BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama football coach Nick Saban on Wednesday denied the implication that anyone from his team violated NCAA rules by recruiting former Louisville receiver Tyler Harrell before he entered the transfer portal in April.
Speaking to reporters at a golf event, Saban said, “We don’t tamper with anybody.”
But that’s what Louisville coach Scott Satterfield suggested to 247Sports in a story published last week. Satterfield said he believes tampering occurred with Harrell but that he couldn’t prove it.
Harrell, who caught 18 passes for 532 yards and six touchdowns last season, entered the portal on April 12. Ten days later, he committed to Alabama.
“I don’t know of anybody that tampered with him,” Saban said of Harrell. “You know, I don’t really know that anybody’s ever tampered with our players. I just think sometimes when things happen it makes you wonder. So I’m not making any accusations against anybody that’s done anything to our players and I don’t have any knowledge of anybody that’s done anything with anybody else’s players.”
Saban acknowledged that it’s difficult to control third parties “whether it’s direct or indirect” from involving themselves in the recruiting process.
“But you know, when you have a guy leave your program and go someplace else the day after the game, I don’t have any evidence that anything happened and I’m not making any accusations, but it makes you wonder, I guess,” he said. “But hopefully we have enough honesty and integrity out there amongst us professionally in our sport that people are going to abide by the rules.”
Saban has expressed caution in the past about the unintended consequences of the transfer portal and players earning money via name, image and likeness.
He said players should be able to make money, but it’s the latest change in college football that moves away from what he said was a long-held goal of creating parity.
“If we don’t create that balance, I think it’s going to affect the competitive standard of the game in the future and probably even affect other sports,” he said. “But so hopefully somebody will be able to figure that out.”
Saban was asked whether he was worried about the future of the sport.
“I think we’re always looking for a better way,” he said. “And I think we probably need some solutions to some of the unintended consequences of some of the things that have happened now. And I think we got a lot of people working on it. And I think a lot of people are interested in trying to make our game as competitive with some kind of equality as we can. And I’m sure that some people will come up with some solutions.
“But you have to be able to adapt to whatever the circumstance is, and that’s certainly what we were trying to do.”
Harrell wasn’t the only high-profile player Alabama pulled from the transfer portal this offseason.
The Crimson Tide signed former LSU All-SEC defensive back Eli Ricks and former Georgia Tech All-ACC running back/return specialist Jahmyr Gibbs. They also signed receiver Jermaine Burton, who led Georgia in receptions over the past two seasons, and offensive lineman Tyler Steen, who started three seasons at Vanderbilt.