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Tramel's ScissorTales: Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher feud just means more SEC fighting

Berry Tramel

When reports surfaced that Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi was livid at Southern Cal coach Lincoln Riley, and Riley wouldn’t return Narduzzi’s calls, it was wildly interesting but not all together relevant. 

The Pitt coach mad at the USC coach is like a county commissioner upset with a U.S. Senator. 

But now Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher are name-calling and smack-talking. Off have come the gloves in college football. 

The pressure cooker of the transfer portal and name-image-likeness madness, not to mention the normal tensions of needing to win football games, has cracked the coaches’ wall of civility. 

Oh, you’d have an occasional tiff. Joe Paterno saying he’d never retire because he couldn’t leave the sport to the Barry Switzers and Jackie Sherrills. Bob Stoops being aggrieved at Les Miles’ ramblings, before he and we figured out that was just Miles being Miles. 

But the Saban/Fisher feud that has exploded since Wednesday night seems different. This seems bloodsport; college football has lost its bowling-alley bumpers, and into the gutter we all go. 

Tramel's ScissorTales:Eddie Sutton was pre-portal king of transfers with Oklahoma State basketball

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, left, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban meet at midfield after their game in College Station, Texas, in 2019.

Saban on Wednesday night told a group of Alabama businessman that A&M “bought every player” in its vaunted 2022 recruiting class. 

And Thursday, here came Fisher. Jimbo Filter he was not. 

In a 9½-minute press conference, Fisher called Saban “despicable,” and while Fisher addressed the issues, he also got personal and quick. 

“It's despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn't get his way,” Fisher said. “The narcissist in him doesn't allow those things to happen. It's ridiculous when he's not on top.” 

Fisher, of course, was referring to Bama’s alleged recruiting shortcomings. After A&M’s massive talent haul, Alabama tumbled all the way to No. 2 in the national recruiting rankings. Oh the humanity. 

“Some people think they're God,” Fisher said. “Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out ... a lot of things you don't want to know. We build him up to be the czar of football. Go dig into his past, or anybody's that's ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out, what he does and how he does it. It's despicable.” 

Fisher said Saban had tried to call — To apologize? To explain? To tell Fisher his mother wears combat boots? — but that Fisher refused to call back. 

“Not going to. We're done,” said Fisher, who was Saban’s offensive coordinator at Louisiana State from 2000-06, before taking the same job at Florida State under Bobby Bowden, whom he succeeded as head coach. Fisher coached the Seminoles to the 2013 national championship. 

“He's the greatest ever, huh?” Fisher said of Saban. “When you've got all the advantages, it's easy ... You coach with people like Bobby Bowden and learn how to do things. You coach with other people and learn how not to do things. There's a reason, people, I ain't went back and worked for (Saban). Don't wanna be associated with him." 

More:How did ex-NFL lineman Ryan Young wind up with OU football as SOUL Mission Senior Director?

Well, to be accurate, the reason Fisher hasn’t gone back and worked for Saban or anybody else is that Fisher has been making millions of dollars head-coaching Florida State and A&M. Let’s not pretend Fisher has chosen the salt mines over working for Saban. 

This is rich. The Southeastern Conference is a league of dangerous liaisons. Lane Kiffin spikes the punch every chance he gets, Kirby Smart is feistier than anyone gives him credit for, and Mike Leach is down in Starkville wondering when he gets in on all the action. Too bad Florida fired Dan Mullen, else the modern SEC would be the Tower of Babel. 

And soon enough, OU and Texas come into the league. Welcome aboard, Brent Venables. Try to keep your decorum as long as possible. 

Saban on Wednesday told Bama boosters that Alabama players made $3 million "doing it the right way" last year and that only 25 players were involved in NIL. 

"A&M bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness,” Sabon said. “We didn't buy one player, all right? But I don't know if we're gonna be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it. It's tough." 

Full disclosure: I’m more of a Saban fan than Fisher fan. I find Saban off-putting and quite arrogant at times, but I rarely believe he’s full of crap. My impression of Fisher? Full of crap. 

I could be wrong, of course. I’ll know more after I spend some time sharing SEC spaces. 

And Saban is at least looking for high ground. The Crimson Tide apparently approached NIL the way the Sooners and Cowboys and lots of schools did, the way it was intended to be. Alabama waded into NIL, while Fisher’s Aggies went all belly-buster. 

Did A&M break any rules? I don’t know. Is anyone enforcing any rules? No. It’s anarchy. Hard to get upset with any particular enterprise during anarchy. We should be upset with the anarchy. 

