in town for free camps
Kolarik. It's not a groin, it's a hamstring, and it will keep Kolarik out 4-5 weeks if all goes according to plan. We won't see him until at least the Joe and maybe not even then, as these sorts of injuries have a tendency to linger. I am mildly encouraged that it's not Kolarik's groin -- groin injuries are about the nastiest ones you can get in hockey.
The weekend. Michigan held serve with a pair of 4-2 victories over Lake State and Miami did us the great favor of getting inexplicably swept by Ferris State, staking Michigan to a five point lead in the CCHA. Michigan can go 2-2 in the final two weekends of the regular season and still win the league; sweep Michigan State and Michigan locks the title up.
HOWEVA, the Kolarik injury and Michigan's recent struggles against tight-checking teams makes that latter scenario doubtful. Michigan won both nights against the Lakers but in terms of overall level of play this weekend was actually a step down from the two ties against Northern. In that series, Michigan significantly outshot and outchanced a mediocre CCHA team only to be undone by bad luck and a couple of horrific goals yielded by Brian Hogan on Saturday; this weekend one of the worst teams in the league was close to even in shots and chances but for a two-minute five on three Friday.
The upcoming pair against MSU will help clarify whether Michigan's difficulties against defensive-minded, neutral-zone-clogging opponents are a burgeoning trend or just a couple bad weekends. Another poo weekend against MSU and I'm officially concerned-ish.
Yost Built has its take, too.
Hokay. It's like this. By virtue of Michigan's performance to date they have locked up a tournament bid and will be no worse than a two seed no matter what happens from here on out. Michigan could go 0-6 the rest of the way and be a two seed.
Full PWR here.
There are six teams out there that can wrest their comparisons from Michigan:
Real Moonbat Stuff
Miami: Miami's really hurt by their closing schedule. Wins against OSU and WMU aren't likely to count at all in their RPI and will not help them with common opponents, which is currently favoring Miami because Michigan hasn't played Ferris State yet. As long as M wins the conference they'll win COP and RPI. If Michigan somehow blows it, Miami will have an opportunity to wrest the comparison away from M by outperforming them in the playoffs.
Denver: Michigan would have to really implode and DU would have to win out in the regular season or, failing that, win the WCHA playoffs. And that's just to get past Michigan in RPI; even then Michigan might win the comparison.
UNH: Loses COP (barely and unfairly... 6-0-1 for them to our 4-0) and that won't change, but is close in TUC. Way back in RPI, though, and would need a really poor performance from M coupled with a win in the HE playoffs.
Michigan State: State is way far back and normally would not be within striking distance, but they have two, maybe three games coming up against Michigan and could take the comparison if they win two more games than Michigan does against them. MSU would have to sweep next weekend or take three points and beat Michigan in the CCHA playoffs.
North Dakota: The streaking Sioux have a COP edge on Michigan they'll keep unless they manage to lose to Wisconsin or Minnesota in the WCHA tourney -- doubtful. Michigan will hold their RPI edge into the conference playoffs unless UND wins at least five of six and Michigan splits down the stretch -- UND has to win three more games than Michigan does, basically -- but if it's close by the time the league playoffs roll around M could get passed.
Colorado College: CC also holds COP and is about two games back in RPI.
Note that CC and DU finish the regular season with a series, so both passing Michigan is virtually impossible.
The upshot: Root against all these teams, very little else matters. Michigan will be in danger of losing its top two seed if they get swept by State this weekend, giving them that comparison.
Michigan State on the road and then the annual game at the Joe. Last time the two teams met, Michigan lost 1-0 in a nearly unwatchable game and tied 2-2 in a nearly unwatchable game. No even strength goals were scored the entire weekend except for Matt Schepke's "Sparty, no!" own goal with two minutes left in Saturday's third period.
Since then, MSU has split against UNO, been swept by Northern, and swept Western... not particularly inspiring. But they know how to frustrate Michigan and Kolarik is out.
A split is okay, and is what I expect.
I doubt most of this blog's readership gives a crap, and so this will be the last word. And that word is... basically, Alabama fans don't care.
