Reading the comments on that Doc Saturday piece, I'm amazed by people who think it's okay for this to be going on, or say because you don't know the entire situation you have no right to say anything.
At Least Bobby Petrino Isn't Pretending
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.]
Agreed, and all of the arguments are equally bad. The serious arguments come in a few flavors:
1) "Everyone does it." Sure, as long as by "everyone" you mean "everyone in the SEC". One commenter even, apparently without irony, says "all teams do this! Look at..." followed by a list of several teams, all in the SEC.
2) "It's not against the rules." No, it's not against the letter of the rules. But it's clearly against the spirit of them, is unfair to the student athletes, and is frankly kind of scummy. So the letter of the rules should be changed to better reflect the spirit. I know the NASCAR maxim is "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'", but I don't think anyone at the NCAA really wants college athletics run that way.
3) "It's just like an academic scholarship / at will employment" Only superficially. First off, yes, academic scholarships usually come with GPA requirements - but they aren't terribly stringent (usually something like "maintain a 3.0" or "don't get C's", which shouldn't be too tough for someone good enough to get the scholarship in the first place unless they deliberately slack off), and are also totally dependent on the student's personal performance (as opposed to being dependent on the school not finding someone better than you next year). The equivalent in college sports would really be "practice hard, stay in shape, and stay academically eligible" not "stay on the 2-deep". Furthermore, unless these requirements are outlined explicitly, in writing, it's still shady.
The "at will employment" argument is equally dumb. Ignoring for the moment that the NCAA is not supposed to be like the NFL, the analogy still fails. First, there is an imbalance in commitment. Unlike in at-will employment, where either party may terminate employment at any time without penalty, in NCAA football the player can't leave voluntarily without sitting out a year. It's really dumb that the athletes have to make a one year committment when the schools only commit for one year. Second, a student-athlete's only real compensation is a college degree - which is really valuable if you graduate, but not worth much if you have to quit after 2 years because Bobby cut you.
This really needs to get fixed, because it's a clear advantage to the SEC teams willing to sacrifice student-athletes for wins.
that it's not even everyone in the SEC, or "everyone except Vanderbilt."
And, as mentioned before, that's a good thing, because then there are forces from within the SEC trying to change things, rather than just from the outside.
I'd rather have the guy who's honest about it. At least that brings the problem to a head instead of politicking it under the rug. The problem with the guys at Goldman was that they lied about it. No one buys the security everyone says won't pay off.
I don't really have a problem with coaches wanting to cut a player who doesn't work out, but the scholarship should be good for five years or a degree, whichever comes first.
Regarding your second paragraph, I agree. The main problem is that, right now, the athlete makes a 4 year committment (can't leave without having to sit a year) and the school only makes a 1 year committment. Either make the schools fully commit, or stop making players sit out a year for transferring.
I totally agree. If Brady Hoke cut, say Mike Martin for doing the absolute minimum and never contributing (obv not happening), I wouldn't have a problem with it. Just showing up on time shouldn't be enough to retain a scholarship, just like making a minimum GPA is required for a lot of scholarships.
I wrote a whole diary about it.
Sure, but read my take on the "academic scholarship" analogy above. The academic requirements for such a scholarship are different for a few reasons:
1) they are made explicit at the time you accept the scholarship
2) they are reasonable to achieve for the type of student who would get an academic scholarship, provided they don't slack off (at least they should be - there have been rumblings lately about mid-tier law schools handing out academic scholarships with requirements that half the recipients won't meet, but I was on academic scholarship at Michigan and the requirement was basically a 3.0 average).
3) they are entirely dependent on individual effort and performance. This is where I see the biggest difference: while my GPA was entirely a result of my own efforts, an athlete's position on the depth chart is affected greatly by who the school recruits the following years.
So basically, I'm okay with "booted off the team for having a lousy attitude and not contributing at practice", I have a problem with "cut for not making the 2-deep".
EDIT: I read your diary and mostly agree with your proposals, except that I think if teams are allowed to cut players for performance as long as they keep them on a non-athletic scholarship, this violates the whole point of have an 85 scholarship cap and gives a major advantage to schools with more financial resources.
But I only know how to accidentally "moderate" someone's post as flamebait.
You can't just click the drop down menu next to "Moderate?" My default choice is "Normal," but I'm sure Brian would be interested if you consistently had issues.
If I wanted to up-vote a post as, say, "insightful," would I scroll down to that and then hit "moderate"? The one time I hit "moderate" it made the person's post disappear and labeled it as flaimbate when what I meant to do was label it as funny.
