Alabama Crimson Tide Football: Nick Saban Oversigns Again

Jan 19, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban accepts the championship crystal ball from BCS president Bill Hancock during the National Championship celebration outside Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are at it again.

They’ve won another BCS national championship, claimed the nation’s top recruiting class in three of the four major recruiting publications (Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN) and they looked poised to make a run at a three-peat in 2013. However, Alabama is also setting a dangerous precedent for oversigning recruits as Saban continues to push the boundaries in an effort to find any sort of competitive edge over the SEC and ultimately the nation.

Three years ago, the conference augmented recruiting rules in an effort to scale back oversigning, which was the subject of an Outside the Lines report that targeted the SEC as the most notorious offender. A cap on signees per year helped restore some semblance of order to the conference as a whole, but Saban and Alabama have managed to circumnavigate those rules and continually sign more recruits than they have allotted scholarships.

Attrition is an issue that naturally plagues college sports. Kids get homesick, their situations change or they get in trouble. Whatever the reason, it’s rare to return every eligible letterman in a given year.

Because of that, it’s natural to see teams in college football oversign in an effort to anticipate attrition. According to a CBS Sports report, 15 power conference teams in college football sit above the threshold of 85 scholarship players when you combine returning lettermen with signees. However, Alabama stretches the idea of anticipatory attrition to dangerous levels.

The Alabama Crimson Tide currently sit (unofficially) at 95 scholarship players, 10 more than the NCAA allows when rosters have to be finalized in August. Nobody in the NCAA has oversigned by as much, and only Washington and Virginia currently sit at 90 scholarship athletes or more, with 91 and 90, respectively.

Of the 15 teams currently oversigned, 10 are only oversigned by two scholarships or less–a rather reasonable number given expected attrition. However, with Alabama sitting so far above the allotted number, it’s hard not to question the morality of Nick Saban’s signing practices.

Last week, four Alabama players were arrested on felony robbery charges, suspended from the team and barred from the University of Alabama campus. None of the four were significant contributors, but even so, under normal circumstances losing four scholarship athletes would take a toll on a team’s prospective depth. At Alabama, it’s helping the Crimson Tide get back down to 85.

But even with players getting in trouble or electing to transfer because of the loaded depth chart at Alabama, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Tide naturally get back to 85 players. That sets up the possibility of the most disconcerting aspect of oversigning in its entirety.

Nick Saban will likely have to tell somebody to go home.

It won’t be quite that blunt, but the fact remains that Saban will probably have to call a player that he recruited under the premise that he would be welcomed at Alabama for four years into his office to tell him to leave. That player will be told that it’s in his “best interest” to explore his options elsewhere–somewhere he may have an opportunity to actually play.

Or, even worse, in an effort to save face and avoid a public relations nightmare like the one LSU and Les Miles went through when Chris Garrett alleged he was simply cut in a Dec. 2010 OTL report, an athlete will be dismissed for academic issues that, had Alabama not been oversigned, he would have normally simply been suspended for or helped with.

Between now and August, the Alabama Crimson Tide will methodically shave the excess and by the time the NCAA takes an official count, there’s no doubt that the Tide will be at or under 85 scholarship football players. However, the way they get there is as immoral as it is progressive.

The SEC needs to continue to make a concerted effort to eliminate oversigning and enforce harsh penalties on serial offenders like Saban. With Alabama currently serving as the gold standard for college football, allowing Nick Saban to continue to prolifically oversign sets a dangerous example to the rest of the college football world that this is how you get ahead–at the cost of the student-athletes.

Nick Saban is one of the most revered figures in college football and he is cementing his place in the game’s history, but this is an extremely dark blemish on his resume, and it needs to be stopped before Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have the chance to oversign again.

Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Football

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  • Ryan Wooden

    Moral of the story: Oversigning is bad and there should be safeguards in place to protect against it.

    • David

      Moral of the story you need to do your homework and stop being biased.

      • Ryan Wooden

        So, just to be sure, you’re saying oversigning is a good thing?

  • http://twitter.com/kennaylorphotos kennaylorphotos

    No player is there against their will. Every one of the 95 players on Alabama’s roster could go to any number of schools and be guaranteed a scholarship. They are at Alabama because they want to play for Nick Saban and win a national championship. The only deception here is the self-deception you have because apparently you think the Alabama coach or someone following the Alabama program gives a rat’s a** what a sportswriter from Chicago thinks.

    • Ryan Wooden

      So you see nothing wrong with a player being sold on having four years at Alabama only to be told that they have to leave?

      • http://twitter.com/kennaylorphotos kennaylorphotos

        So you expect a school to only make the exact number of offers that it has open scholarships? What happens, God forbid, if one of those players changes his mind on signing day and chooses a different school? Has that EVER happened??? … you’re damn right, happens EVERY YEAR.

        • Ryan Wooden

          No, I expect the school to be considerate of their student-athletes and not oversign by nearly 12% of their total roster in a given year.

    • Pmaxhen

      You just said they have 95 players on their roster… NCAA limit is 85 goof ball.

      Makes sense, everyone else counts 10 national championships while alabama counts 15.