If you get a scholarship offer to play football, you damn well better produce or someone else is going to take your place. Is that mean? Maybe, but I don't see you bitching about kids on academic scholarships that lose theirs because they don't keep their grades up. Produce and contribute, you'll be fine. Screw around and don't live up to your end of the bargain, tough, deal with it.
The fucking point is the NCAA allows non-renewal of grants-in-aid. There are specific rules for that. And you don't really know how many student athletes will be back next year. Additionally, your point the NCAA doesn't want you kicking kids off the team is a very large assumption. If that were so, the scholarships would be for longer than one academic year.
Pete Holiday on the Fanhouse, listing options when Alabama has 86 kids in August:
A non-contributing scholarship player who is not putting in the effort to become a contributing player turns into a walk-on. Scholarships are year-to-year. Nobody is guaranteed four or five years of scholarship. Cook draws an arbitrary line at fourth year juniors to try to advance his argument, but even he concedes that revoking scholarships is within the rules of the game.
They know. They don't care. This is the fundamental disagreement. These Alabama bloggers universally declare that "THERE IS NO PROBLEM!" but if there is a problem, then well that's just life isn't it? They've given up on arguing against the idea that the Alabama roster is going to be a precarious place because of Alabama's massive oversigning and are now arguing that cutting a kid halfway through his collegiate career is okay. The rest of it... ad hominem of truly impressive length that doesn't address the fundamental point. It's telling that so many of 'Bama fans words on this topic have been about me and a couple of throwaway lines, and not about the actual matter at hand.
The best argument Alabama fans have is that there's a chance the roster crunch resolves itself without anything untoward happening to anyone on the current roster and that we should wait to see what happens before declaring Saban in the wrong. If you think having a chance at not doing something untoward is sufficient... well. Suffice it to say I don't.
A line at fourth year juniors is not "arbitrary." College degrees are designed to be acquired in four years. There is a major difference between cutting a kid who is about to get his degree and forcing a kid who is in the middle of his college career off of scholarship and possibly to another school.
'Bama either has a scam going or Michigan should institute the "Everyone Scholarship." The 'Bama bloggers are making much of this hypothetical "Bear Bryant scholarship" and how it will allow one of the incoming players in the class to not count against the 85 limit. If that's true it's a scam the NCAA should shut down. Think about it: it's a scholarship for walk-ons. Uh... remind me of the definition of a walk-on again?
In order for a National Letter of Intent it be considered valid, it must be accompanied by an athletics financial aid award letter, which lists the terms and conditions of the award, including the amount and duration of the financial aid. The athletics financial aid offer must be signed by both the student and his or her parent or legal guardian. Simply put, there must be an athletics scholarship for a National Letter of Intent to be valid.
This Wesley Neighbors guy signed a letter of intent with Alabama over offers from Georgia Tech and Vandy, so he should count against the 85 limit from the day he steps on campus.
This so peripheral to the argument at hand, though: even if the NCAA lets an actual football prospect with other SEC and ACC offers spend two years at Alabama without counting against the 85 limit, Alabama's still 5 scholarships over without a reasonable way to remove any more than one or two more players from the team legitimately.
Nick Saban isn't alone in this. You might be able to make a case that Saban has even less time for NCAA regulations, ethics, and the like than most coaches if you were really trying hard or an Auburn fan. Personally, I don't care and believe that even if Saban is the winner it's by a nose over everyone except Jim Grobe. I only wrote the thing on Saban because of the Gayle article that drew a picture of severe oversigning even when you take most of the reasonable departures into account. This is a general hobby-horse of mine.
Any anger you've seen about this thing is a reaction to the ludicrous excess and, frankly, overwhelming stupidity of most of the responses. I apologize that my temper has obscured my point if you really get worked up about the rhetorical deployment of profanity.
There should probably be some sort of Baby Godwin Award. IE: the instant you put up a picture of a crying baby, you lose the argument.
Put your face where your mouth is. Lord knows this blog isn't above calling someone "horseface." A well-executed ad hominem is funny. But it's poor form to taunt someone's appearance without providing the target an opportunity to respond in kind.
One down! At this rate they'll be done by April:
Alabama freshman defensive lineman Jeremy Elder has been arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree robbery.
