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Friday, June 13, 2008

I wonder how 'Bama is doing with the ol' recruiting class? Earlier this summer MGoBlog got in a poo-flinging contest with every Alabama fan with internet access about Nick Saban's massive oversigning. It ranged hence and forth and left deep scars in the land that will become the cyber-Great Lakes in several thousand years. And now, sadly, it's time to carve out cyber-Huron.

The situation, to recap:

  • Fifteen scholarship seniors saw their eligibility expire this year; Saban signed 32 players.
  • Two enrolled early, leaving Alabama with a maximum incoming class of 27.
  • Depending on exactly what, when, and who you listen to, the Tide have to cut about six guys before fall. On April 17th, SMQB noted 64 returning players on the Tide roster and declared the number to be four, but he forgot about the two early enrollees; the number at that point was six.
  • A reserve offensive lineman took a medical scholarship sometime after that.
  • A couple days ago the seemingly plugged-in Bama Sports Report made it 63, leaving five guys to get the axe. (Link via Get The Picture.) At the end of their piece they note:
    Considering that two players (Zeke Knight & Lionel Mitchell) missed the majority of the spring due to injuries, and one player (Prince Hall) is suspended indefinetly, the numbers appear to be very, very close to working themselves out.
    Knight has had a scary time with heart murmurs and would be a legit absence, but Mitchell has had some minor back issues that didn't even prevent him from participating in practice. He spent the spring in a non-contact jersey, but he played. A medical scholarship for him would be dubious.
  • Hall, meanwhile, is apparently working his way towards rejoining the team.
  • Twenty-three recruits have enrolled, which means they won't be grayshirting. According to the BSR, one is more is likely to join them and two recruits have uncertain statuses.
So... close to working itself out? No. Remove Knight from the equation and assume none of the recruits who aren't on campus yet ("schools also can make it so some player doesn't qualify if they don't need him to" -Bruce Feldman) make it in, and Alabama is two scholarships over. If they do reach the 25 maximum, they're four scholarships over.

Around these parts, being two to four players away from reaching the scholarship limit of 85 on June 13th is not close at all. Even if you give Alabama the benefit of the doubt and assume every one of the mountain of medical scholarships they've given out is totally legit*, it's mid-June and Alabama is in the precarious position of hoping that some their players don't make the grade or get into serious trouble.

My prediction: This will "work out," as the Bama Sports Report suggests. There are probably several Alabama players who are taking summer classes to remain eligible, and exactly enough will find out they didn't make it. Or someone will come down with "ow my thing hurts." Or Prince Hall won't live up to Nick Saban's strict standards. Which will be just terribly convenient, and the 'Bama-bots will crow and everyone who's heard of Occam's Razor will look at a recruiting class that needed an incredible twelve players to leave the team between its signing and fall practice and shake their heads.

As SMQB pointed out in his April post, Alabama and Clemson are the only schools in the country to have put themselves in this position, and Clemson fixed their issues by cutting Ray Ray McElrathbey. They got the public whipping they deserved for that, and it should be Alabama's turn.

Schools should never be allowed to do this again. Alabama is in a position where they are rooting for kids to leave the team, and that will necessarily bias their actions and judgments in favor of shipping a kid off to Alcorn State. The NCAA must implement a simple rule: no oversigning. You show where the scholarship is coming from or no LOI for you.

*(Not likely, IMO, since many of the medicals were given to backup linemen with vague injuries like "knee problems" or "ow my shoulder sorta hurts" or "ow my shoulder too"; these guys were probably told they were cut and to take the scholarship and deal. How many backup offensive linemen could you offer medical scholarships to? 80%?**)

**(It's worth noting that Michigan gave two of its offensive linemen medical scholarships this offseason. This 1) reinforces point about just how many linemen you could put on medical scholarship and 2) will probably be seized upon by some irate 'Bama fan. The difference: Michigan enters the year with 79 scholarship players and at no time would not have had room on the roster should they want to return.)