The most successful coach in college football history publicly accused a rival coach of "buying" every player on his team as a way of explaining why his own team didn't finish No. 1 in recruiting rankings, per usual.
That comment incited a rebuttal from the accused coach that not only scorched the Earth, he doubled back with a flamethrower to make sure he didn't miss a single blade of grass.
Even in a sport celebrated for its drama and wacky nature, Jimbo Fisher's nine-minute takedown of Nick Saban earlier this week had longtime followers saying they've never seen anything like it.
Fisher, the Texas A&M coach who once served as assistant under Saban, called his former boss a "narcissist" and insinuated that the legendary coach is a rules-breaker, encouraging people to dig into Alabama's program. He also noted that Saban could have used a smack to his noggin as a kid. That's just the short version of Fisher's rant.
College sports in 2022 — football in particular — has become the popcorn eating emoji, a combination of professional wrestling and trashy reality TV. Only better and juicier because this is real drama and real disdain, nothing fake.
And I love it.
Feuds have long been customary in college sports. Coach vs. coach, school vs. school. Animosity among rivals is part of the tapestry that keeps emotions simmering.
What is unfolding now is more than a simmer. The water is boiling and rushing over the sides. Coaches aren't biting their tongue or whispering about alleged improprieties in private. This was mudslinging with a microphone in the middle of town square.
The entire college sports landscape is ablaze right now, knocked off its axis by the dual arrival of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness (NIL). The mood can best be described as anger and paranoia. Fear of the unknown about what's coming next.
Change makes people uneasy, and college sports have been fundamentally transformed over the past few years. The entire system has been turned upside down, and those in charge are swimming in quicksand.
That is the root of Saban-Fisher's dust-up and the anxiousness inside athletic departments coast to coast: The inability to dictate and control every single thing anymore.
The NCAA, schools and coaches can no longer throw up roadblocks that prevent athletes from transferring. The portal and one-time transfer rule provide an open runway.
NIL legislation opens opportunities for athletes to make money and, predictably, created a system that allows boosters to get involved and influence recruiting.
Combine the portal and NIL and the result is what many are calling the wild, wild West.
Booster-backed "collectives" are bankrolling lucrative payoffs to athletes. Coaches are using NIL guarantees to entice either high school recruits or athletes in the portal looking for a new destination. Tales of tampering and other shenanigans aren't hard to find. Some of them are wild.
Soon after Fisher signed the No. 1 recruiting class, a message board poster who goes by the name "Sliced Bread" floated a rumor that the Aggies operate a $30 million fund for recruits. The rumor gained enough traction online that Fisher actually referenced the mysterious conspirator "Sliced Bread" in defending his program back in February.
He's no Deep Throat, but Sliced Bread certainly caused a stir.
When rumors surfaced recently that Pittsburgh receiver Jordan Addison, one of the top players in college football, was considering transferring to Southern California, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi had "multiple contentious phone calls" with Trojans coach Lincoln Riley, ESPN reported. Addison made it official Thursday that he is transferring to USC.
May is normally a slow period for college football, but Saban and Fisher captured the sports world's attention by playing catch with a stick of dynamite, which sent people scrambling to find the date when Texas A&M plays Alabama this season in what assuredly will set viewership records. The answer: Oct. 8.
Let's hope they kick off festivities that weekend with a steel cage match.
They can invite Sliced Bread to be the referee.