Elder was arrested Sunday and remained jailed Monday morning on $120,000 bond.
RBR says that "this is one of the reasons you oversign in the first place"; not even I think Nick Saban plans for six kids to commit armed robbery by fall.
The final point in a pithy a form as I can muster: Schools should never put themselves in a position where they are actively hoping to remove someone from the roster.
There is also an interview of me over at Alabama Gameday for those wishing for even more kerfuffle; I don't remember some of those commas and believe they were erroneously inserted in the editing process but the gist of the thing is correct. Also, MATW has my back.
Fin. No more.
Pryor. Nevermind. A Mike Farrell article on Pryor:
Pryor admits he was set to sign with Ohio State the day before Feb. 6, but a conversation with his father, Craig, made him think twice. His father wanted him to take another look at Penn State and take an official visit.
The previous optimism-like substance in this space was based on the idea that Michigan was the surprise choice on Signing Day. That was not the case, so that optimism gets a stake in the face. Pryor still maintains that Michigan is part of his decision process, but... uh... no. Michigan was not the choice on signing day and Pryor will not be visiting. One phone call a week from Rodriguez isn't going to change anything. He's going elsewhere, hopefully in someone's Corvette with NCAA investigators in tow.
Eeee? Barwis? John Ferrara:
"We're all going to be in really good shape, and definitely there's a change with his program," defensive tackle John Ferrara said, patting his chest. "I can already see it on myself. In four weeks, the change my body's gone through is amazing. It's a credit to this new workout system he has, a couple new things we had never done before."
2/17/2008 - Michigan 80, Ohio State 70 - NCAA bound, baby!
...is that we go like 4-1 the rest of the season, then sweep through Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana, and Purdue to grab a shock NCAA tournament bid. Being a sub-.500 team that actually kind of sucks, we're sent to the play-in game in Dayton. Seventeen thousand Michigan fans pack the arena to 150% of capacity as the Wolverines blow out Monmouth.
From there, it's pretty rote: one ho-hum victory after another and a second national championship banner. Michigan basketball fans go from abused to jaded and irritating faster than Bill Simmons. The end.
Or maybe not, but it's amazing what three consecutive wins will do for one's psyche, even if they're against utterly dire, mostly dire, and kind-of-dire competition. The last time we checked in on the basketball team around these parts the results ("I want to die," or words to that effect) fully warranted this blog's "emo" tag; nowadays you can visit your Michigan message board of choice and find multiple threads on how this team is so going to the tourney next year, which it almost definitely isn't.
While the bipolarity of fandom is a well-established phenomenon, bipolarity of basketball teams isn't. The last time Michigan played OSU they hung tough for most of the game until a crippling stretch late wherein they couldn't find a shot even close to "good"; the resulting drought lasted for a good chunk of the game's closing ten minutes and turned a narrow Michigan lead into yet another dispiriting loss. This time they continued scoring via turnover and steal and even the occasional drive to the hoop. A month ago against Minnesota they were so depressing it seemed Michigan would never, ever have a good team again; they have now won three straight.
Hell, midway through the first half against Iowa I got an IM from Black Heart Gold Pants impresario Oops Pow Surprise to the effect of "you have the worst basketball team in the known universe," which was true at that moment in time when the score was 22-7 and Michigan had 7 FGAs. I did not receive the corresponding "AAAAARGH AAAAAARGH AAAAAARGH" note during the 18-2 second half run that erased Michigan's deficit and staked them to a lead they would maintain for the rest of the game, but I sensed it in the cosmos so that was all right.
What happened to the clueless team from earlier in the year? Well, with Harvard spiraling its way towards last place in the Ivy League we can safely assert that it takes more than a couple months to organize a system at maximum entropy, and it takes more than a couple months to turn the smartest basketball team in the land into a confused gooey mess. The progress Michigan was decidedly not making from the Amaker era -- at points during the first Ohio State game the offense was indistinguishable from the random, purposeless ball movement of yore -- has all come in a rush.
So for now the future is bright. Check back in two weeks.
