Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Football: Oversigning and Roster Cuts Are Part of Nick Saban's Process


After four Alabama Crimson Tide football players were arrested earlier this month, fans and critics alike came to the realization that beyond putting a rare black mark on team discipline, the arrests made it easier for Nick Saban to make the necessary roster cuts to get his team to the magic number of 85 scholarship players.

That was made even clearer on Wednesday when Saban announced that the four players were off the team. In the shadow of that announcement came the news that wide receiver Marvin Shinn would not be participating in the offseason training program and would likely transfer. Shinn had contributed in all 14 games last season, and saw action in the SEC Championship game mainly due to the injury to fellow receiver Kenny Bell.

It was further announced that receiver Danny Woodson, Jr., son of a former Tide quarterback, was suspended for ‘violation of team rules,’ and also would not participate in the offseason program. Assuming Woodson doesn’t find his way back into Saban’s graces, that makes six of an estimated ten cuts Saban will need to make to get Alabama to 85 scholarship players.

Another ‘cut’ comes if new signee Bradley Bozeman agrees to grayshirt, delaying his enrollment until 2014. Other grayshirts may soon come, as well as academic issues that force some players to go the junior college route. In short, there’s no doubt Alabama will get to 85 players before the 2013 season begins.

* * * *

The usual cries of outrage already ring from the rafters, as Saban is taken to task for oversigning and managing a college football program like an NFL team. But is anyone surprised at this point that Alabama manages his roster in this manner?

This far into Saban’s tenure at the Capstone, there is no mystery as to how the Alabama program is run. It is one of the most successful, most lucrative college teams in the nation, and has the ability to pick from among the very best athletes in the country. Any young man with talent and skill has to consider Alabama as a potential place to play college football, and knows that doing so at a high level is an almost guaranteed ticket to riches in the NFL.

Players also know that not everyone makes the cut. The constant bleating of sports media about oversigning doesn’t fall on deaf ears among high school athletes. They know who Saban is, and what he does. These are not the innocent babes some would have us believe.

Athletes are used to competition. They compete against themselves in training, and against their teammates for a spot on the team. They compete against other teams for titles and glory, and know that success comes through sweat and dedication.

Other vocations are not like this. In some fields, length of service or tenure determines pay and benefits, and simply showing up over a long period of time is good enough to rise to the top. After all, you’re owed a job and a liveable wage, and isn’t a flatscreen plasma TV a basic human right?

As we noted in this space yesterday, Nick Saban preaches achievement and merit in a nation obsessed with a twisted idea that fairness has to mean equality of results. He also preaches that if given the opportunity – and playing football at Alabama is an opportunity many covet but few will have – a player must make the most of it; in the classroom, on the field and every weekend under the cover of darkness on a Saturday night.

Those who can’t do as expected are in danger of losing that opportunity. Such is life; there is no guarantee of success, and though we can try to force human nature to change through regulation and intervention by whatever regulatory body we choose, we all ultimately stand or fall on our own merits.

If an 18-year old young man hasn’t grasped that by the time he begins considering where to play college football, he’s on a collision course with that particular life lesson. Nick Saban’s program is teaching it every year, in full view of the public. The crocodile tears coming from those that want a scholarship to be a free handout with no strings attached should stick to their tenured gigs, and let the achievers rise or fall on their own efforts.

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Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Football Nick Saban

  • http://www.facebook.com/damon.gandy Damon Dacus Gandy

    Nary a truer word has ever been spoken!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Skers1fan Drew

    Lots of excusing pure lack of integrity. Student-ahletes suffer because of it. Saban and his bamapologists forget that these kids are first a student, a football player secondary to that.

    • BamaHammer

      Of course you’ll be able to point to specific examples of suffering cause by Saban’s roster cuts; we’ll wait. Let’s certainly not kid ourselves; many of these players would have no shot at a college education were they not good athletes.

      The opportunity they receive is not a guarantee; it’s an opportunity. If, at this point, a kid doesn’t understand that his continued time at Alabama is dependent on his work on the practice field and in the classroom, then he’s not going to make it anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharie.crittenden Sharie Crittenden

    “It is the nature of every person to error, but only the fool perseveres in error.”

    Saban is no fool!