“What's funny, in that talk, right before he said that about us? Wasn't he soliciting funds from the crowd?” Fisher said. “It's amazing, isn't it? When you walk on water, I guess it don't matter." 

More:How Oklahoma State's Jaden Bray went from nerves 'jumping' to feeling 'like high school again'

This much we know. OU-Texas, no matter its status come October 8, will not be college football’s game of the day. A&M at Alabama will have all the attention. And it doesn’t hurt that the Aggies upset Bama 41-38 in College Station last October.  

Now Fisher gets to go to Tuscaloosa, where he’ll be welcomed like leprosy. Kevin Durant’s return to Oklahoma City will be like palm-branch waving compared to Fisher’s reception in Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

"I don't mind confrontation,” Fisher said. “Lived with it my whole life. Kinda like it myself. Backing away from it wasn't the way I was raised.” 

Fisher on national signing day took issue with those – primarily Kiffin – who repeated stories of A&M luring players with huge NIL payouts. 

"It's disgusting what we're into right now," he said. "Especially by the people were throwing the darts who have no glass in their house. It's despicable for what it does for the sport. 

"We never bought anybody. No rules are broken. Nothing was done wrong. It's a shame that you've got to sit here and defend 17-year-old kids and families and Texas A&M, because we do things right. We're always going to do things right. We're always going to be here. We're doing a heck of a job." 

Oh good. Now it’s a catfight between two coaches claiming to do things right, when the whole danged sport is a cesspool.  

But at least it’s interesting. Sorry, NBA Playoffs. Excuse me, NCAA softball tournament. Step aside, PGA. This squabble between SEC football coaches owns the American sports day. 

"You can call me anything you want to call me," Fisher said. "You can't call me a cheat. I don't cheat and I don't lie. I learned that when I was a kid. If you did, your old man slapped you upside the head. Maybe somebody should have slapped him." 

Fisher seems in no mood to slow down on the Saban-bashing. 

“You know exactly what he's about,” Fisher said. “My dad always told me this: When people show you who they are, believe them. He's showing you who he is." 

What can we say? It’s the SEC. It just means more. More fighting. 

More:How NBA Draft prospects Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren & Paolo Banchero fit with OKC Thunder

Mailbag: Thunder’s No. 2 pick 

The NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night gave the Thunder the No. 2 overall pick, and fans are excited. 

Avi: “I am ecstatic about the No. 2 pick and see Jabari (Smith) being a great fit. Curious to know if you will be able to draw any semblance to Gary Payton or Kevin Durant.” 

Tramel: Well, I don’t know if the Thunder will get Smith. I hope so. Depends on what Orlando does at No. 1. The Smith-Durant comparison is natural, since they’re both in the 6-foot-10/6-11 neighborhood, both can move on defense and both can shoot quite adeptly from deep.  

However, such a comparison is unfair to Smith, since Durants come along about once every 50 years and we’re still waiting on the second coming. 

The only Payton likeness is that Payton, too, was a No. 2 pick, out of Oregon State in 1990, who became a Hall of Famer. In my post-lottery column, I detailed a bunch of the busts at No. 2. But there have been a bunch of hits, too. 

Superstars Ja Morant, Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jason Kidd, Alonzo Mourning, Payton, Isiah Thomas, Bob McAdoo, Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe, Dave Bing, Rick Barry, Jerry West, Bill Russell, Bob Pettitt. 

But also solid players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram (headed for stardom), Victor Oladipo, Tyson Chandler, Mike Bibby, Marcus Camby, Kenny Anderson, Rik Smits, Wayman Tisdale, Terry Cummings, Phil Ford, Rudy Tomjanovich, Joe Caldwell, Bailey Howell. 

The Thunder hopes for the superstar route, of course, but the latter list isn’t a bad outcome, either. 

More:Barry Switzer is helping OU football players cash in on their fame. Here's how the 1Oklahoma NIL program works.

NIL arrives on the high school scene 

Sisters Alyssa and Gisele Thompson signed an NIL deal with Nike this week. No big news there. It’s 2022. That’s what athletes do. 

Except for this. The Thompson soccer sisters are in high school, at Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles. 

Yes, NIL has arrived on the high school and it’s coming fast. 

Attorney Iciss Tillis has become a leading voice on NIL policy and says high school NIL is a coming thing. 

You might remember Tillis, the daughter of former heavyweight boxer James “Quick” Tillis, as the basketball star at Tulsa Cascia Hall in 2000 who signed with Duke and played in the WNBA. Now she’s a lawyer at Hall Estill in Tulsa. 

