In a previous blog entry I detailed my dislike of Ohio State fans. I won’t recount that here. Please go back and re-read that entry if you care to reacquaint yourself with what sticks in my craw relative to the Buckeye fan base.
Over the years I have been a reader of and occasional contributor to an Ohio State fan forum called TheOzone.net. There are rules at TheOzone just as there are at most fan forum sites. Generally, the rules are simple: post whatever you like on the subject of Ohio State sports, but just don’t let it devolve into personal attacks on other posters, don’t use profanity, don’t flame, and so on.
My “contributions”, as it were, have historically been of the “devil’s advocate” variety (imagine that). Maybe I saw a thread in which some Ohio State pumper was making an argument that the Buckeyes have the most successful football program of all time. This type of claim is usually backed up with data, but it is often of a dubious nature. Therefore, in a case such as this, I have offered up “alternative” data and a different take on things that might lead someone to a different conclusion. I’m sure I am being overly kind to myself in this depiction of events, but this is the gist of it.
I am proud to say I have been banned from this website at least a half a dozen times. I can also say unequivocally that in no instance have I been banned for a violation of the site’s rules or terms of service. I have been banned because I disagreed with the homers on that site and they didn’t care for it. I imagine they would have a different take on things, but I would love for one of their administrators to provide a single example where I was banned because I broke a rule. The website is privately owned, so they were certainly free to ban me for whatever reason they chose (I didn’t bathe as often as they would have preferred, I used “big words” they couldn’t understand, and so on).
This is all background.
Over the past year or so, one of the more active posters on TheOzone has been a guy who goes by the moniker “7NCs7Heismans”. The “NCs” presumably stand for the national championships won by Ohio State since the program’s inception, and the other half of the name is self-explanatory.
Suffice it to say that if I have an obsession with the arrogance, sense of entitlement, proclivity for hyperbole, and just overall inability to see things as they truly are that plague the Ohio State faithful, this gentleman is at least as obsessed with Alabama football and its fan base.
He is the internet world’s yang to my yin.
Apparently this fellow married a gal who is a resident of the state of Alabama as well as an alumna of the University. If I’d known this prior to having read a word that the guy wrote on a forum, my inclination would have been to congratulate him for getting the opportunity to see how real fans behave when they don’t have to condescend and puff their chests up all the time to try and hide their sense of inferiority relative to truly successful football programs like Alabama’s.
Sadly, this fellow hasn’t cottoned too well to his marital conundrum. To make matters worse, he currently lives in Birmingham, the heart of Tide country. So day after day, it’s Nick Saban this, 13 national championships that. Major Ogilvie this, Joe Namath that.
The poor guy is like a Metallica fan who has to wander around the Grand Ol’ Opry every day, and it’s killing him.
Before the arrival of Nick Saban three years ago, his plight may not have been that bad. Alabama’s football program had fallen on hard times. The list of misadventures is too long to enumerate here, so I’ll just highlight a few:
- Probation and loss of scholarships
- A long string of coaches who were either not sufficiently successful, could not keep their noses clean, or moved on to greener pastures
- An inability to raise Bear Bryant from the dead
Life in 7NCs house was probably tolerable. But then in January 2007 Alabama went out and hired Nick Saban.
Saban struggled his first season and only went 7-6, but there were signs that the program was on its way back. In Year 2, the Crimson Tide went undefeated in the regular season, but then lost the SEC championship game to Florida as well as their bowl game to Utah. Still, 12-2 in only his second season was very impressive. And most people know what happened just this past year. Bama ran the table completely and won the school’s 13th national championship.
Now life for this man had become truly intolerable. Every cocktail party, every news report, every church social. All Alabama football. All the time. 24/7. An already football-obsessed state was now in overdrive.
What was this poor man to do?
Answer: find a way to tear down this Tower of Tide Tedium that was permeating his life.
If Alabama had hired a Jackie Sherill or a Danny Ford to run the program, he wouldn’t have had to look to far. Sherrill and Ford ran their programs “old school style”, which included a fair amount of practices that ran afoul of NCAA policies. Uh, they cheated.
Nick Saban has been successful at every school where he has coached. He famously took LSU to a national championship in just four years. Prior to that he brought pride back to Michigan State’s program. He was even 9-2 as head coach at Toledo. The man is recognized as one of the best coaches of the modern era, even by people who don’t care for him.
So, how was 7NCs to tear this great man down?
Ah ha! Nick Saban, 7NCs determined, is destroying the lives of fine young men by signing more recruits than the school has room for. This cannot stand.
Wait a second, you say. How can Saban bring in more recruits than are allowed? If there’s a maximum, there’s a maximum. The NCAA polices these things. Plus, if Alabama got in trouble prior to Saban’s arrival and wound up on probation, they can’t take any chances. Surely Saban is dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s. Keeping his nose clean.