- Rushing the court? Seriously? Whoever started that should be given a swift kick in the appropriate place. I realize this is a beaten-down program, but Ohio State isn't ranked and is (now) likely headed for the NIT. It would have been much better to stay in place and deliver a "drive home safely" chant at the OSU retards occupying the upper reaches of Crisler.
- Speaking of, there was again an organized opponent student section, which, like... WTF. The athletic department has got to put a limit on the number of seats anyone can buy and spread these people out. They did provide a moment of terrific irony by chanting "asshole" at Rich Rodriguez during halftime. Buckeye fans will never change. I have a feeling we're on the downswing of the Well Behaved Buckeye Fan pendulum after the relentless focus OSU had on not being cavemen last year. As soon at that relaxes the slide begins; their pathological antipathy for Michigan is so deep-rooted it can go no other way.
- I say this every time I mention Thad Matta, but I don't think much of his ability to do anything except recruit. What was that 2-2-1 press? Kelvin Grady can't do that much yet but his handle has always been the best part of his game; OSU didn't execute a single effective trap off the 2-2-1 and gave up a lot of open looks because of it. And it was immediately apparent that the only Wolverine with even the vaguest hope of checking Koufous was Udoh, so why did OSU settle for a bevy of perimeter shots during the three-or-four minute window in the second half in which Udoh was on the bench? Zach Gibson comes in the game and Koufous sets up for a three-pointer. Uh... okay.
- Since 75% of college basketball is recruiting, it doesn't really matter.
- The Gibson conundrum -- he can't defend anyone and is the only backup post -- means that incoming C Ben Cronin is going to be key next year. He's 7'1" and ponderous, according to the gurus, but it's hard to ignore a stat line with 17 blocks on it even if this team photo indicates this isn't exactly downtown Philadelphia:
There's one guy on the team Cronin isn't a foot taller than. (Picture during Cronin's sophomore year, so he's probably less spindly now.)
- Michigan had four turnovers at halftime and nine for the game. I... uh. Is that legal? I don't remember.
- Eleven Warriors recap.
- Anthony Wright's emergence into a guy who can shoot and maybe be useful for 20 minutes a game is a huge boost to the program going forward. I don't think anyone was counting on him to do anything except be mini-Ba; now he's obviously the best SF on the roster. Faint praise, perhaps, but since the State game he's shooting 39.3% from three. Though can't really do much else at this point -- in that stretch of six games he has 28 three-point attempts and eight two-pointers, though he's made six of them -- no other SF on the team can do anything. Wright turning into a useful piece is like adding another Stuart Douglass to the recruiting class.
- Anyone looking for more extensive basketball coverage should check out UMHoops.com, a promising new blog with a self-explanatory name.
THE RESSONS AR MENY This provides conclusive evidence that State does rule all:
Stumble. I was looking for stuff on Darryl Stonum when I stumbled across this video of Sam McGuffie going for 6 TDs in his first-round playoff game:
None of those looked particularly difficult or anything, but FWIW. McGuffie's HS career would end the next week.
Draft Bits. Wolverines appear to be moving up the board: on ESPN Todd McShay mentioned Jake Long as the leading candidate to go #1 overall once the Dolphins decide Matt Ryan sucks, though not exactly in those words. Chad Henne's also supposed to be moving up into a solid second round pick; given the way these things work out I wouldn't be surprised if he snuck into the late first. Accursed shoulder injury.
He ran a what? I told you that guy was a 160-pound economics major. Yeah, so the football team held open tryouts yesterday. How did they go? Check the background of this picture from the Daily:
Add in one inexplicably hot chick and an international student that speaks no English and this looks like my EECS 380 class from back in the day. The Daily has a couple articles, one from an... er... "hopeful":
"We're just looking for athleticism," Hopson said. "We wanted to see how they moved their feet, their hips, and you can just put in the paper that you did fantastic."
I wouldn't have a shred of journalistic integrity if I omitted the fact that Hopson burst into a deep belly laugh after that sarcasm-laced response.
There's also a straight news story for your perusal with this awesome passage:
Some of Thornbladh's former teammates, including wide receiver Greg Mathews, quarterback Steve Threet and punter Zoltan Mesko, lounged on the pads behind one of the fieldhouse endzones and kept a running commentary on the performance of the walk-on candidates.