Tillis said only eight states allow high school athletes to receive NIL-related compensation – including Alaska, California, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Utah – but several are pondering the issue. 

“I do expect to see even more states add NIL compensation by the end of the year,” Tillis said. 

Quinn Ewers could be the reason why. The Austin, Texas, quarterback left high school a year early to enroll at Ohio State, where he was eligible for NIL and indeed signed a three-year, $1.4 million contract with GT Sports Marketing. Ewers has since transferred to the University of Texas and is expected to start for the Longhorns

“Like most states, Texas and Ohio prohibit prospective student-athletes from earning compensation for their NIL prior to college enrollment,” Tillis said. “Although Quinn had one of the highest NIL values in sports during his senior year in high school, he had to wait until (college) enrollment to be eligible to receive compensation.” 

The Thompson sisters are committed to Stanford and are members of the U.S. national youth teams. They posted on Instagram showing a trip to Nike over the weekend that resulted in their NIL deal. 

Tillis said nine American high-school athletes competed in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, including Lydia Jacoby, a swimmer who won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke. 

In Florida, Sal Stewart has sued the Florida High School Athletic Association over NIL prohibitions. 

“For compliance purposes, high school associations and student-athletes need to know whether their specific state prohibits high school athletes from receiving NIL compensation (either by state legislation or a rule adopted by a high school association),” Tillis said. 

“High school athletes entering NIL deals facilitated by boosters and other university alumni could violate NCAA bylaws pertaining to improper recruiting inducement and risk eligibility. 

“In addition, universities in states that allow high school NIL monetization have a huge advantage over schools in states that do not. With Quinn for example, if (Texas’) NIL law permitted NIL compensation for prospective student-athletes, Quinn could have had his three-year NIL deal while in high school and could have carried it with him to college.” 

So there you go. NIL into the high schools. Youth sports, you’re next. 

More:How Kennedy Brooks, undrafted OU football alums fit with NFL teams

Brady latest QB to get the microphone 

The quarterback always gets the girl, the old saying goes. I have no idea if that’s true. But the quarterback usually gets the microphone. 

Tom Brady, for example. 

Brady, 44, retired for a month or so but has unretired to quarterback the Tampa Bay Buccaneers another season. But when Brady does hang up his helmet, Fox is waiting. 

The network agreed to a New York Post-reported 10-year, $375-million contract with Brady to be its lead National Football League analyst, whenever Brady does indeed retire from quarterbacking. 

That’s a lot of money for someone who is unproven as a broadcaster. But that’s what happens to quarterbacks.  

Let’s do a roll call. 

Monday Night Football: A 52-year franchise on ABC or ESPN, its most prominent analysts were Don Meredith and Howard Cosell. Meredith, a Dallas Cowboy quarterback, spent 13 years on Monday nights. Cosell, of course, was a professional broadcaster. Next in line was Jon Gruden, a coach who lasted nine years. After that, quarterbacks Ron Jaworski five years and Fran Tarkenton four years. 

CBS: Its longest-serving prime analyst was Phil Simms, the former New York Giant quarterback who spent 19 seasons on the job (1998-2016). Next in line was Madden (who worked for every network), 15 years (1979-93). Tony Romo, another Dallas Cowboy QB, is about to begin Year 6. In the 1970s, Tom Brookshier, an Eagle defensive back, had five years as CBS’ prime analyst, and Pat Summerall, a New York Giants kicker, had four, before becoming a play-by-play icon. 

Fox: Aikman, yet another Dallas Cowboy quarterback, just jumped to ESPN after 20 years as Fox’s No. 1 analyst. Madden spent eight years on the job and was Fox’s original star, from when it got the NFL contract in 1994. 

NBC: The network had Sunday afternoon games from 1965 through 1997, then got the Sunday Night Football contract in 2006. Madden was the analyst from 2006-08, and Cris Collinsworth, a former Bengals receiver, has held the job since. Other NBC mainstays were Al DeRogatis, a defensive lineman from the 1950s, and Merlin Olsen, a Rams defensive tackle. 

So the trend is clear. Virtually anybody was a candidate half a century ago. But in recent years, coaches and increasingly quarterbacks, are the ticket. Collinsworth is bucking the trend against the likes of Romo, Aikman and Brady. 

How will Brady do? I have no idea. He’s sharp and has interesting things to say on the few times he’s let his guard down. A couple of years ago, Brady talked about the offense’s advantages with the rules, a novel take for a quarterback. If Brady brings that kind of perspective, Fox will do fine. 

