I always feel a little sheepish when I learn about important articles in the Alabama media from bloggers in various far-flung parts of the country--finding said articles being one of the things I do, theoretically--but anyways, a big thumbs up to MGo/Fanhouse's Brian for bringing attention to this eye-opening article by Tim Gayle at the Advertiser.
Gayle breaks out the calculator on Alabama's roster-plus-signing class and finds out, whoops, even after non-qualifiers and medical departures Bama's still going to have promised 85 scholarships to somewhere in the neighborhood of 91 players come August. So unless six guys have a fantastic conversation with a representative from their local congregation of Latter-Day Saints and take off for a two-year mission in Estonia, Saban's going to have to, well, tell six guys they're now responsible for their own $12,000 a year if they would like to continue receiving a college education from the University of Alabama. Given that any player Saban chooses to cut is likely to also be the sort of player he can't find a use for on the field (given that if you are useful, he will find a way to get you on the field, by golly), those scholarships and the education attached possibly carry even greater importance to the players in question than most of the team. Oh well! Enjoy filling out your loan applications, kiddos. Or, I guess, enjoy I-AA or a year on Florida International's bench.
Brian's obviously not a fan of oversigning, but it's the heartlessness of Saban potentially stripping kids of their scholarships that's his essential point--a point completely lost on the Alabama bloggers who have responded to it. One of them is the Fanhouse's resident Tide supporter and thrower of stones in glass houses Pete Holiday, who blithely asserts that "academic disqualification, medical problems, early entries, team dismissals for rules violations" should solve Alabama's numbers issues (nevermind that draft entries for the year in question are long since past or that assuming six guys have horrific injuries or break rules really does make an ass out of U and me) while completely ignoring the whole, you know, guys getting their scholarship jacked thing. Even after a commenter helpfully reminds Holiday of the potential for cuts, Holiday reverts back to a no-more-than-25-in-a-class mantra, which is certainly true and all, but doesn't change the fact that Alabama has, according to Gayle, "70 non-seniors" on the roster and that 70 + 25 does not, in fact, equal 85. (In that comment Holiday also says "Spring enrollments are the only ones you need cap room for, and I don't think Alabama is anticipating having any of those" ... despite the fact that Gayle said two Tide signees had enrolled in January. Did he even read the article in question?)
But at least Holiday sort of recognizes that qualifying more than 25 players might be tricky. Meanwhile, at RollBamaRoll, OTS tells Brian, in response to his guesses at how many Tide signees won't qualify, that "you can eat those words six months from now when nearly all of this class has academically qualified." Again, back to Gayle:
The signing class will probably include several players who will not meet the minimum SEC academic requirements to earn admission to Alabama. That group includes Davidson tailback Jermaine Preyear, Mississippi cornerback Alonzo Lawrence, Huffman defensive lineman Marcel Dareus, Hargrave lineman Kerry Murphy and possibly receivers Melvin Ray and Devonta Bolton. If the remaining 24 players all qualify and at least two of those previously mentioned make the grade, Alabama coaches will have to delay someone's enrollment until 2009 or bring in a player as a walk-on, as former coach Mike DuBose's staff did with Terry Jones Jr. in the late 1990s.
Kid, we really, really need you to come play for the University of Alabama. You'll sign with us? Great! And hey, you studied all summer and got that ACT score you needed. Awesome! Welcome aboard! Oh, but we forgot to mention, you'll have to be a walk-on and that free tuition we promised you ... yeah, you're not getting that this year. Hope your parents have some dough stashed away. Or you can not play football for a year, that sounds cool, right? Not playing?
Apparently, either OTS is unaware of the 25-a-year cap (which I seriously, seriously doubt) or this scenario doesn't bother him. Promises, schmomises. We don't really know, since he skips the ramifications of all 29 guys qualifying to repeatedly make fun of Brian's hair (Stay classy, buddy).
OTS does, at the least, acknowledge that players are going to have to leave the team. "Players are going to leave and we all know it," he writes. "Many of the former staffs' previous signees, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, do not fit with the current scheme and may very well end up going elsewhere." Well, see, here's the rub--are they going to leave because they really feel they fit in better elsewhere, or are they leaving because they've been told, as Brian put it, to "get bent"? "No one is being 'run off' or anything sinister of the sort," OTS asserts, but for the Alabama coaching staff to simply--here comes that word again--assume that their kids are going to bail is ethically dubious to the Nth degree. What if they don't? What if they collectively decide that hey, this new signing class looks pretty sweet, I'm going to tough it out and play for a winner? What happens then is that kids have their scholarships taken away for not playing the game of football well enough to satisfy Nick Saban.
"Attrition is simply a part of college football," OTS writes. Good riddance," he said to potential "attrition" in December. Now, the kind of attrition where kids gets fed up and leave or get hurt or don't qualify, that attrition I can deal with. But the breaking of a $12-K-plus promise to a kid because the coaches don't think he's useful ... that kind I can't. I've said so before on this blog, and I remain fidgety about Auburn's oversigning for this very reason (Our side has had so many non-qualifiers this doesn't appear to be a problem, hooray hooray). Attrition of that sort should never, ever be a part of college football.
It must be pointed out that this attrition hasn't happened yet. I expect 'Bama to get their signing class down to 25 without forcing anyone to enroll as a walk-on. I'm sure a couple of players will decide on their own between now and August that Bama isn't the place for them. Add a couple to that category, suffer some fortunate debilitating injuries, and maybe Saban doesn't have to make cuts after all.
But that he would ever put his program in the position of hoping he's able to run kids off or that they get injured ... well, this is your soulless Coachbot at work, ladies and gents.
Disclaimer: RBR remains, of course, the go-to blog for the Tide, whatever I thought of OTS's post discussed here. Todd and Nico do great work and OTS is a sharp analyst when discussing, uh, less Saban-related matters--as, ironically, even Brian has pointed out.
UPDATE: Cripes. Perhaps before posting I should make sure in the future that nothing developed on the Auburn newswire late the previous evening that might make me look like a giant hypocrite. For the record: if Tubby pushed these guys out rather than having them simply decide to leave--one of them according to Marshall is about to graduate already, so at least he won't need the scholly in the fall--it's just not defensible. Likewise, the attitude of some Auburn fans in the comments that it's a good thing for Tubby to "rid the team of weight that is not performing" is, well, nauseating. I wish Daniels, Shrader, Miller, and Ferguson the best and really, really, really hope this is a decision they genuinely wanted to make, a decision that hopefully won't hurt an education they actually want.
UPDATE THE SECOND: A helpful commenter and Brian his own self (in a post overly kind to yours truly) point out that two of the four Auburn departees will graduate before losing their scholarship, a third got his standard four years out of his, and that the fourth is apparently an injury departee, so there appears to be no harm or foul here in the (potentially) Sabanesque sense. (In the alternate universe where that Soros guy is an Auburn fan and pays Auburn bloggers to blog full time instead of wasting millions on starving African children or whatever, I look these things up myself and look them up before I get all twitchy. Oh well.) So the above angst on Tubby's part is redacted.