college athletics is no longer, and with the NIL and transfer portal taking front and center, being creative in your recruiting approach has never been more vital.
Gone are the days that a recruit chooses a school because of its tradition and history. Student-athletes are going to the highest bidder, and it’s all about how one can use their name, image and likeness to earn funds as a student-athlete at these institutions.
NIL Deals Are Changing College Sports
The NIL and portal are shaping rosters and giving teams hope that just wasn’t there prior to it. Look at how the TCU Horned Frogs came out of the blue to make the CFP Championship Game with 22 ready-to-play transfers and a nice deep-pocketed NIL collective the school possesses. It’s the way of college sports, and it’s either you adapt or die, in so many words.
Since July 2022, when NIL deals became legal, there have been plenty of opportunities for student-athletes but very few guidelines to control how and where the money is being spent. And while those guidelines still really haven’t been levied, having an on-campus hub to help those student-athletes is just cutting edge.
The facility will be for the more than 600 Crimson Tide student-athletes. But in essence it’s another way to show potential recruits that they’re all in on the NIL. This is just a space for those recruits to meet with brands and businesses about those potential deals. It’s brilliant, and because there are no real boundaries etched in stone of what can and can’t be done it’s legal.
Alabama Lands No. 1 Recruiting Class
The Crimson Tide landed the nation’s top class, and one would think the NIL possibilities played a huge role in that. To land seven five-star recruits and 20 four-star recruits in this era isn’t happening without a strong NIL collective supporting you. That is what Saban said last year when his former assistant and current Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher landed the top class, including eight five-star recruits.
Saban was bothered by Fisher’s sudden recruiting success and told reporters this in an interview at the countdown event for the 2022 World Games in Birmingham.
Saban: We were 2nd in recruiting last year. A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn’t buy one player. But I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it https://t.co/uwEcLQa2u4
— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) May 19, 2022
That remark stirred up some real vitriol between Saban and Fisher that’s since been quashed by the two coaches.
Saban also claimed Jackson State bought Travis Hunter, the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, who chose to play for Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders instead of a Power Five school.
He also apologized for that.
Alabama Is Still Standard Program In College Football
Now, rather than try and look high and mighty, Saban is fully entrenched in trying to stay ahead of the curve as pertains to NIL.
Long considered the “standard” program in college football, that’s taken a hit the last couple of years with the Georgia Bulldogs winning back-to-back national championships. Now a desperate Saban and Alabama are looking for any advantage possible to regain their top dog status in the sport.
Maintaining control of how NIL deals are influencing players and other student-athletes and providing them with a place that they can nurture these opportunities definitely keeps Alabama ahead of the game.