Bobby Petrino has all the social skills of a PhD student in electrical engineering. This is how you get an NFL team to swear revenge upon you and your clan*. He's a weird dude. So his Arkansas program eschews the usual kabuki dance of medical scholarships and "voluntary" transfers in favor of The Truth™:
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas has granted scholarship releases to two more players from its football program in offensive lineman Cam Feldt and linebacker Austin Moss, Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino said Thursday through a team spokesperson.
The players are the fourth and fifth to be released this week as coaches perform annual scholarship evaluations. Wide receiver Lance Ray, kicker Eddie Camara and tight end Ryan Calender have also been granted releases from the program.
Arkansas is also working toward granting offensive lineman Colby Berna a medical hardship, which would end his playing career. Berna, a Fayetteville native, has struggled with shoulder problems since high school and didn't play during his two seasons on campus.
The truth comes cloaked in a bit of PR spin, but there it is. Arkansas is straight up cutting five dudes and moving a sixth to St. Saban Memorial Hospital. The usually even-keeled Doctor Saturday breaks out his barrel-aged, 18-year old sarcasm in response to the "granted releases" spin in response, and you've heard it all before here. Surprise! I still find the above completely awful.
But I really mean the headline above: by refusing to pretend he's putting kids on the slow boat to a crappy school no one's ever heard of he may be in charge of a program that flagrantly violates the spirit of the NCAA's principles, but at least he's not lying about it. This puts Petrino above the Sabans and Nutts and Tommy Bowdens of the world in the same way PhD EEs are above the sociopaths who end up at Goldman Sachs selling mortgage packages they know will collapse. I'll take the idiot over the lizard any day. By admitting Arkansas takes the bit about one-year renewable scholarships to its most ruthless extreme, Petrino allows us to talk about whether we want our football programs solely focused on on-field performance.
I'm guessing the answer to that will eventually be "no." The heat has moved from obscure bloggers like yrs truly to coaches and presidents at schools with scruples. The NCAA is faced with ballooning scandals as players react to the system: coaches get theirs by axing anyone that can't help them; players get theirs by taking whatever is offered them. The NCAA can't defend its principles of amateurism at the same time the most successful conference in the most successful sport is dumping anyone not immediately useful. If they do, I suggest they change their commercial tagline to "too many of us are going pro with a glorified associate's degree because we got cut and sent to JUCO."
Bobby Petrino can't be bothered to lie any more because people will badger him in press conferences and we're a step closer to ending, or at least associating costs with, cutting any kid who doesn't work out.
*[A thousand years from now the descendants of Bobby Petrino will be robotic feudal slum lords prosecuting an ancient war with Atlfalcorp no one remembers the origins of. Fayetteville will be underwater and everyone in Atlanta dead in the aftermath of the Great Traffic Jam, but the war will go on.]
give the guy on the left some autocannons and the resemblance is uncanny
Mainstream media have begun to catch on to the scam Nick Saban is running down in Tuscaloosa. Via everyone in the world who emailed, twittered, or IMed it to me, the Wall Street Journal on a small section of Saban's insatiable desire for more spots in his recruiting class:
"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."
The WSJ does miss an opportunity to draw a stark contrast between the rate of medical scholarships at Alabama and elsewhere in the SEC, even though they dug up the numbers. I used the LOL for good and made a graph. Here it is:
Just a coincidence, surely.
This is actually the less odious bit of Saban's merry disembowelings since the kids he cuts via this method get to stay in school on scholarship (and don't hurt the APR), but it's still a way for him to skirt competitive equity. He gets to try out four extra kids a year and then dump them. The NCAA's in a tough spot since it's tough to discern between scam artists like Saban and legitimate cases like Antonio Bass, but suffice it to say this is a dangerous precedent to set. The NCAA has to close this loophole.