Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There's More than 85 Ways to Win Championships

This is more of a recruiting topic suited for February, but some recent readings have steered my laptop in this direction. Plus recruiting is basically a year round Christmas Sale that's just merely celebrated a month and a half later. I realize the basis for the post is similar to a post raised by The Senator yesterday; he beat me to the punch. That's why he has his title...and why I'm just another dude with a blogspot.

Balancing your recruiting would seem a simple practice. You're allowed 85 scholarships and can sign up to 25 each year. But we all know how math works in Alabama. Recruiting beyond the rim likely originated in Bear's tenure. Afterall, it was the Crimson Tide's swimming coach back in the 60s that ran out of money trying to buy enough life vests for the 270lb behemoths that lined the outside of the pool.

And since Darling Nicky arrived in Tuscaloosa, the waters have only gotten murkier. Consequently, the blog has begun a campaign to either destroy the Bama tackle football program or end the practice of oversigning players. Maybe both. You'd enjoy it if you like numbers, stats and charts. You'll get especially giddy if you're a wartiger dressed as a HillBillyThe news of Bama QB Star Jackson's transfer last week mostly flew under the radar. And I'm sure Bama fans checked it off as a good recruit who couldn't hold his head above the 4 and 5 star waters that Saban has them bathing in. But the truth of the matter is that Saban has a long way to go.
Alabama had 66 players returning on scholarship when they signed 29 new recruits.  11 of those 29 enrolled early, putting the roster at 77, and leaving 18 more still coming in the Fall.  4 from the roster of 66 have already left (this includes Star Jackson), so that puts the roster at 73.  73 + 18 = 91.  91 is 6 more than 85.
If I'm wearing crimson at the wrong end of the locker room, I'm more than a little nervous. Of course, there's still plenty of time until Saban's own self-audit is due in August. There could be more transfers, medical hardships and general impropriety that lead to dismissals.'s ok. Coach thinks you can still help us.

So, is what Saban (and to be fair, many other coaches across the land both near and far) doing legal? Yes, the trophy ain't gonna leave Bryant-Denny's armpit. Is it ethical? I guess that depends on who you ask.
"Star has made a tremendous amount of improvement and done a very, very good job. But I think sometimes when quarterbacks can't see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of when they might be able to play, they get a little antsy and might want to go someplace else. Star and I have discussed it, and we're going to help him do what he feels is going to make him and his family the best decision for his future."
So Mr. Jackson is just a casualty of a competitive depth chart. A month ago (yeah, even now) many Dawg fans would've given their first born for the problem that Saban is ankle crotch deep in. But a dose of reality usually provides some clarity.
How can Nick Saban say that he hates for any player to leave the program?  He oversigns his classes by 10 players nearly every year which means that players are going to have to leave in order for Alabama to stay under the 85 player limit.  Nick, if you hate to see players leave the program then quit signing more than you have room for every year and no one will have to leave unexpectedly, or at least not as many.  This is poppy cock BS.  The harsh reality of the situation is that no matter what, Saban has accepted 10 more LOI than he has room for and some how, some way, people have to leave or pay their own way or Alabama will be penalized by the NCAA for having too many players on scholarship.
The practice created a ripple when Coach Giggity was the posterchild in 2009. What happens now that Nick Damn Saban is the clubhouse leader while operating so far in the red? His twenty-nine '10 signees is nowhere near Nutt's whopping thirty-seven (37!!!) in '09. But we know this problem isn't a matter of the head pachyderm not being able to say No!

Scholarship revocation (or reallocation...whatevs) isn't secluded to the gridiron of course. Dawg fans remember the name Mike Anderson, the Missouri coach that told us No Thanks. Well, he's recently come under a fair share of scrutiny for two player transfers. The fumes from the bus out of town were just settling when two highly sought after JUCO players did some settling in Columbia as well. Anderson got coincidental with the media. It seems the transfers coming in were better than the transfers going out. Go figure.

As despicable as the practice may be and as distasteful as many may find it, the fact remains that it is hunky dorey with the NCAA.

