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.


MI Expat NY

September 24th, 2010 at 4:01 PM ^

There isn't a loophole to be closed, the NCAA just needs to use a little bit of that newfound investigative gumption and get down there and start asking questions.  Talk to enough doctors, football staff, former players and somebody is going to tell the truth.

If they can punish schools like USC for not knowing about the Reggie Bush activity, surely they can punish Alabama for this.  Not to mention that the blatant end-run of scholarship limits gives a far greater "competitive advantage" than our so-called major violations.

MI Expat NY

September 24th, 2010 at 5:36 PM ^

I disagree, it's not a loophole.  I looked up the regulations and they say: Counter Who Becomes Injured or Ill. A counter who becomes injured or ill to the point that he or she apparently never again will be able to participate in intercollegiate athletics shall not be considered a counter beginning with the academic year following the incapacitating injury or illness. Incapacitating Injury or Illness. If an incapacitating injury or illness occurs prior to a prospective student-athlete’s or a student-athlete’s participation in athletically related activities and results in the student-athlete’s inability to compete ever again, the student-athlete shall not be counted within the institution’s maximum financial aid award limitations for the current, as well as later academic years. (emphasis added)

There isn't a lot of wiggle room in the reading of the rule.  You either can compete again and therefore can't take the medical hardship, or because of medical reasons could never play again you get the medical hardship.  The rule doesn't say anything about the level of play, but rather says the player is so injured or ill that he cannot even participate, then the player can receive financial aid without counting against scholarship numbers.  If Saban is giving medical hardship scholarship to players that could play again, even if not at the level he would like, he isn't flaunting a loophole, he's breaking the rule.     


September 24th, 2010 at 11:50 PM ^

If the athlete has been cleared by doctors and is telling the Wall Street Journal he can play, then I don't think you can say in good faith that the athlete appears unable to play.  If you want to say that Saban is simply "exploiting a loophole" by disingenuously certifying players as medically unfit, fine.  But it sure looks unlawful to me.


September 24th, 2010 at 4:25 PM ^

Is what Saban's doing right and good?  No.  

But, right and good are subjective terms and thus neither are the standard that applies to NCAA football.  NCAA football is governed by the objective standard of rules.

Saban's job is to win football games, within the bounds of the rules.  

Right now, with the medical schollie thing, he's doing that.  

If people want to be upset about this situation, Saban is not the person to get mad at.  He should be commended for his shrewdness in finding every way he can....within the put the best team possible on the field.  

People who are upset about this should instead direct their ire at the NCAA.  If they fixed the rules and closed the loophole, this situation wouldn't exist.  

Football is, by nature, a competitive activity.  Can't really blame Saban for seeing a loophole in the rules and using it to his advantage in said competitive activity.  

FWIW I think mjv's suggestion above is the best one, for how to close the loophole.


September 24th, 2010 at 5:47 PM ^

It's a loophole because while it may follow the letter of the rule, it runs counter to the spirit. And everyone, including Mr. Saban, understands fully what the spirit it. If people like Saban didn't abuse such loopholes, we wouldn't need to descend into the madness that is endless legalese, which also makes it hard to exercise rational judgement when it is warranted. The rest of the SEC, supercompetitive as they are, don't seem to have a problem following the spirit of the medical redshirt rule.


September 24th, 2010 at 6:13 PM ^

The truly simple solution for this is to go back to the "initial counter" limit only, like the NCAA had back in the 1970s.  We can reduce the number, of course; 30 was too many.

Give each school 22 "new" scholarships (called "initial counters") to give out each year.  That's it--no overall limits, no limit to redshirting, it doesn't matter if those initial counters  are freshmen, junior college transfers or 4-year college transfers.  Only 22 scholarships a year to players who didn't have a scholarship at that school the year before.  It will also add an incentive to the schools to only recruit players that they expect to succeed academically.

A team could theoretically have as many as 110 on scholarship under this system (22 in each class including 22 fifth-year seniors), but the number will likely hover around 80 or so, figuring about half of each freshman class will redshirt plus about 10 percent overall attrition per year.

That would solve this issue, plus it would work in the student's interest because the school would have no reason not to hold on to every player that they recruit.


September 24th, 2010 at 9:44 PM ^

I've always half suspected that the Big Ten not letting him do this is half the reason Saban left MSU. (The other half, of course, being the stacks of $$$$$ LSU offered.) And given the choice between Saban pulling these shenanigans here and the return of John L. Smith, I'd take four more years of Slappy.