Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Saban Rules

Coaches are always excited when a top prospect commits to their school. What happens when a long time commitment finds out his offer is no longer valid from the school of his choice? Unfortunately, two prospects from Alabama found that out this recruiting season.

RB Justin Taylor has been committed to Alabama for nearly a year (Photo courtesy of
Justin Taylor
As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Alabama coach Nick Saban told one of his earliest 2012 commitments, running back Justin Taylor, that he no longer had an offer from the Tide. Saban instead offered Taylor a "grayshirt" offer, which means that Taylor would wait until the spring to enroll so that he would not affect the limited scholarship number for this 2012 signing class. Taylor was the Tide's 7th commitment for the 2012 class. So what happened to suddenly change the situation? Taylor injured his knee prior to his senior season, and Alabama started to get interest from recruits that are more highly touted. Therefore, Saban decided to process the long time Alabama commitment just weeks before signing day, leaving Taylor in a rough spot. Saban had gone back on his word just a month prior to signing day, and Taylor was taken completely by surprise. Taylor ended up signing with Kentucky on signing day. Read the original article that broke the Justin Taylor story from the AJC here.

Darius Philon
Darius Philon, a defensive tackle from Vigor High School (Prichard, AL), suffered a similar fate yesterday. Philon put on an Alabama hat at his school's signing day ceremony, but rushed away shortly after while not talking to any media. He could no longer attend Alabama even if he wanted to. Philon committed to Alabama in September, just to have Saban leave him standing at the altar just prior to National Signing Day. Alabama had to make room for another top guy and Philon was the one chosen to get his scholarship axed. His high school coach, Kerry Stevenson, blamed it on the system rather than Saban's classlessness. "He had the world snatched from up under him," Stevenson commented to the Press-Register of Philon. "I'm pretty sure he's wondering, 'Why me?' On a number of occasions, [Alabama] stated how much they don't want to lose him. They got put in a bind. I can see where it could happen, especially with this being the first year of the SEC putting in a stipulation like this." Shame on his coach for not sticking up for the kid. Every other school in the SEC had the same limitations, yet Alabama was the only one to treat kids this way. After having his heart crushed by Alabama, Philon ended up signing with Arkansas.

Prior to the 2010 signing day Saban said in article written by Auburn Undercover's Phillip Marshall that a "commitment is a commitment." He went on to say, "We tell guys when they commit that we want the recruiting to be over or we really don’t want them to commit. If you’re not really ready to stop recruiting, then you aren’t really ready to commit, because committing means you are coming to that school." I guess it doesn't work in the other direction, does it Coach? Hypocrisy.

Yesterday Saban said, "Every coach I know has the best interests of players in mind." I'm pretty sure that Justin Taylor and Darius Philon would not agree with that statement. In addition to often reneging scholarship offers to recruits, Saban also often awards medical hardship scholarships to players that have slipped down the depth chart. These are just a few examples of many ways Saban works his college program like it's an NFL team, and treats his players like they are getting paid millions to play rather than on a football scholarship to get an education from an institution of higher learning.

Saban was asked about offering recruits four year scholarships rather than the one year renewable scholarships that are currently common place. Saban quipped that when that was done decades ago that it created "lawsuits galore." Is that the reason? Or is it because Saban wouldn't be able to manicure his roster however he so desires? Currently Auburn and Florida are the only two SEC teams that are offering multi-year scholarships, and I say good for them. Way to stand up for your commitments to these student-athletes.

Rob Pate, a former Auburn safety, had this to say about the situation, "I think what Saban did to two long-time Bama commits was disgraceful, soulless, and infinitley hyprocritical. It should be reported on ad nausem and shouted from the roof tops for recruits to never forget. This kid's dream moment, all the hard work he's put into it, the day it all comes to fruition before your family and friends, and it gets [destroyed] by Nick Saban. Classless, reprehensible, disgusting. My kid would never play for a person cut from cloth like that. Sickening!" I agree with Rob. There is no way I would want my kid to play for a coach with that kind of moral character. He will turn his back on you as soon as you no longer fit into his "business" plans.

Is Saban a good football coach? Sure. There's no arguing that. He has won two national championships in the last three years. But let's not allow that to hide the unethical decisions he's making behind the scenes that affect the future of 18-22 year old kids.

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