Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
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.
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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.