      • http://twitter.com/kennaylorphotos kennaylorphotos

        The NCAA limit is 85 scholarship players when fall practice starts … not at all times … and Alabama will be within that limit by the deadline. If you don’t like the way the rule is written, then tell the NCAA to change it.l

  • Michael Barker

    If oversigning is such an advantage, why haven’t Washington and Virginia been competing for a N.C. (or even in the top 25 for that matter). Your jealousy is cute.. And, by the way, we have a 3-4 star QB that walked on this year rather than take scholarships at other major programs.. that tells me that the kids want to be there because it is their best chance to succeed!!! Haters goona hate

    • Pmaxhen

      Because they haven’t been doing it for 5 years? Alabama has done this for 5 years, how many national championships have they won?
      Saban just copies Bear Bryant’s oversigning techniques which as everybody knows is why Georgia Tech left the conference. It doesn’t seem like Alabama can win without bending/braking the rules and throwing ethics out the window. How on earth do you explain signing 10 more players than they have room for every year?!?! No team in the country loses 50+ players to attrition in 5 years.

    • Ryan Wooden

      See that’s the thing, Michael. Those kids really do want to be at Alabama, that’s why it’s so awful when Nick Saban eventually has to tell a few of them to leave.

  • Alan Smithee

    Don’t waste your time. If you think any of those rednecks in Birmingham give a crap about any of these players, you’re nuts. As long as they win games, that’s all that matters. Education? Diploma? Hell, half their fans can’t even read. The days of the plantation continue in Crimson Tide land.

    • http://twitter.com/kennaylorphotos kennaylorphotos

      Yeah there ya go … when you can’t beat Alabama in recruiting, accuse them of cheating. When you can’t beat them on the field, accuse them of paying off the refs. When Bama wins championships, blame the BCS. When you have no one else to blame, make personal attacks and call people from Alabama stupid, inbred rednecks … fucking moron.

    • David

      Do any fan base really care about anything than winning? Why should they? Who gets into sports thinking oh I wonder if he is happy. Why are you acting so metrosexual.

  • Louie

    Texas A&M still gonna beat that ass!!! Over sign all you want, Aggies all day!

    • http://twitter.com/kennaylorphotos kennaylorphotos

      9/14/13 is circled in crimson on every Tide player and coach’s calendar. A&M is gonna get the worst ass-kicking Kyle Field has ever seen.

  • David

    Athletes know when they sign with Bama that it is a one year scholarship and they have to compete to make the team. The coaches are completely honest with them up front, they expect a lot from them in the classroom and offseason program and that it won’t be easy. It’s no guarantee they will be there 4 years if they do not buy in completely. Bama will always have a naturally high turnover in players simply because they have players on their 2, 3, 4 deep that will be starting at 90% of other Div 1 schools and after a couple of years down on the depth charts they choose to transfer. How demanding Saban’s program is in all areas from athletics to academics also aids to a high turnover rate.

    After you consider the two or so 3 and out early entrees to the NFL, Bama will have to lose on average of about 4 players a year to sign 25 a year every year(this year it is abnormally high.) Most if not all of these leaving players will be natural defections, like players who flunk out of school or who want to transfer due to playing time or career ending injuries. The few that may be cut in a five year period come from a pool of those who are lazy in the program(out of 85 players there will always be at least a handful ). While other programs let players skip class and not work hard depriving more worthy student athletes of the scholarships, which by the way are 1 yr scholarships, Saban chooses to give others opportunities after the ones dismissed have been given ample opportunity to take advantage of it. This is a bunch ado about nothing. The writer should be writing about the character development program at Bama and all the good the program does in serving people.

    • Ryan Wooden

      Lazy by whose standards? Yours? Because it suits your argument?

      If you think for a second that Nick Saban is walking into a recruits home saying, “There is a chance I might send you home if we sign other recruits and run out of room,” then you’re insane. You’re not going to spin oversigning as a good thing or a necessity to anyone except people who are vested in Alabama football. Sorry.

      I’m not trying to sell Nick Saban as an evil person. I may mockingly reference it from time to time, but this is just one column (hopefully) of many. You’re going to see me be complimentary of Saban quite regularly, actually.

      However, oversigning happened to be the issue I wanted to touch on here, and Alabama football is the beau ideal of oversigning right now. It’s not something that people should be doing–regardless of whether or not certain loopholes allow it–and eliminating it starts with Alabama and Nick Saban.

      Thanks for the read and the thoughtful, intelligent and respectful comment. Perhaps in the future I will have the opportunity to do a column on the character development program.

      • David

        Saban keeps tabs of all players from class attendance to workout numbers. They have a team leadership council where team leaders discuss who is working hard and who is not. They know the athletes that are all-in the program and are doing it right in all areas. You think it is all right to spin oversigning as bad and then complain I spin it good but you never mention in the article both sides. Should a team keep players not doing the requirements of the program, give them a free ride even if it hurts the team chemistry and denies someone more deserving of the scholarship? Personally I think Saban, as usual, does things the best and right way. In the end no matter the silly criticism the kind of players Bama is signing are the ones not worried about competition, actually thrive on it, they know what’s going on and like the challenge. Even those few players that leave the program may later in life have benefit of the principles Saban tries to teach.

        • Ryan Wooden

          Deify much?

          • David

            No just like to expose biased reporters. Go Vols!

          • Ryan Wooden

            David, this is a column.