The process is pretty simple. To moderate as funny:
1. Scroll to Funny.
2. Click on Funny.
3. Click on Moderate.
Also, just clicking Normal is an upvote.
I just want to make sure you understood my point that the players who were cut could never play for that school again. I'm not sure how those players would violate the 85 player number, especially if the alternative is simply cutting them loose.
As for the resources thing, I really don't care. If you can't afford it, which most sub-AQ teams can't, then don't play FBS football. Considering how fast tuition is rising and how much money schools are dumping into big-time football from student fees and state funding, it might be better for the average MAC student to not have a football team and instead pay a little less in tuition.
Scholarships are much cheaper for the school than they seem anyways. A full ride student may save the full cost of a $12K tuition bill, but the cost to the school is much, much lower to simply add one student. It's a non-zero number, sure, but it's close to zero. Room and board is more, but no one is making the school cut anyone.
It would violate the 85 number in spirit if not in letter because, even though the student would never play football again, everbody knows he's still effectively on a "football" scholarship. Big-time teams could sign a bajillion players and cut half of them. There would effectively be no upper limit on scholarship numbers. Yes, your proposal somewhat increases mobilty by eliminating the sit-out year for "cut" transfers, but if a student's been at school for a couple years and is a so-so Div 1 player, there's going to be some inertia holding him there. I think you have to have some limit on scholarships, or you just end up with a few teams hoarding all the talent.
My counter proposal would be this: School's can accept a maximum of 25 (or 23, or whatever) LOIs per year period. Transfers count as an LOI for whatever recruiting cycle you're in. If a school accepts an LOI, they are required to provide a scholarship for a minimum of 4 years. Scholarships can still be revoked for disciplinary or eligibility reasons, but the school doesn't get an extra schollie.
Personally, I'd still keep the 25 player/year rule, but I wouldn't take a scholarship forever. Think about it, are you going to kick a kid off if you can't use that scholarship to pick up his replacement? Maybe, but it's less likely. That would only encourage schools to do a better job of getting players into useless majors and to ignore all but the worst discipline problems. There are serious unintended consequences there (as there probably are for my ideas...).
Loss of a scholarship player encourages teams to be more selective about who they pick and more careful about keeping their kids noses clean. Ignoring discipline problems won't happen all that much (at least not more than it already does (cough Dantonio cough)), because discipline problems tend to erode team cohesion and discipline. It's not like good coaches don't already apply discipline for things that aren't criminal. Perhaps the NCAA could impose mandatory penalties for particularly bad transgressions (e.g. DUI convictions). Anyway, any alternative scheme gives too much power to the schools - they could cut a benchwarmer for missing one class to free up a scholarship while keeping a convict around as long as he's a superstar.
Well said Brian. Part of me wants to say those are the shakes of the game when it comes to school and sports, but the far bigger part of me sees it as the travesty it is. My sense is that the NCAA will use some of the fine-tuning to the APR we've been seeing to address the issue somewhat, but it is going to take some massive/blatant abuse by a guy like Nutt to really drive the point home.
Its so nice for Arkansas to have "granted scholarship releases" to these players. I'm gonna use that next time I have to fire someone, "we are granting you a contract release" so you are free to pursue your career elsewhere.
Feldt 4star 2010 recruit. Offer sheet: Arkansas, Baylor, Texax Tech
Moss 4star 6'2" 209lb ILB 2009 recruit offers: Ark, Zona, Kansas, KSU, Okla St, Tenn, Va, and Wisconsin (!?)
Ray 3star athlete 2009 recruit. offers: Ark, Illinois, Kentucky, Miss., MissSt., Mizzou, SoCarolina
Camara 2star kicker 2010 recruit
Calendar 3star 2009 recruit. offers: only arkansas. He's a 6'8" 220lbs ganlgy weakside D-end who doesn't look like he'll put the fear of God in any opposing offensive tackles
The SEC continues to make me want to vomit.
"Coach, I don't want a scholarship!"
"Son, we realize this hard on everyone, but we'll grant your request to not be on scholarship anymore."
"Bubba, you can remove the gun from the kid's head now."
"Good doing business. You have ten minutes to clean out your locker."
Wait...they let a kicker go? Get ON that Hoke!
As an EE PhD student I resent that statement.
But do you reject it?
Actually I'm not even sure what he meant by all those EE PhD student comments. We're just nerdy and possibly socially inept. We're harmless, unlike Bobby Petrino.
