Nick Saban is steering a “decaying” Alabama football program away from competition as the fight over SEC scheduling models rages into 2025.

That was the message from That SEC Podcast host Mike Bratton during an appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show over the weekend. It was a claim that caught Finebaum off guard and one that certainly would catch the attention of any fan of the program that has 15 consecutive double-digit-win seasons under Saban.

The head ball coach for the Crimson Tide has long been an advocate for a 9-game conference schedule — the SEC will play 8 in 2024 and re-evaluate in 2025 — but in recent months he has spoken more and more about the balance that would need to accompany a longer league calendar. The Alabama head coach told Sports Illustrated in March that the 3 fixed opponents would need to be “right” and questioned why Alabama would get Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU as permanent opponents.

“We got 3 teams and 2 of them are in the top 10 and the other is in the top 10 a lot,” he said. “Look historically over a 25-year history, and the 3 best teams in the East are Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. You look historically at 25 years, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn are the 3 best teams in the West. So, we’re playing them all.”

After the SEC revealed its decision for the 2024 schedule, Saban told gathered media at a “Habitat for Humanity” event in Tuscaloosa that there were “good and bad” in both of the scheduling models the league looked at.

Bratton told Finebaum on Friday that Saban’s comments on the schedule are shortsighted and self-serving.

“It looks to me like Nick Saban is afraid of the competition,” Bratton said. “He’s running for the hills because Kirby (Smart) and Georgia are taking over the SEC. And I think that’s a short-sighted approach, Paul, because last time I checked Alabama plays Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn every year. I realize we’re getting away with the divisions so maybe he was hoping to escape those top-tier programs facing his decaying Alabama program.

“The thing that he’s overlooking is we’re getting away from the SEC West. We all know that’s the toughest division in all of college football. And if they’ve gotta play LSU, Tennessee, and Auburn, guess what? They get to drop A&M. They get to drop Ole Miss. They get to drop Arkansas and insert Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Missouri. At the end of the day, I think it all evens out. It’s not just Nick Saban having to face these teams, it’s the entire league. I think he needs to get with the program, and that, to me, is just another sign there’s fear in Nick Saban’s voice.”