"This happens a lot more than anybody even believes," said New Haven management professor Allen Sack, a former Notre Dame football player and vocal NCAA critic. "You're allowed to do it. According to the NCAA, there's nothing wrong with it.
"Coaches don't go out of their way to clarify (scholarship length). They make it as vague as they possibly can."
Durrell Chamarro would disagree about the vagueness of his offer from former Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick.
"I was told that as long as I maintained at least a 2.0 GPA and didn't break any rules, I would have my scholarship for four or five years," said Chamorro.
Yet after Chamarro's redshirt freshman year as a place kicker he had his scholarship revoked. Lubick's reasoning was simple: he wasn't good enough.And therein lies the fine gray line. A coach is hired to win and feels he must do any and everything to protect his program. Oversigning and revoking scholarships is a corner that's legal to cut.

At least it is legal for now. The US Justice Department's antitrust division is currently looking into the discrepancy of whether athletic scholarships are "one year merit based" rewards or promises of more that are broken all too often.

Am I glad Mark Richt doesn't dive into the waters that many of his SEC colleagues do...yes. Am I disgusted by kids being uprooted just because their value has dropped since they walked across their high school stage...certainly. But I also find it hard to blame the Sabans and Nutts when it's the NCAA that gives them the authority.


Gov Milledge said...

Alabammer is probably banking on 6 recruits being academic non-qualifiers due to their prestigious and rigorous admission requirements

Ollllddude said...

I am too lazy to check, but my recollection is that for a while - particularly late 50s & early 60s - there really wasn't a scholarship limit. Both Bryant and Dietzel at LSU got as many as they could. Seems like Dietzel had three full teams he could just rotate, and if you think about it, in the heat of Tiger Stadium, they didn't have to be all that great, just fresh bodies. I am pretty sure that Bear and Paul and their recruiting activities are what led to NCAA limits. Gotta help out Notre Dame and the Big 10 and West coast folks a little, you know.

Dawgfan17 said...

I think that as long as a kid is getting it done in the classroom and not breaking any rules the scholarship should be good until his 4/5 years (depending on rs) are up. How bad would it be if next year after having gray stick around this year MR took away his scholarship because suddenly we had Lemay, Murray, Mason and possibly another qb so we didnt really need Gray as a backup. I hope that over time kids and high school coaches start to get fed up with guy's like Saban's way of doing it and tell future players to stay away. That is often why it is harder to stay on top than it is to get to the top. We shall see.

Unknown said...

Ponder this for a minute. If a kid is on academic scholarship, he/she is generally required to maintain a certain academic standard, or that schollie can be revoked. Let's say Player X gets a football scholarship to State U. He knows it's a 4/5 year guarantee and so he slacks it on conditioning, doesn't work all that hard in practice, and when he sees the playing field, seems to be living on some other planet.

The coaches have heart-to-hearts with this kid, but he simply can't or won't get the message. But because this scholarship is guaranteed, they can't fail to renew his scholarship. I wonder what the academic kid who had his schollie revoked would think about that? We're only going for fairness here, right? Is that scenario fair? And isn't it reasonable to suppose that if athletic scholarships were re-worked so that they were guaranteed, that there would be a few kids here and there that would take advantage?

Bernie said...

Great point Henri. We are sometimes slow to remind ourselves that the signature on the LOI is a two way commitment. But it's hard to justify Nutt and Saban's (and MANY others, to be fair) aggressive recruiting. A lot of these kids are holding their own off the field. These coaches are just trying to make sure their depth chart is covered in case they've mis-evaluated or dropped the ball altogether.

Unknown said...

Bernie, I am sure there is some of that going on, but it sure isn't up to one of us to just assume the worst until we know the circumstances, and it is darned near impossible for us to know exactly what happened. What this website owner appears to be doing, albeit simultaneously with some facts and a TON of inference and supposition, is to attempt to document what's going on. My take after I read a lot of what's there, is that he is using about 90% inference and 10% facts. A dangerous combination.

Bernie said...

That IS a dangerous combination. But my point with that last sentence in the post is that however despicable the practice is, it is legal. If Oversight's agenda is indeed to throw mud on the SEC and/or bring down Saban's Bama, then it is misguided. What these coaches are doing is legit. Lots of harm and no foul, sure. But legit.

For the time being...

scrodz said...

Player attrition has been limited to transfers, medical hardships, non-qualifiers, discipline issues, and "pursuing other interests". How is this "Lots of harm"?

Bernie said...

The pursuing other interests is a catch all. Many times the coaches are on firm moral ground (with me at least) when they release a kid from his scholarship. Other times, not. Tyler Stone and Durrell Chamarro didn't do anything wrong. Yet were shown the door and uprooted from a place they had made home. I would find that harmful.