I sure don't want to be a future descendant of Bobby Petrino in a thousand years anymore. @mgoblog ruins peeplez dreams yo
and yes, I agree with poster above that a tweak to APR regarding LOI players who don't complete a degree or go pro in good academic standing would probably give a mechanism to the NCAA as long as the teeth are put in the punishment.
Imagine how much of an advantage it would be for Michigan to be able to sign a Houston-Nutt-sized class this year, i.e., the 2012 recruiting season, and then basically have NFL-style, sink-or-swim training camps in the spring and fall of 2012. The freedom to handle your roster as if you were an NFL team seems like it must be one of the reasons for the SEC's recent success as compared to other conferences.
Brian, take it from someone who has been trying to write attention-getting journalism ledes for nearly 30 years: the first sentence of this post is world-class. I rank it as a simile with an old favorite from a fellow columnist from the 1980s, referring to someone with a glaring lack of social skills as "having all the savoir-faire of a young Clem Kadiddlehopper."
Only problem with the first sentence: he let all the other engineers off the hook.
what you are missing is that these kids made a choice to go to Arkansas or Alabama (or shady school X) knowing full well that they or their teammate may be cut at any time, for not performing well enough for the staff. It's not like the recruits have a problem with this, and if they did, don't go to a school like Arkansas.
It's a free world. If you get an offer to play at Bama or Arkansas, you probably have some other solid options of programs that will stick by you. Period.
How did they know this? Oversigning is just now beginning to gain traction in the wider media.Has it ever been mentioned on a single college football broadcast or on Gameday, which certainly constitute recruits' major source of "independent" information about potential schools? Or are you suggesting that Arkansas and Alabama have been upfront about the one-year nature of their scholarships in the past? I'm sure the one-year renewability is the first thing they mention when making a scholarship offer.
This is purely about gaining competitive advantage from exploiting the fine print of an implied agreement of four years of scholarship support. And it speaks not only to Petrino and Saban but to the underlying ethics of the ADs and academic administrators at those institutions. That undergraduate deans in particular allow stand by while scholarships are pulled from students who, to all accounts, remain in good academic standing is a disgrace to those places as institutions of higher education.
2) Talking to the other recruits and coaches at the schools and asking, hey how many guys are in the program? On scholarship?
Twelve people in the world know that site exists, and three of them are Brian...Seriously, though, a kid who is offered scholarship probably just assumes that there is room on the roster for him.
1) Use Google
2) Doesn't go on any message boards
3) Talk to players on the team, that know this is happening
4) Talk to opposing coaches that can use this as an opportunity to say that the kid should go to their school
5)Talk to his HS coach about his choice of colleges.
I think you think these kids are naive and getting tricked into going to these schools. They seem to know they have the potential to be cut, but want to play at Bama or Arkansas (I'm not sure why Arkansas, though).
If you're a 17-year-old high school superstar, recruited by the best the SEC has to ever, you will never, ever consider the possibility of being cut loose. We're talking about kids whose egos are stroked by grown men 50 times a day.
But even if it were, you don't have to be thinking of yourself solely - a lot of kids will see this as an unethical practice. 17 is young, but it's old enough to have a moral foundation. Parents are there as well. This is wrong and that judgment can be made.
I'm sure Saban has some kind of rationalization for all the departures that he can use to allay their moral concerns. "Player X didn't want to be here," "Player Y decided he didn't like football," etc.
But yes, I'm sure these guys never consider that they might be cut themselves. First, all of them are men among boys on the high school field, way better than their competition, so they don't lack confidence. And then you have to keep in mind just how intense and in-your-face recruiting is. If you're a recruit, coaches are trying to contact you pretty much every waking hour of the day, telling you how good you are and how badly they want you. And they are charmers. Saban might sound like a total jerk here, but if he were actually recruiting you every day for a year, you'd have a different opinion of him. If the topic ever comes up, he'll probably turn it around into something like, "My top priority right now is to find you a scholarship to Alabama."
But you're being a bit cynical.
Some people enjoy doing it right - there's an element of pride for a UGA fan watching Richt give the answer he does (as evidenced by the applause). It's the right thing to do, and people respond to that.
I don't disagree with that at all. I'm just saying that it's very doubtful that a player who has been a superstar his whole career (which is what these guys are ) and who has been recruited hard by coaches from all over, is going to be worrying too much about the chance of being cut. If they actually did, Saban's sales pitch would stop working.
jblaze: So it's okay for coaches to lie to recruits because the truth can be googled? And the fact that the truth is available on the internet absolves everybody else of any responsibility for this? I would be interested to see a scam artist try this defense in court: "Your Honor, if the victim had only googled 'Nigerian prince' on the internet, he would still have all of his money!"
