The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 1, 2014

Saban: College athletes deserve a voice


Associated Press

— TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban says college athletes should have "a voice in what happens" to them during their careers, but he also wants to see some data on the actual value of an athletic scholarship.

"I've always been an advocate of players' rights," Saban said Monday night when asked about the prospect of a union for collegians. "I've always been an advocate of players being compensated the best that we can to help them. Whatever the NCAA rule is and whatever they decide to do, I've always been an advocate of the player and the quality of life that a player has. Having a voice in what happens, I think, is something that the players probably ought to have."

Saban's comments came on the heels of last week's ruling by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that Northwestern's football team can be considered employees and have the right to form a union. The school is appealing.

Saban also weighed in on the issue from the perspective of universities, and didn't indicate whether he supports a union.

He said it's easy to determine how much a scholarship costs, but he'd like to see a study of "what we invest in the player to try to help them be successful." He said Alabama spent some $600,000 last year on "personal development programs," including academic support.

The former Kent State player, who made about $6 million last year, noted that the benefits of playing football and getting a scholarship have been worth a "pretty significant" amount to him.

"I don't think that the players just receive a scholarship," Saban said. "I think a lot of players really realize that, understand that and appreciate that. We can't pay them but we can reinvest in trying to help them be successful in their future, which I think we do a marvelous job here at the University of Alabama. I think a lot of people do. I think that's what makes great programs. I think that's why players want to come and be a part of the program, because we do reinvest in the future and their chances of being successful, and we do care. And it's not just about football.

"'So there's a lot of value that players get from the experience that they have as college student-athletes, that really benefit their chances of being successful."