"Probably fun to see somebody else get pain delivered to them," Rodriguez said. "They got pain delivered this morning at 6 (at the team's workout). It's probably human nature to watch someone else suffer, especially when they were running gassers there at the end. That's probably the most enjoyable."
A reader who participated sent in this report:
Rich Rod held universal undergrad tryouts for walk-ons. It wasn't well publicized, but it happened today at Schembechler Hall. Don't know whether you care or not, but a lot of our coaches (ALL of whom were present) were fantastic guys. Rod congratulated all of us at the end even though most of us blew - it was an amazing gesture that I will never forget.
What I can vouch for is that Barwis is amazing. His presence is absolutely terrifying, he's so incredibly motivating that even in the brief time I was there I would have done absolutely any drill he made me do as hard as I could. He's a very, very special coach - you want to do exactly as he says because you're so very sure that it'll make you better. During the suicides that we did at the end, he singled me out because I was lagging and screamed at me; I've never willed my body to go faster ever in my life. Awesome.
Also got to meet a couple players that I think could contribute - there's a kid whose name I think was Caleb that I feel very certain may get at least a spring training spot - he was from Ohio and was trying out at RB.
It was an opportunity that I will NEVER forget.
Andrew C. (LSA Junior)
The net impact of the walk-on program is likely to be zero unless we have an Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God string of injuries at one position, but it's another symbol of change at Schembechler Hall. Rodriguez is open with information about the team, is expanding Michigan's presence with clinics and camps, holds open tryouts to laugh at undergrads, and wants to have a spring game somewhere or other for the publicity. The program seems fun and young again.
Hello, old friend. A brief bit of Weis-bashing for old times' sake:
Weis also plans to meet with various alumni groups he has cheesed off with his arrogance. Weis attributed the face-time plan to a new
NCAArule barring head coaches from evaluating prospects from April 15-May 31.
So he'll use the extra time to make nice with Notre Dame's grumbling alums. I've seen Weis walk away from conversations with people in mid-sentence. Harder to do that when you're the first Irish coach since Hugh Devore to lose to Navy.
Weis has resigned from playcalling duties with his typical humility, which was the entire reason
he was hired in the first place. I got some concerned emails about the Tenuta hire that I might address in an upcoming mailbag, but I'm not too concerned. Charlie Weis has proven a couple things so far: 1) he can recruit and 2) he's around the tenth percentile in terms of interacting with people in a productive way. Nothing's going to fix #2 unless Weis gets his brain trans-reversed by aliens, Steve Dallas-style.
Notre Dame is never going to be as entertainingly awful again as they were last season -- that was a once in a lifetime opportunity for schadenfreude -- but there's no way a good coach's team is that bad in his third season on the job.
Etc.: Rodriguez is studying up.
Swearing herein. Save the children.
Wednesday: at the Fanhouse I pick up an article from Tim Gayle and expound, once again, on the dodgy practice of oversigning, using Alabama's class as an exemplar of shady behavior. The past two days: everyone in the state who can write and has an internet connection responds.
Awww, that's not fair. I can't make a joke about Alabamans' inability to count or read when the Joe Cribbs Car Wash put up an excellent post about the situation. No, it appears the disease is restricted to Tide fans. Maybe that's why they have numbers on their helmets.
There are two separate issues here.
Issue #1. Alabama is unlikely to actually have the nation's top recruiting class because a large chunk of it isn't going to get to campus. This is an irritation I have with the guru rating services and not an issue with Alabama per se. The best example of this phenomenon was Auburn's class last year, thirty-strong and top-ten on signing day but reduced by a third by the time fall practice rolled around and decidedly not top-ten.
This is indisputable. We even looked up the numbers last year. SEC teams often sign guys with little or no chance to qualify, and their swollen classes end up looking better than they actually are. The average SEC team experiences an attrition rate double that of the average Big Ten team, but this is not accounted for.
Issue #2. Nick Saban has taken the concept of oversigning and stretched it unto its breaking point. This is a nasty, filthy practice only undertaken by a program that couldn't really give a crap about the idea of a mutual commitment between player and school.
