04 November 2011
This weekend’s matchup between Alabama and LSU has been the focus of nearly every sports broadcast this week. It’s attracted as much attention as any regular season football game I can recall (and I’ve seen lots and lots of weeks of football).
Much to the chagrin of some, though, there have been very few mentions of “oversigning”. Some have latched on to every single chance to hassle the national media into covering this “crisis”. As the internet’s self appointed defender of oversigning, let’s tackle this once more.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that I think that there are some troubling aspects to oversigning. It’s never OK, in my opinion, to make promises to a 17 or 18 year old kid, and then break those promises wholesale.
For instance, what happened to Elliott Porter at LSU is terrible. That kind of thing should never happen, and if it’s allowed under the rules (it is), then the rules should be changed. A student athlete should never enroll then be told to go home. If a student is going to be asked to greyshirt, they should be aware that it is a possibility.
This is where I must note that this sort of thing has never happened at Alabama under Nick Saban’s watch. Every kid who’s been greyshirted by Nick Saban has been well aware, in advance, that it was a possibility. Sometimes, it works out that those guys get to come in on time anyway (see Danny Woodson, Jr. this year).
This is where I have the biggest gripe with critics of oversigning. Inevitably, they paint with a wide brush. I understand that most of this griping goes on on Twitter, and 140 characters is a tough place for nuance. But the fact that Nick Saban is the face of oversigning, while Les Miles gets away with these sorts of thing is ridiculous.
I understand that Saban is a much less likeable character than Miles – it’s unlikely you’ll see Saban eating grass or talking about “sincere contact" on Saturday. Miles’s outsized personality makes him much more loveable. Saban is therefore an easy target.
But to continue this fiction that Saban “cuts” players is intellectually dishonest. He has removed players from the team to be sure. Robbie Green comes to mind – he was a consistent discipline problem who was given a way back to the program, but couldn’t make it work. Rod Woodson had a similar path at the University.
Both of these guys were exceptionally talented. Green was expected to start last season (before he lost the season to a suspension). Any claim that these guys were outright cut is one totally without evidence.
There has been attrition at the University. It has almost entirely been players who were apparently told that they would not contribute (Star Jackson and BJ Scott come to mind). Saban was once again totally honest with these kids.
I suppose critics of oversigning would prefer Saban continue to tell players that they have a chance long after they don’t. I believe that it’s much more damaging to kids to tell them that they could get on the field when they realistically have no shot.
And if a student athlete wants to play college football so badly he’s willing to transfer to a smaller, less challenging school, then who I am (or anyone else) to say he can’t.
In Nick Saban’s tenure though, the number of players who have not been given an opportunity for college have been few and far between. There are two student athletes who felt that they were pressured into medical hardship scholarships. If they were, then they shouldn’t have been.
Under Nick Saban, there are only two student athletes who have left the University of Alabama football team without a either a medical hardship scholarship or scholarship elsewhere. Both were accused of felonies.
Other than those two, every student that Alabama has signed (and has become academically eligible) has had the opportunity to get a college education. Some have chosen to play baseball professionally. Some have transferred to smaller schools. Some have given up football.
There’s no evidence that a single player who’s stayed within the law has been told they are not welcome back on the University of Alabama’s football squad. To say that “dozens of trashed lives got these teams where they are” is asinine.
Until someone can point at this litany of trashed lives with actual data – even anecdotal data – then there’s no need to treat this like the biggest issue in the world.
Every big game in every sport can be tarnished by some detail. When Ohio State and Michigan play later this year, the focus will not be on tattoos versus extra practice time. When Auburn and Georgia play it won’t all be about Cam Newton’s father or failed drug tests.
The bottom line is the two best teams in college football will line up Saturday and play each other in what is essentially an elimination game. It’s something you just doesn’t happen (Cecil Hurt, as always, makes this point more eloquently than I ever could).
If you can’t get excited to watch that without constantly carping about oversiging, then maybe it’s time to find another sport to watch.
|< Prev||Next >|