More on Saban later.
For now let’s get quickly acquainted with how the NCAA rules work for the signing of recruits.
Basically it works on a rule of 25/85. The NCAA mandates that none of it schools recruit more than 25 players for any one academic year and that no school have more than 85 total students on football scholarship at any one time. So if a given school has 65 kids on scholarship going into a recruiting season, that school can still theoretically recruit an additional 25 players for the upcoming year, but they somehow need to find a way to get their total down from 90 to 85 by the time school starts.
How is this accomplished? In any given year, many things can affect scholarship numbers going into a competitive season:
- Transfers. If a kid looks at the depth chart and sees that he has little to no chance of seeing the field at his position, occasionally he will transfer to another school. This helps the school from which he is transferring if their numbers are too high, but it does have the effect of forcing the kid to sit out of competition for a year. The NCAA requires this sit-out period to discourage rampant transferring. If the young man transfers from a Division I-A to a Division I-AA or Division II school, he isn’t required to sit out. But so many of these kids have always wanted to play at the highest levels, so they generally choose to sit out in this situation.
- Injuries. It stinks, but occasionally these kids get hurt during off-season workouts, or have an injury from the prior season that doesn’t heal sufficiently. Sometimes this results in a medical “redshirt”, where the NCAA allows the kid to remain a roster member that doesn’t count against the 85, but he isn’t allowed to play in any games. Other times, if the injury is serious enough, it could be the end of his career. Either way, this has the effect of reducing the total kids on scholarship.
- Grades. Most people think that football players at Division I-A schools don’t really go to class or make much effort to achieve anything as a student. I won’t opine on that subject here. Regardless of how much or how little effort these athletes put into their studies, all schools have minimum grade requirements that allow a kid to compete. If his grades slip below that level, he may lose his scholarship. At least temporarily.
- Grayshirting. This is a slightly fuzzy area, but here are the basics of it. If Joe Recruit signs a Letter of Intent in February 2010 to play football at the University of Bonepicker but doesn’t actually report to camp with his fellow recruits in the fall, it may be because he has elected to delay his enrollment until the following January. If so, he still has a full five (not four) years of eligibility beginning with the 2011 football season, and he does not count against the 2010 totals. This practice is called grayshirting.
- Violation of Team Rules. This covers a broad area. If an athlete is arrested, fails to attend class, or for whatever reason does not meet the conditions the athletic department has set out for him to retain his scholarship, he may be released from the team.
- Inability to enroll as a freshman. Occasionally kids are recruited that have not yet met minimum GPA or SAT/ACT requirements for enrollment. The coaching staff hopes that before the college school year begins that this can be “dealt with”, but every once in a while it cannot be. Often these kids will enroll at a junior college or post-graduate high school program until they can get their academics in order.
Another major thing that affects the “numbers” from year-to-year is early application to the NFL draft by 3rd-year sophomores (kids that were redshirted for one year and have since competed for two) or true juniors. When that happens, and it does quite regularly with the better programs, obviously the kids that are leaving no longer have their numbers count against the 85 limit.
So here’s a scenario to consider:
The University of Whatchamacallit, a Division 1-A school, has 63 athletes on scholarship at the end of the 2009 season. If you didn’t know about all the things that could further affect that number, then you’d think that UW could only offer 22 incoming recruits a scholarship for the 2010 season, because anything more than that would put them over the 85 limit.
But you do know better.
So here’s the way the numbers might work:
68 scholarship athletes from 2009 are set to return for the following year’ season.
Head Coach Gene Fredrickson recruits 27 new freshmen recruits for the upcoming season. On paper, it looks like UW is going to be 10 players over the limit.
But 2 cornerbacks from the 2009 squad have decided to transfer. Seems UW is awfully deep in the defensive secondary.
Bobby McCall, the second string left defensive tackle breaks his leg during offseason conditioning and will miss the entire 2010 season.
2 more kids are declared academically ineligible for the 2010 season.
During the offseason 2 additional players are arrested for smoking marijuana and are kicked off the team permanently.
1 additional player has a falling out with the strength and conditioning coach during spring practice and decides to declare himself eligible for the NFL’s supplemental draft. He meets all of the NFL’s draft eligibility requirements and leaves UW.
Of the 32 new recruits, one is grayshirted and a second does not have the grades necessary to enroll for the fall semester and instead enrolls in a junior college down the road.
What is UW’s scholarship total when fall practice starts, even though Coach Fredrickson recruited more than the 25 the NCAA alllows and it looked as though he would be 10 over the 85 limit when school started the next year? Why, it’s 85.
