After several years of coming to a steady boil, it appears the media spotlight on oversigning and grayshirting has hit critical mass; when the president of one of the nationa's highest-profile schools is putting pen to paper himself to essentially call out the presidents and coaches of his own conference, you know this isn't an issue that's about to go away quietly.
Which is no doubt why the usually taciturn Nick Saban -- who's previously treated questions about the topic the way most of us would treat questions about our commitment to dental hygiene -- took advantage of his Signing Day press conference to address the accusations leveled at his program head on :
"We have never gotten rid of a player because of his physical ability," Saban said ... "Any player that has left this program prematurely has created his own exit route ... He's created his own conditions for leaving, if that makes any sense, whether they're academic in terms of not doing what he needs to do academically, whether there's some violation in terms of team rule or policy, whatever it is.Even Saban's critics will have to give him credit for confronting the growing furor publicly (with something more revealing than his famous "the fans don't need to know " commentary from 2008), and for admitting to his recruits up front that he considers the Tide's scholarship offers only good on a year-to-year basis rather than a four-year commitment.
"We have never, ever grayshirted a guy here who when he decided to come here didn't know ... that he was going to be a grayshirt whenever he committed," Saban said.
But even that honesty likely won't do him any favors in the press once the 5-10 players Alabama is believed to need to trim from the roster to reach the 85-scholarship limit begin departing the program. (It's also worth asking if Saban is stretching the truth by claiming the team has never grayshirted a player who didn't "know" he'd be grayshirting; Harrison Jones knew it was a possibility when he signed last spring, but Saban also allowed Jones to move into a university dorm before informing him he'd have to wait until spring to enroll. "It's disappointing when you don't really expect it," Jones's mother said.)
Whether the players involved "created their own exit route" or not, the atmosphere surrounding oversigning has become charged enough that this likely won't be the last time this offseason Saban has to take to the podium to defend his program.