Saban says ‘time of evolution’ is ‘sad’ for college traditions amid expansion

Nick Saban

One of college football’s most accomplished head coaches opened up about conference realignment and expansion. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked on Sunday about recent conference expansion in light of the Big 12 adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah and the Big Ten seeing Oregon and Washington join the conference all beginning in 2024. 

Saban said he believes “we’re in a time of evolution for whatever reasons” regarding longstanding, storied traditions involved in college football and athletics in general. The 17-year Crimson Tide skipper said he thinks the customs in college athletics will be changed. 

“Some of those traditions are going to get sort of pushed by the wayside, I think, and that’s sad,” Saban said.

One year from now, the Big Ten will have 18 programs and the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences will each have 16. 

The Atlantic Coast Conference has also reportedly began exploring expansion possibilities after Florida State recently posed the question of leaving the conference and ACC executives have looked into possibly adding remaining Pac-12 schools. 

Saban, like Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz among others, voiced his opinion on what should remain near top priorities when considering conference expansion: the student-athletes. 

“I think one thing I would just hope that we would keep in mind and all the choices and decisions we make relative to what we do in college athletics is the student-athlete,” Saban said. “They’re here to get an education. We want to try to help them develop careers on and off the field, and hopefully some of the choices and decisions that we make for college athletics in the future will impact them in a positive way.” 

The SEC will see Oklahoma and Texas join in 2024, bringing two decorated programs to one of college football and athletics’ strongest conferences. 

Further conference realignment remains a possibility across college athletics, such as the remaining four Pac-12 programs merging with the Mountain West Conference

In an ever-changing landscape that is college athletics, whether the topic is name, image and likeness or expansion, Saban said he wants to keep the individuals who perform on the field in front of the minds of many. 

“I hope that we can keep that as a priority in terms of whatever we decide to do in the future of college football and college athletics,” Saban said.