    Roll Tide!

  • Jerry Beckett

    I cannot blame Saban for using oversigning and roster cuts (“Sign
    and Purge”) to maximize the talent on his roster. He’s there to win games.

    What I cannot understand is how any university president with an ounce of integrity and/or concern for the education of student-athletes can allow such a practice. One cannot honestly claim to care about the education of athletes while allowing your football program to yank a scholarship from a student-athlete in the midst of his undergraduate education in order to give it to a more promising incoming player. It is an abhorrent practice, and shame on the UA president and/or administration for allowing it.

    • BamaHammer

      Not that we speak for the University, but we’d be interested in the names of any specific players whose scholarships were yanked.

      • Jerry Beckett

        Start with spot contributors who suddenly decide to transfer.

        This is what I love about ‘Bama folks: when they’re not defending sign ‘n purge, they’re trying to convince themselves that Saban isn’t doing it.

        • BamaHammer

          The entire point of this article is that roster management happens at Alabama, and that it happens at most other schools as well. But Alabama seems to be the only offender folks get incensed about; why that is can be debated.

          • Jerry Beckett

            So now you’re back to defending it.

            Why ‘Bama? Some reasons:

            1. ‘Bama is the most visible target at the moment.

            2. Other schools that have abandoned this practice have done so because other schools in their conference created enough of a ruckus about it that the conference moved to stop it. The recent restriction of 25 scholarships offered per year came largely because some of the SEC East schools called for such action.

            3. ‘Bama fans are the practice’s most vocal defenders. Oklahoma State used to oversign like mad, but I’ve never seen any of their folks defend the practice. Take a look around the internet, and you’ll find the most passionate defenders of this practice are fans of SEC West schools. As Alabama rules the roost, they will get most of the anti-oversigning flak.

            4. ‘Bama’s got the best coach, the best facilities, a great fan base, seemingly unlimited resources for its football program…why on earth do they need to oversign?

            And no, most other schools don’t practice oversigning, or whatever euphemism (“roster management”) you’re using to convince yourself that it is anything other than “yanking a scholarship from a student-athlete in the midst of his undergraduate education in order to give it to a more promising incoming player”. As much as I loathe the B10, they have rules against such a practice (though it seems Ohio State has run up against this rule a few times). The P12 has taken action against such a practice. If you can identify a Big East or ACC school (FSU, Clemson(?)) that used to or still does oversign with regularity, please do. Notre Dame has never oversigned. This is not because these programs are filled with more moral coaches/staff; I can guarantee you that the coaches in these programs would love to be able to practice “roster management” the way ‘Bama does, but their universities and/or conferences won’t allow it.

            If ‘Bama folks feel picked on, remember that this year was the first year the SEC instituted a hard cap of 25 signees (a couple of schools were allowed to sign more because they had more than 25 roster spots to fill). A few years of this being in place, and you’ll likely not hear about it anymore.

          • BamaHammer

            This is the sort of discussion we hope to our soon-to-be-live Forums are filled with.

            Agreed, Bama is the most visible target, and Saban’s efforts are micromanaged by his detractors the way other coaches are not (and we say that as being fairly partisan). We can’t enjoy the success without tolerating the critics.

            Alabama is clearly not the only school oversigning, but Saban hasn’t painted himself into a corner by making self-righteous pronouncements about the topic to the media and public. Saban is hired to field the best possible football team, and does do within the letter of the rules. If the rules change, expect Saban to adjust.

            Rather than continue to go point by point, I’ll simply say that as much flak as Alabama takes about oversigning, and as much as there are those that would love to take Alabama and Saban down a peg, surely there are dozens of disillusioned, innocent waifs out there who are anxious to tell their tale of the Evil Saban’s taking away their one hope of an education. Maybe Scarbinsky, or the Truth Squad over at the AJC is on the cusp of blowing the lid off this thing.

          • Jerry Beckett

            As to your last paragraph, I doubt they are anxious to tell their tale, as their tale essentially involves admitting the fact that they were not as valuable to the football program as an incoming player. Show me the 20 year-old athlete who wants to go public with that. Good luck.

            As I said, a few years from now, this won’t be an issue.

            Take care, and enjoy the offseason.