Which brings me back to my buddy 7NCs and his Oversigning.com blog.
It seems 7NCs spent so much time prattling on endlessly on TheOzone about Alabama’s gratuitous oversigning, as well as the oversigning practices of several other SEC schools, that the rest of the forum told them that enough was enough. Go start your own blog and pour your energy into that. You will burn off all this energy you have and you won’t fill up our precious forum with repetitive jibber-jabber about the SEC. Seems most of the Ohio State fan base has heard just about enough about the SEC for the past four years. This would be especially true given that in the first two years of this four-year span the Buckeyes were run off the field by SEC opponents in the national championship game. The last two years the victims weren’t members of the Big 10. Instead it was the Big 12, but these Ohio State fans have heard all they can handle about the SEC.
So they basically ran him off.
7NCs took their “advice” and dove headlong into this new mission. He wanted to expose teams like Alabama that are willfully out there taking advantage of wrinkles in the rules that allow Alabama (and other “scofflaws”) to do what amounts to jury-rigging the system.
After all, the Big 10 has stricter rules than most of the other conferences. No Big 10 school is allowed to recruit more than the 25 minimum that the NCAA allows. This is true even if a full class of 25 will not put a member school at the 85 limit. This is quite interesting.
Do you suppose there is any chance at all that the sanctimonious attitude that 7NCs has about SEC recruiting practice could have anything at all to do with the fact that:
- The SEC has won four national championships in a row–two of them with Ohio State coming out on the short end of the score, and
- His alma mater’s conference doesn’t seem to have the ability to count to 85
Any chance at all?
But 7NCs hasn’t stopped here. Not by a long shot. It seems he has it in for Nick Saban and some of the other coaches in the SEC that practice this annoying habit of making sure they field a full squad of 85 players every fall.
So what does he do? He paints a nasty picture of Coach Saban.
Remember the scenario I just described with injuries, grades, and so on having a disadvantageous effect on UW’s scholarship total? Forget that. That isn’t what’s going on at Alabama. No sir.
Nick Saban is going to kids already on scholarship and putting pressure on them to transfer. Worse than that, he is telling kids that if they transfer willingly he and the Bama coaching staff will help find them a program to take them–either another 1-A program or a program at a lower division. But don’t make a fuss about it, Saban warns. Do that, you ingrate you, and I will unceremoniously toss you off this team for some trumped-up reason and you may never play football again. Or maybe he tells a kid with a balky ankle that the injury is really far more “serious” than even the player can imagine, and he had better consider giving up the game altogether.
What 7NCs would have you believe is that Nick Saban, one of the best recruiters in college football and one of its most successful coaches, has to lie to the faces of his players and to those players’ families. He’s doing it because he has to. He is being paid $4 million and change a year, after all, and the Alabama alumni will accept nothing less than championships after so many years with the program in retreat. Do what you have to do, Nick, even if that means throwing this kids out on their asses. Keep the ones that can score TDs, they say. The ones that can’t? We don’t give a rip what you do.
Yes, indeed. This man 7NCs is on a quest. He seeks to expose programs like Alabama’s that are exploiting this young kids. Heck, he says, so many of these kids have grown up wanting to don the Crimson Tide and wouldn’t dream of playing anywhere else. But what does this soulless man do? He throws them out on the street and tells them not to come back.
He has the numbers to prove it. He’ll even show you the recruits Saban has brought in the four years he’s been in Tuscaloosa (with the upcoming 2010 as the fourth). Saban has offered 113 (or some such number) recruits scholarships. Good lord! That’s 28 over the 85 limit. It’s a full recruiting class worth of kids more than the Ohio States of the world have recruited. Not only is it not fair, he’ll tell you. It’s sinfully wrong to take advantage of young kids in this way, because Saban knows he will have to throw a huge percentage of these kids out on the street to make his NCAA-mandated numbers!
What he won’t tell you is that when a kid is recruited in one year and goes to post-graduate high school for a year, only to come back in the following year’s class as well, he’s been counted twice in the numbers. He won’t tell you that this happens with great frequency. He won’t tell you that Saban is often recruiting kids from incredibly underprivileged backgrounds that have struggled in school all their lives. Some may never make the grades to get into college. Doesn’t matter. They’re in the numbers too, but don’t worry about the fact they’ll never set foot on campus. 7NCs would have you think that Saban is putting the sole of his shoe on their behinds and pushing them out the door.
Are there ever any shady goings-on with these recruits at Alabama or anywhere else? I don’t know. Could be.
I do know this. When fall camp starts in Tuscaloosa this coming August, the 2010 recruiting class will be at no more than 25 and the overall number of players wearing the Crimson that are on scholarship will total no more than 85. Those are the rules, and Nick Saban plays by them.