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Jimbo Fisher vs. Nick Saban feud is a dud at SEC spring meetings

If you were looking for fireworks between the two national title coaches, you’ll be disappointed.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher addresses reporters during the SEC's 2022 spring meetings at the Hilton Sandestin.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher addresses reporters during the SEC's 2022 spring meetings at the Hilton Sandestin. [ MATT BAKER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jun. 1, 2022|Updated Jun. 1, 2022

DESTIN — One of the biggest coaching feuds in recent college football history has fizzled out. Publicly, at least.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher repeatedly declined to discuss his pointed remarks that his former boss, Alabama’s Nick Saban, won championships improperly.

Related: Eliah Drinkwitz: No beef with former Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen

“I’m through talking about that,” Fisher said Wednesday during the SEC spring meetings. “We’ve moved on.”

The tension between two national championship coaches dominated the buildup to the meetings at the Hilton Sandestin. Saban previously said the Aggies bought every player in their top-ranked recruiting class, with Fisher firing back that reporters should look into how Saban won his titles.

The bickering didn’t resurface during the closed-door conversations. Fisher said they spoke about “both things” in the beginning of the meeting, then moved on to discussing the sport’s issues.

“They weren’t wrestling in there, I can tell you that,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said.

Saban declined to get into the spat Tuesday during his news conference. He said he shouldn’t have singled out any program specifically and that he has “no issues” with Fisher, who coached under him at LSU.

Related: 3 takeaways on Florida Gators coach Billy Napier’s SEC meetings news conference

Fisher didn’t say much, either. The former Florida State coach declined to say whether the NCAA has reached out to him about possible rules violations involving Saban’s programs. When asked to put a bow on the topic by saying whether he regretted any of his comments, Fisher said: “Do you want me to double-knot it? I’m not talking about that. We’re moving on.”

Tampa tourney

Despite praise from commissioner Greg Sankey, it doesn’t sound as if Tampa will be hosting another SEC men’s basketball tournament anytime soon.

Amalie Arena hosted the event in March, but it will go back to Nashville next season for at least five more years. Sankey said Nashville will likely become a de facto permanent site for the event, just as Atlanta has been for the conference’s football championship.

Farewell, divisions?

Future conference scheduling formats have been a central topic in meetings, but don’t expect a decision by the end of the week.

Sankey said discussions have focused away from the current two-division model once Texas and Oklahoma join, on or before 2025. The league will have decide whether it wants eight or nine conference games and whether to have one or three annual games (like Florida-Georgia). A primary goal is to have teams play each other more frequently; last September was the first time Alabama visited Gainesville in a decade.

Related: Why Lane Kiffin thinks Florida Gators’ Billy Napier will do well at UF

The possibility of an SEC-only playoff remains “in a folder some place,” Sankey said. The league talked about it after a proposal to expand the College Football Playoff died this year, leaving no plan in place once the current deal expires after the 2025 season.

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Sankey said an SEC playoff wasn’t created or intended “as a threat” to other conferences but was merely an acknowledgement of the uncertain future of the sport’s postseason.

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