Yes, the fact that Alabama will sign 4 offensive linemen a year but only have 15 on their roster at any one time is out there and available. That does not absolve anybody of the blame here--this is an unethical practice, the NCAA has the power to stop it, and they should certainly use that power.
I think that I read that Saban basically says that you'll get a shot and if you are good enough you stay, if not you leave.
That doesn't have to be a bad thing, because some players want to give Bama a shot and it's NFL-esque. The Players have to know this going in (again, they just have to talk to another school's coach, other players on the team, or use google).
A. The kids probably often don't have a good sense of what goes on. Even if they do, they are likely to be overly confident that they are too good to be cut. The possibility that they might be injured probably seems as likely as an alien landing.
B. The relationship between a university and an 18-year is and should be a somewhat paternalistic (or maternalistic, if you like) relationship. The financial resources and collective knowledge base of a university dwarf many times over the resources and knowledge available to the average recruit. You're not talking about a millionaire 25-year-old NFL player with Drew Rosenhaus (spelling?) as his agent making a decision to play for Alabama. You're talking about some poor kid from the sticks who Nick Saban told was his "No. 1 guy."
Anyway, colleges should be better than NFL teams.
but a school like Michigan or any other school that is recruiting head to head with Petrino simply has to say, "dude will drop you if you are injured, are a tad bit slow in picking up the system, or in sensational 5* guy commits 2 years down the road"
Yet, Petrino and Saban still outrecruit many other schools.
Maybe, these kids aren't idiots or "think they are amazing" and just really want to be part of Bama or Arkansas or whatever for one of many reasons.
I think the practice is dumb, and hypocritical of the NCAA, but it's so easy for every non-shay coach to just show the stats, or point people to oversigning.com or have guys like Antonio Bass speak to the player on his official.
Then you're negatively recruiting, in a sense, or at least running the risk of being perceived as negatively recruiting. Michigan shouldn't have to point out a practice that the NCAA shouldn't allow to begin with.
Another point: I'm not saying that the kids are unusually idiotic. I'm saying that they're 18 and that most 18 year-olds are idiots. I was a king hell of an idiot at 18.
and maybe the kid thinks, "If I can't cut it at Bama, I can't cut it in the NFL" so should just go to Bama, and be a local hero by at least trying there.
Hmmmmm. I still think the schools are preying on young kids and lying by omission. Do you really think Shady SEC School X is going to be forthright and upfront with a recruit and his family about the real possibility that his scholarship might get yanked at any given time?
"I might be one of the players who isn't good enough at football to avoid getting cut" when much of their lives involves people telling them they're awesome at football is incredibly unrealistic.
While I agree that this is the competitive nature of the real world, I also agree that the SEC schools involved need to be very upfront with their offers.
Recruit Smith, we have 18 open scholarships this season, we are not offering you one of those, but we are offering you a chance to get a scholarship if one opens up. Keep in mind that if you come to SEC U, your scholarship is granted on a one year basis, and you will compete for that scholarship every year.
I also think the NCAA--if they choose to allow such a system--needs to grant waivers to anyone cut by a team (i.e., they don't have to sit out a year if their scholarship is cut, or if they sign and LOI but a scholarship is not available come fall camp).
This creates a transparent situation. Sure most recruits will believe they can make the cut, but at least they are living by a fully informed decision. After a few years of transparency, recruits and parents will start asking tougher questions, and most likely start making different decisions.
I went through Michigan on an NROTC scholarship. That scholarship could have been cut any year if I did not meet grade and other ROTC requirements. I don't see a problem with perform or move on - especially if you take care of medical instances with an alternative scholarship.
This can be done with integrity. It isn't currently.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but you wouldn't have lost your scholarship just because a better ROTC student came along.
people did get cut if they didn't perform academically, didn't pass fitness tests, violated integrity in some way, etc. (i.e., did perform to set expectations).
As I said though, if the practice is transparent, the recruit is living on his own informed decision. If he still really wants to to take the risk to play for 'Bama. That is his decision. If he gets cut (and the NCAA allows waivers), then he took the risk, and is able to recover by transferring.
I am just saying: if it is transparent, and if the consequences are fair, then I don't see that it is unethical. The current practices are not.