01 February 2012
It was a banner day for Alabama football. All told, 26 guys signed (and we'll have more on them in the coming hours and days), and it's all but a done deal that Alabama has culled the number one recruiting class in nation.
There was a darker side to the day though, as Nick Saban once again becomes a villian in the "oversigning" debate. Darius Philon is a defensive tackle out of Mobile, Alabama's Vigor High School. He's been an Alabama commitment for some time. However, at some point in the last few weeks, Philon was informed he wasn't going to be welcome on campus in August. That's where the trouble starts.
At least, that's the report. It makes sense, especially considering that Alabama had 26 spots on their "big board" this morning. So, it's clear that Alabama anticipated having room for 26 today. Philon hasn't commented, and his coach says that he believes that Philon got the call about the grayshirt offer last week.
If that's true, it's not cool. No kid should be put in that position and have the rug pulled out from underneath him like that. In my book, it's not OK.
So, where does that leave us? A year ago, he'd likely have signed today, then made it in when another signee failed to qualify or got drafted or someone else left the team - or possibly told in August he'd be grayshirting (something Saban has never done, for what it's worth). As it stands now, he still (apparently) still wants to attend Alabama, and is willing to sit out until January. Or, he can now consider other offers from other schools (Arkansas and Auburn both have room and interest).
"It might be over with by the end of the day; it might take him until June," Stevenson said of Philon, who had originally committed to Auburn before switching to Alabama in September. "If he didn't sign, he's still got an opportunity to go somewhere else. Everybody else in the SEC was calling him.
"He's a good football player. Somebody will take him."
Let me say again that this is no way to treat a young man. From an ethical standpoint, I'd always want the representatives of the University to be as open, honest and forthcoming as possible. From a practical standpoint, there's just so many times you can do this without other coaches using it against you. You do not want to be in this spot.
That's what's spelled out later in the same article:
Stevenson said Philon, who took no other visits after committing in September, feels like "he had the world snatched from up under him," and he was unsure what Philon might do.
"My kid committed to the University of Alabama and hasn't talked to anybody since then," Stevenson said of Philon, who was No. 119 on the Press-Register's Super Southeast 120. "I'm pretty sure he's wondering, 'Why me?' On a number of occasions, they stated how much they don't want to lose him.
"They got put in a bind. I can see where it could happen, especially with this being the first year of the SEC putting in a stipulation like this."
Fundamentally, this kid has been shafted a bit. It's not the worst possible scenario; LSU's handling of Elliott Porter still has that distinction.
It seems to me that Saban and company got caught with their pants down a bit on the new rule that limits 25 inital enrollees (the fact that Bama signed 26 is on a loophole that allows students who enroll in January to count towards last year's class - if that class was under 25). The offers were already out when the rule went into place, and their planning was less than ideal. When late, big need commitments came from players would the staff felt would more likely contribute in September, someone had to go. And that someone was Darius Philon.
If Philon decides that Alabama doesn't have his best interest at heart and moves on to Auburn or Arkansas, it'd be tough to wish him any ill will. We saw this same scenario play out with Justin Taylor a few weeks ago (he signed with Kentucky today).
It's an issue, and one that hopefully Saban and company will get better at addressing. It's not the sort of thing I'd like my alma mater to be associated with, and hopefully we'll see less (or ideally, none) of this in the future.
UPDATE: Philon has signed with Arkansas. Good luck young man, sorry it couldn't work out differently.