Is Brady worth $375 million over 10 years, which is more money than he’s made in 22 years as an NFL quarterback? Of course not. The masses have not turned out to hear a pro football announcer since the glory days of Meredith and Cosell. 

It’s a vanity hire for Fox, but vanity, I suppose is part of the game. That’s why quarterbacks rule. 

Fox chief executive officer Lachlan Murdoch announced the news during a corporate investor call. Brady also will work as an "ambassador" for Fox with a focus on "client and promotional initiatives." 

Maybe that’s how Fox makes up that $375 million drop.  

More:What fans did to watch Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy & Jordan Spieth at PGA Championship

The List: Ranking the drama of Southern Hills majors 

The 2022 PGA Championship started Thursday morning at Southern Hills, marking the eighth major played at the iconic Tulsa country club. Here are the other seven, ranked by Sunday drama: 

1. 2001 U.S. Open: Retief Goosen beat Mark Brooks by two strokes in an 18-hole Monday playoff, a tournament in which the leaders were overshadowed by Tiger Woods, who was trying to win a fifth straight major title. Woods finished tied for 12th, seven strokes back. But the Sunday finish was riveting. Brooks, playing a group ahead of Goosen and Cink, three-putted his way out of the lead on the 18th hole. Cink three-putted his way to double bogey, eliminating himself from playoff consideration. Then Goosen had a 10-footer for birdie to win but instead three-putted for bogey. On Monday, Goosen dominated, taking a five-stroke lead at the turn. A two-stroke swing at 17 at least made the 18th interesting, but Goosen’s cautious bogey gave him a two-stroke victory. 

2. 1977 U.S. Open: Hubert Green beat Lou Graham by one stroke. Graham shot 2-under 68, with four back-nine birdies, and got in the clubhouse only one stroke back of Green, who still had four holes to play. That’s when tournament officials and law enforcement personnel informed Green that a death threat had been placed on his life. Green shook it off, parred 15 despite hitting a tree with his tee shot, and birdied 16. That gave Green a cushion, but he still had to make a 4-foot bogey to avoid a playoff. 

3. 2007 PGA: Tiger Woods won his fourth PGA Championship and 13th major title, this one by two shots over Woody Austin. Tiger had a three-shot lead after 54 holes, but a bogey on 14, coupled with Austin’s third straight birdie, cut Tiger’s lead to one shot. But Tiger birdied the 15th hole and parred his way to the title. 

4. 1970 PGA: Dave Stockton won by two strokes over Bob Murphy and Arnold Palmer. This would prove to be the final good chance for the then-40-year-old Palmer to win the only major that eluded him. Stockton shot 66 on Saturday to take a five-shot lead over Palmer and stayed comfortably ahead on Sunday. Stockton bogeyed the final two holes. 

5. 1958 U.S. Open: Native Oklahoman Tommy Bolt beat 22-year-old runnerup Gary Player by four shots in the first PGA determined by stroke play. The tournament was notable for the historic players. Ben Hogan, at age 45, tied for 10th. Jack Nicklaus, at age 18, played in his second U.S. Open and made his first cut, finishing 41st. Sam Snead, 46, missed the cut for the first time in 18 U.S. Opens. Two-time champion Gene Sarazen missed the cut in his final U.S. Open appearance. Three-time Masters champ Jimmy Demaret also played his final U.S. Open, withdrawing after the third round. The tournament was otherwise anticlimactic; Bolt took a three-shot lead after the third round Saturday morning, then ran away from the field in the fourth round Saturday afternoon. 

6. 1982 PGA: Only eight players finished below par, but Raymond Floyd had no problem with the course. He took a five-stroke lead over Greg Norman and Jay Haas through three rounds, then breezed to victory. On the 18th hole, Floyd needed only a par to shoot 10-under 270, which would have set the PGA record for lowest score, a 271 shot by Bobby Nichols in 1964. Alas, Floyd double-bogeyed 18, yet he still won by three shots over Lanny Wadkins. 

7. 1994 PGA: Nick Price rolled over the field, winning by six shots over Corey Pavin, with an 11-under 269. Price was coming off a British Open victory; he became the first golfer to win the British and the PGA in the same year since Walter Hagen in 1924. Price’s 269 broke Nichols’ PGA record from 1964. Price’s six-shot victory was the biggest margin of victory in a major between Jack Nicklaus’ 1980 PGA win and Tiger Woods’ 1997 Masters runaway. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.