Saban the Congressional lobbyist
Alabama's Nick Saban is among a contingent of coaches and administrators from the Southeastern Conference scheduled to meet with lawmakers in Washington next week to make a case for a federal assistance in regulating how college athletes can earn money off their fame.
The SEC confirmed the trip to Capitol Hill on Thursday as it was winding down spring meetings on the Florida Gulf Coast. Commissioner Greg Sankey will lead a group that is expected to include university presidents, athletic directors and lobbyists.
"There's a lot that goes on between our campuses and D.C. And so this is an opportunity to focus on athletics and some of the pressures that we're facing. To communicate that, given the realities in college athletics, Congress is the place that can fix the issues we have," Sankey said.
The SEC is scheduled to host a reception for lawmakers and congressional staffers on Wednesday night before visiting individually with representatives and senators from the conference's footprint on Thursday.
College sports leaders have been pleading for help from Congress to get a handle on name, image and likeness compensation since the NCAA in 2021 lifted its ban on athletes being paid endorsers.
Lobbying trips to Washington have been common for conference commissioners and other administrators. In this case, the SEC is bringing some star power, with Saban expected to be one of numerous coaches from across several sports.
"They're on one piece of the front line. They're dealing with their teams, with young people involved in those teams. They're involved in the culture of transfers, both in and out. And I think they can have the opportunity to contextualize what's happening within college athletics right now," Sankey said.
Few coaches in college sports can match the 71-year-old Saban's gravitas and resume. He has won six national titles in 16 seasons as Alabama's football coach.
"Obviously, Nick's longevity, his success and his relationships have meaning. So it's important for him," Sankey said.
Saban is a longtime friend and supporter of Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Earlier this week, Saban lamented again the current patchwork of state NIL rules is not healthy for college sports, specifically football.
"If it's going to be the same for everyone, I think that's better than what we have now," Saban said. "Because what we have now is we have some states and some schools in some states that are investing a lot more money in terms of managing their roster than others."