The Axeman, Publicized

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2010 at 3:24 PM

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.


Blue in sec country

September 24th, 2010 at 3:32 PM ^

I talked to a few bama fans 10-15 and they all feel that if it isn't against the rules then there isn't a problem. He is coaching at the perfect place as long as he is winning people don't care. Hopefully Haha sees the light and follows dee to A2.

Bill in Birmingham

September 24th, 2010 at 4:05 PM ^

This seems the best approach to me. Kids do get hurt playing football. I don't think schools should be punished for legitimate injuries. An independent medical review would seem to be fair to all parties, unless the NCAA chooses to be its usual tower of jello self when it comes to real compliance issues.


September 24th, 2010 at 4:29 PM ^

Seems like the difference is that 'Bama is using these scholarships for players who get injuries that limit their development and require a relatively long recovery time (the article mentions a blown ACL and a back injury, presumably a disc issue), whereas all other teams are using them for the catastrophic Antonio Bass, Dadrian Taylor type injuries, catastrophic injuries that unquestionably end the ability to play. Perhaps that is the distinction that could be helpful with an independent NCAA medical evaluation being the judge (seems a shame to get the NCAA involved in medical issues, but if one team is acquiring significant competitive advantages by skirting medical scholarship rules, don't really see what the other options are. Well, that, or soon other teams are going to start throwing out equal numbers of medical hardship scholarships and we'll be back to the days where the functional scholarship limit is 125 (5 years of 25 scholarships per).


September 24th, 2010 at 3:37 PM ^

I'm no Saban supporter, but the article says that Bama offered 12 medical schollies, and that 25 med schollies in the rest of the SEC were accepted.  So, who knows how the actual comparative numbers come out.  Just sayin'. 


September 24th, 2010 at 3:37 PM ^

but the SEC as a whole has always seemed like the sleazy mafia side of college football.  Always successful, but you're never sure if it's because they're better at the game or breaking the rules.  It's just been a gut feeling of mine for as long as I've been watching the game.

The Mathlete

September 24th, 2010 at 3:41 PM ^

When I was at a small NAIA school we had signed a big-time JUCO recruit who couldn't get ineligible for the NCAA but could for the NAIA. I asked our HC what happened when he didn't show and he told it was an old-fashioned SEC Miracle and he was now eligible for the NCAA.


September 24th, 2010 at 3:42 PM ^

We used a medical scholarship on Antonio Bass a few years ago.  It must have been because we had so many athletic, dual threat quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart in 08.  Us Michigan fans are such hypocrites with these things, of course....


September 24th, 2010 at 3:43 PM ^

I hope the MSM eats this story up and forces Saban to comment on it.  I'd like to see what kind of bullshit lie he throws out there.  Hopefully kids across this country start to see that Saban does not care about you unless you are a prime performer on his team.  Who is the Pimp now Saban?


September 24th, 2010 at 5:59 PM ^

I predict several other 'bama medical scholarship recipients will come forward and praise the National Championship winning coach for his humanitarianism. Those (former) players and their families will be spending the rest of their lives in Alabama, and people down there are known to hold a grudge.


September 24th, 2010 at 3:45 PM ^

It seems like this strategy wouldn't work unless the kids themselves decided not to transfer.  Does anybody know why they are taking this deal?  I know doctors at USC wouldn't clear Jarvis Jones to play (a guy the coaches definitely didn't want leaving the program) and he was looking to transfer out to a school that would give him clearance to play (not sure where he ended up but he was looking at FSU and Georgia from what I remember).  Why aren't more kids looking elsewhere if in fact the injuries in question aren't really career ending?


September 24th, 2010 at 3:46 PM ^

this is so easy to fix.  just tie each recruit accepting an offer to a scholarship for 4 years, regardless of the recruit playing, leaving early for the NFL, quitting football to become a male model (see Texas post Rout 66).  this aligns the coaches and the players incentives.  The coach wants the player to remain eligible academically.  Maybe increase the number of schollies from 85 to 100 so that the net effect of the change is zero for the average program, but the programs that keep kids around have a benefit.  This is beyond simple. 