Issue #1 is a personal quarrel with the recruiting sites and doesn't have anything to do with Alabama. Some of the angry hornets went "LOL" and contested that in unconvincing fashion; I'll let that drop. Issue #2 is what really riled, and I'll attempt to address some of the claims put forth by "coachbots," as the JCCW eloquently dubs them.
I don't see any substantive points in the posts at Third Saturday in Blogtober, the Capstone Report, or Tide Druid and won't address them directly. Since they're all chock full of personal insults and insights into my "obsession" with a guy who coached Michigan's third-biggest rival a decade ago, let me point out that each of the above-linked posts is a tribute to Alabama's fine educational system and its constant focus on things like grammar and knowing how to use spell check. Gentlemen, there are typos and there's you.
The voodoo math over at Roll Bama Roll, however, deserves a response:
Actually, this class really only included 30 signees, not 32. See, this is where, you know, actually following Alabama football closely -- as opposed to following it via the headlines and then heading off to your computer to piss and moan on your AOL blog -- really pays off. Two of our signees, wide receiver Chris Jackson and kicker Corey Smith, graduated high school early and actually enrolled this past January. Those two signees are thus back-counters, and are part of the 2007 recruiting class, not the 2008 class. As a result, just doing the basic math, our 2008 class effectively consists of 30 signees, not 32.
I love it when someone condescendingly makes a moronic "point." Yes, early enrollees are permitted to count against the previous class. No, that does not mean they are fairy players who don't take up a scholarship spot. The issue is Alabama loses fifteen seniors and brings in thirty-two players. This means 17 slots have to appear from nowhere. Early enrollment doesn't help that.
And that is even if you don't consider the fact that Wesley Neighbors may very well end up on a Bryant scholarship -- since he is most likely not going to play in his first two years on campus anyway -- and therefore he will not count against the scholarship limit this year. If that is indeed the case, as many expect, this class suddenly goes down to 29 players.
Anyone on scholarship and on the football team counts against the 85 limit.
Moreover, you act like Alabama and Miami are the only two programs to sign that many players, completely ignoring the fact that signing 30 or more players is a relatively common occurrence. This year alone, aside from the aforementioned two schools, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Ole Miss, and Kansas State also signed 30 or more players. In 2007, Tennessee, Auburn, and South Carolina all signed over 30 players, just to name a few. In other words, if you really think signing that many players is an aberration, you haven't been paying attention.
The fucking point is that fucking Alabama is going to kick kids off the fucking team for no fucking reason. The point is not that violating the NCAA's made-up limit is evil. The NCAA limit is there because the NCAA would like you to not kick kids off the fucking team, but for various reasons the rule's pretty easy to skate around. The issue is not 32 > 25. The issue is that 70 + 32 > 85.
There's more not easily blockquoted, but OTS contests the idea that many kids won't qualify by saying that "everyone has a very legitimate chance to qualify" and then immediately asserts three or four won't make it, then further asserts later that the estimate -- Tim Gayle's estimate, not mine -- that four to six guys won't qualify is "completely bogus" and "laughable."
Attention asshat: five players in this Alabama class will not be on the team this fall. That's that NCAA maximum thing. Maybe there's a grayshirt or two in there, but a about a sixth of the class is going to JUCO... whether they qualify or not. More kids qualifying only makes the oversigning dirtier.
There is a stupid paragraph about medical scholarships intended to combat the idea that they're shady, something I never advanced and don't think.
And then there's this:
And "forcibly extracted"? What are we doing here, pulling teeth? It sounds like it, anyway, with terms like that. In reality, players are going to leave and we all know it. 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. I guess since you are a Michigan blowhard, we'll call this Ryan Mallett Syndrome so it will hit a little closer to home. Others will simply leave because they cannot handle the Fourth Quarter Program. Either way, no one is being "run off" or anything sinister of the sort.
