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Alabama Crimson Tide's Nick Saban says megaconferences will create college football 'caste system'

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Nick Saban's thoughts on how conference realignment could divide college sports (1:25)

Nick Saban contends that conference realignment could affect competitive balance significantly in college athletics. (1:25)

ATLANTA -- Alabama coach Nick Saban on Tuesday said that megaconferences "may be something that we all have to deal with in the future."

Last month, USC and UCLA agreed to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. A year ago, Texas and Oklahoma announced that they were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.

Saban said that he believes realignment is being driven by money -- and might not be in the best interest of college football as a whole.

"Megaconferences will create more of a caste system, maybe, in college football, and everyone has to decide if that's the direction we really want to go or not," Saban told ESPN's Get Up on Tuesday.

Whether that's good or bad depends on who you are.

"At Alabama, we're one of the haves," Saban said. "It's probably a good thing. For some of the have-nots ... maybe it won't work out as well."

One of the biggest drivers of that imbalance is players' ability to make money from name, image and likeness deals. While he favors players being able to make money, Saban has pointed out the unintended consequence of collectives using promises of NIL earnings to entice recruits to certain schools.

He ignited a war of words earlier in the offseason when he said that Texas A&M has "bought every player" in its top-ranked signing class. Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher took offense to those comments, holding a hastily set-up news conference the following day in which he called what Saban said "despicable" and insisted, "we never bought anybody," and "no rules are broken."

Saban said he shouldn't have singled out Fisher and that the two were able to speak at SEC spring meetings in May. At SEC media days, Saban on Tuesday said he had "no issues" with Fisher and that he took his words to heart, but the Tide coach again addressed the lack of guardrails when it comes to NIL and how it has helped to create a "competitive balance issue."

"The biggest concern is how does this impact and affect recruiting?" Saban said Tuesday. "On the recruiting trail right now, there's a lot of people using this as inducements to go to their school by making promises as to whether they may or may not be able to keep in terms of what players are doing."

He added: "Everybody in college football cannot do these things relative to how they raise money in a collective or whatever, how they distribute money to players. Those are the concerns that I have in terms of how do we place guidelines around this so that we can maintain a competitive balance."

In spite of his objections, recruiting has remained strong for Alabama as NIL has entered its second year of existence. The Tide signed the No. 2-ranked class in the country in February, according to ESPN, and have signed five top-100 players in the Class of 2023.

Saban also hasn't shied away from taking players in the transfer portal to fill holes at several key positions.

Alabama lost running back Brian Robinson Jr., offensive tackle Evan Neal, defensive back Jalyn Armour-Davis and receivers John Metchie and Jameson Williams to the NFL. So the Tide brought in All-ACC running back Jahmyr Gibbs from Georgia Tech and All-SEC defensive back Eli Ricks from LSU, along with a pair of veteran SEC starters in Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton and Vanderbilt offensive lineman Tyler Steen.

Alabama returns two of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy in quarterback Bryce Young, who won the award last year, and outside linebacker Will Anderson, who led the country in sacks and tackles for loss and won the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is awarded to the top defensive player in college football.

"To have two players that make such a significant impact on our team as those two guys, I don't recall ever having a circumstance like that," Saban said. "We've had some great impact players, but never one on offense, one on defense of that caliber."

Alabama opens the season against Utah State at home on Sept. 3. A week later, the Crimson Tide travel to Texas to play the Longhorns.