MI Expat NY

September 24th, 2010 at 5:48 PM ^

I don't know if this is as big of a problem in the other sports to warrant the increase in scholarship numbers, especially women's teams that already have proportionally higher scholarship numbers than their male counterparts. 

For non-revenue sports, there seems to be a far greater emphasis on chosing a school for academics as well as sports, and you're unlikely to face the sort of roster pressure you do in Football. 

Plus, even adding 15 non-revenue sport scholarships, at a minimum, would probably be a tough economic pill to swallow for all but the top earning athletic programs throughout the country.


September 24th, 2010 at 4:43 PM ^

This might help in some places, but in Alabama?  I guarantee you they could find a board-certified and NCAA licensed doctor who would put Saban's needs above those of the player.  It's not just an NCAA rules problem when it comes to Alabama.  Remember, this is a fanbase that strongly feels there's nothing wrong with what Saban's doing -- and that includes straight-up cutting people as well as putting others on medical scholarships.

As far as making medical scholarships count against the 85 total... well, that kind of defeats the purpose of a separate medical scholarship, but I guess if there's no other way to close the loophole, that's what'll have to happen.

Magnum P.I.

September 24th, 2010 at 3:47 PM ^

Should the NCAA just make medical redshirts count against a team's scholarship total?

This doesn't even address the issue of finding convenient reasons to "excuse" a kid from the program and university all together. Maybe scholarship players who are removed from or leave the team should still count against a team's scholarship total for one or two years extra?

Eek! We'd be screwed!

Zone Left

September 24th, 2010 at 4:46 PM ^

No, the medical redshirts shouldn't count against a team and I generally am against non-medical bodies questioning doctor's decisions.  Presumably there is a doctor involved, right?  If I were the 4.0 kid that was removed, I'd probably go to the state's medical ethics board or pursue legal action. 

A team like Alabama should have no problem finding excellent medical staffers to accurately evaluate its players.  It should also have no problem finding lunatics that will do anything to help the program.  Finding excellent doctors who are willing to stand up to ethics challenges for the team is probably difficult to do.


September 24th, 2010 at 4:03 PM ^

If you aren't calling injured athletes into your automatic-door closing/intimidating office and asking said injured player "what do you want to do besides playing football", you aren't trying.


September 24th, 2010 at 3:49 PM ^

The NCAA would have stopped this immediately.  But because he's competing for the title in the "nation's best conference" the NCAA is fine with looking the other way.  But come an 8-4 season... "Mr. Saban, knock that off!"

Filthy Dilithium

September 24th, 2010 at 3:52 PM ^

Doug Walker, Alabama's associate athletic director for media relations also tries to pawn these "medical scholarships" off as doing the right thing for the kids.  Not sure how Doug is able to hide his horns.


September 24th, 2010 at 3:55 PM ^

Listen, we need to not condemn Saban but praise him for protecting these obviously-injured young men from excessive practice time and the inevitable physical dangers this poses to their development both as football players as well as human beings.  Only two more divine acts before there will be a new St. Nick on the block.


September 24th, 2010 at 3:56 PM ^

the medical hardship is much less offensive than just running the kid off.  At least the hardships still get to keep their scholarships.  The ones that just get told to go elsewhere. or pushed out due to a small brush with the law or struggling in school are the ones that are troubling as they lose their scholarships.  

Cut the judgement out of the equation.  X number of scholarships.  Each given away for a minimum of 4 years.  keep your players healthy, in school and out of jail.


September 24th, 2010 at 4:16 PM ^

I think the offensiveness of Saban's actions pretty much fits the same format as the desirability of the neutral site game in Dallas:

  • Home and home vs. Alabama > Playing Alabama in Dallas >>>>>> Home games vs. the MAC
  • Kicking players off the team to make room for new recruits > Putting players on medical scholarships to make room for new recruits >>>>>> Not recruiting more players than open scholarships available