There is a difference between what's likely to happen at Michigan after spring practice -- a few transfers from kids that no longer fit in the offense -- and what has to happen at Alabama. Michigan will be operating under the 85 scholarship limit this fall and has every incentive to keep
those players around. They will be leaving of their own volition. Alabama has every incentive to dump guys. They flat out have to. If a kid is struggling with his academic eligibility how motivated will Alabama be to help him? If a player commits a petty offense how eager will Alabama be to boot him? If Nick Saban knows that by August he has to say goodbye to six kids and it's July and he's only got four down, then what?
I'll tell you what: someone gets it right in the ass.
That's why oversigning* is scummy. Attrition is bad, but tolerable when it's clear a kid who's transferring away is doing so voluntarily. If Mallett transfers to Arkansas because he likes the offense better, fine. Without oversigning we know that if he stayed the scholarship would be there for him. When you have to cram 91 kids into 85 spots, the very real specter of a push hovers over every jumper.
Though all scholarships are technically one-year commitments, in practice players are guaranteed four years as long as they remain eligible and keep their noses clean. There is one legitimate way to remove a kid from your team without some sort of malfeasance on his part: fourth-year juniors are commonly not offered a fifth year unless they are contributors.
'Bama has a few of these, but some of them are already accounted for and others are obviously going to return. By situation:
- Ezekiel Knight, Will Oakley, and BJ Stabler are all mentioned as medical scholarship candidates by Gayle; the six scholarship gap is only a mere six because they've been removed from the calculations already.
- Rashad Johnson, Nick Walker, and Antoine Caldwell are starters and will be back.
- OL Cody Davis is a candidate.
- WR Jonathan Lowe has academic issues; he's a useful returner who would normally return.
I went over the roster closely; these appear to be the only redshirt juniors on scholarship. Potential non-shady departures not already accounted for are, at most, two.
So what's Saban's motivation here? He has somewhere between five and a dozen scholarships to free up (the latter will only happen if the NCAA repeals the limit next week and OTS's prediction that I'll "eat my words" about players failing to qualify comes true). Is he going to help Lowe stay eligible? Is he going to shuffle the deck so that guys who could be eligible this fall are not?
The JCCW sums up:
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.
(And should take heart that the "whoops, seeya!" given to four Auburn players isn't as bad as it looks, as three of the four are fourth-year juniors.)
Maybe oversigning by one or two is reasonable, but not in the quantity seen at Alabama.
Now, Saban is not alone in this. In the blog post by Bruce Feldman cited in the Fanhouse post, Feldman asserts that schools can make incoming kids ineligible if they want to. I know of at least one player this happened to: erstwhile Michigan defensive end Eugene Germany, who signed a letter of intent with USC but "didn't qualify." He did nothing the fall semester, then USC asked him to take some classes at a local JC. He declined, did nothing further, and enrolled at Michigan the next fall. Germany got jacked because USC ran out of spots.**
This is a widespread issue. Unfortunately, I do not have convenient summary articles for Miami or LSU or USC. Oversigning should be halted. You should not be able to sign a player to a letter of intent unless that player is qualified and you can demonstrate where his scholarship is coming from. No one should ever be locked into a commitment that doesn't go both ways.
Does this happen in the Big Ten? Not really. Though oversigning was sort-of approved, you have to explain where the scholarship is coming from:
When the Big Ten made the change in 2002, it instituted a policy where teams could oversign by no more than three players, and DiNardo said a detailed explanation behind the oversigning had to be submitted to the Big Ten. The SEC is among the conferences with no guidelines.
As a result, very few Big Ten teams even attempt to oversign, and none by the margins seen here. (Minnesota and Illinois have brought in large classes the last couple years but had been operating well short of the scholarship limit before that.)
This should be universal NCAA policy, and already is in some sports: Michigan hockey could not sign probable first-round pick Brandon Burlon to a letter of intent this fall because they could not demonstrate where the scholarship money would come from. Football should follow suit. Now.
*(just to be clear for any morons reading this, we're not talking about going over the NCAA limit here, we're talking about signing so many guys that you are forced to remove a number of players from the team to meet your obligations.)
**(Germany got tackled from behind by a cop after stealing some chick's phone and then had a series of team rules violations; he transferred to a JC and is now at Arizona State, but he could have gotten his malfease on at the same time the rest of his high school class entered school.)