Georgia’s Kirby Smart offers take on Saban-Fisher feud at SEC spring meetings

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Georgia coach Kirby Smart weighed in on the recent war of words between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

DESTIN, Fla. — The SEC spring meetings kicked off Tuesday amid fallout from the war of words between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher of two weeks ago.

Saban looked to downplay his exchange with Fisher during his presentation at the Sandestin Beach Hilton, site of the annual meetings.

“I didn’t really say that anybody did anything wrong,” Saban said Tuesday when asked if he had any proof that Texas A&M bought its 2022 recruiting class.

“I have no problem with Jimbo at all.”

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Still, everyone wanted to know, what did other SEC coaches think of Saban saying May 18 that A&M “bought” their players?

And, how might things go with all the SEC coaches sharing the same room – their seating arranged alphabetically – after Fisher said May 19 that Saban was a “despicable … narcissist”?

Georgia coach Kirby Smart essentially shrugged it off as another day at the office in one sense, albeit, a very public one.

Smart, who coached on the same staff with Saban and Fisher at LSU in 2004, indicated Tuesday that it wasn’t the first time the two men exchanged words.

“I’m not really worried about a feud between two guys that used to sit in the same staff meeting and have similar conversations,” Smart said.

“You guys should be on the headphones sometimes. You’d think that (the May exchange) was Mickey Mouse.”

Fact is, these are downright goofy times in college football with unintended consequences from the name, image and likeness legislation and one-time transfer exemption passed last summer that are transforming college football.

“There’s a ton of gray area relative to what you can do, what you can’t do,” first-year Florida coach Billy Napier said Tuesday. “There’s no manual, there are no parameters, there are no guidelines.

“To some degree, we’re living in a land with no laws. It very much continues to be a fluid situation.”

To that point, Napier pointed out that every player with remaining eligibility who hasn’t used his one-time exemption is a free agent.

“The reality is we have no contracts,” Napier said, “and we have no cap number.”

Smart, entering his seventh season as the Bulldogs’ head coach, acknowledges that different approaches to recruiting and retention are needed in this new college football world.

“It (NIL) is changing the narrative for the player,” Smart said. “I make a conscious effort to ask kids when they come in to meet, ‘What’s the most important thing to you?

“That certainly has transitioned in the recent years from when kids would say playing time, the ability to win a championship, proximity to home, relationship with my coach. Now, a lot of times that revolves around, ‘what can I make in NIL.’”

Other topics that will be discussed at the meetings, which run through Friday, include:

• New schedule proposals involving the elimination of divisions and different eight- and nine-game schedule models.

• An SEC-only playoff after Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC in 2025.

• A proposal to move the SEC’s intraconference transfer deadline from Feb. 1 to the national transfer deadline of May 1.