Saban defends Tide's medical redshirting in wake of critical report

6 Comments

With the practice of medical redshirting seemingly on the rise — or, at least, the subject of more reports than it’s been in the past — the Wall Street Journal aimed a critical spotlight last week on what some consider a nefarious form of roster manipulation, with most of the harsh light placed squarely on the Alabama football program under Nick Saban.

The piece quoted three former Tide players — one who describes himself as “still kind of bitter” — who were among the 12 medical redshirts given out by the Saban-led program since 2007.  That number is nearly half of the estimated 25 medical redshirts handed out by SEC schools the past three years.

Medical redshirts are designed for players who are no longer able to play football due to injury, but still allows them to receive the financial aid that permits them to continue their schooling as if they were on scholarship.  At least one of the former Tide players interviewed for the piece claims he was still medically able to play, but was urged — or pressured — by the school to take the medical waiver in order to clear a roster spot for better players.  With scholarship limits set at 85, and the pressure to build and sustain a successful football program higher than it’s ever been, roster spots are at a premium, and there’s likely no program in the nation that doesn’t look to “massage” the outer edges of NCAA rules as it pertains to how a roster can be constructed.

When it comes to medical redshirts, however, Alabama’s head coach says that’s out of his hands.

“I didn’t really read the article. I didn’t see the article,” Nick Saban said when asked about the Wall Street Journal article Wednesday. “But we don’t make the decision about medicals. I have nothing to do with that. Those are medical decision made by our medical staff. I think we have one of the finest medical staffs in the country.”

Saban dismissed claims by his former players that the medical redshirts were given to clear roster spots for better players, claiming that there were legitimate medical reasons for what’s occurred.

“I don’t have any question about the fact every player we have given a medical to, it’s been because of the medical opinion of the medical staff,” Saban said. “Those guys should not continue to play football because it would put their future in tremendous risk.

“Those decisions are always made in the best interest of the player. Whether the player agrees with that or not, I can’t control. I don’t make the decision. They don’t make the decision as players. That’s why we have a medical staff.”

Do schools such as Alabama err so close to the side of medical caution that the medical redshirt practice takes on a “shady” hue?  Perhaps, but there’s a pretty damn positive side for any players who may feel jilted because they were “subjected” to such “indignity”: even as they will not be allowed to remain a member of the football program, they will still get a free education.

Or, if they truly feel that they are medically able, they can transfer to another school to continue their football career.

Either way, they still get a free education.

With all of this medical redshirt talk and the sudden surge in wailing and gnashing of teeth when it comes to paying college football players, that’s something that unfortunately seems to get lost in all of the bluster.

Ex-Alabama LB Christian Bell announces transfer to Wisconsin

11 Sep 1999: A cheerleader of the Wisconsin Badgers runs onto the field with a Wisconson Banner during the game against the Ball State Cardinals at the Camp Randall Sradium in Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers defeated the Cardinals 50-10.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

In last year’s opener, Christian Bell suited up for Alabama in their opener against Wisconsin.  For this year’s opener, he’ll be on that Big Ten team’s sideline as they take on yet another school from the SEC.

On his Twitter account Thursday, Bell announced that he has decided to transfer into the Wisconsin football program.  Over this past weekend, the linebacker announced via the same social media site that he would be transferring from the Tide.

Barring the unexpected, Bell will be forced to sit out the 2016 season and thus won’t be in uniform when UW opens against LSU at Lambeau Field.  Then beginning in 2017, though, he would have four seasons of eligibility remaining.

Bell took a “grayshirt” for the 2015 season, ultimately enrolling in classes at UA this past January. The Birmingham, Ala., native participated in spring practice with the Tide this year.

A three-star recruit according to 247Sports.com, Bell was rated as the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 17 player at any position in the state of Alabama.

WVU’s Larry Jefferson arrested on drug charge, no longer listed on roster

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 7:  The West Virginia Mountaineers mascot The Mountaineer yells a cheer during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners September 7, 2013 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 16-7. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

It appears the brief but up-and-down career of Larry Jefferson in Morgantown has come to an abrupt end.

The former junior college transfer had been suspended from participating in West Virginia’s spring practices for violating unspecified team rules.  Now, WV MetroNews is reporting, the defensive lineman was arrested late Tuesday morning and charged with drug possession. “Jefferson was stopped on Clay Street in Morgantown as officers were investigating a brandishing incident at South University Plaza in Morgantown,” the website wrote, and was subsequently found to be carrying small amounts of cocaine and marijuana.

According to the Dominion Post, Jefferson was holding .6 grams of coke and one gram of weed.

While WVU officials have yet to comment publicly on the situation, Jefferson’s name has been removed from the Mountaineers’ online roster.  Jefferson had not been reinstated from his spring suspension, but, prior to this incident, he had been expected to be on the field for the start of summer camp early next month and be a part of WVU’s line rotation this season as a pass-rush specialist.

After coming to WVU following two seasons at a Mississippi JUCO, Jefferson played in nine games for the Mountaineers last season.

Report: NCAA expected to reduce Alabama DB Tony Brown’s suspension to four games

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide talks with Shawn Burgess-Becker #27 of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tony Brown #7 of the Alabama Crimson Tide  during The Advocare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Getty Images
5 Comments

It appears Alabama’s appeal was a successful one.

Back in April, it was reported that Alabama defensive back Tony Brown had been indefinitely suspended by the NCAA, but that the Tide was appealing what turned out to be a six-game suspension. There was no official word on the reason or reasons behind the suspension at the time, and there still isn’t even as there’s been another development in the situation.

From al.com:

The expectation is that Alabama defensive back Tony Brown’s NCAA suspension is going to be reduced from six games to four, sources told AL.com.

According to the website, Brown’s “suspension stems from something that happened leading up to the Tide’s Cotton Bowl matchup against Michigan State in late December.” If so, it was a very busy month off-the-field for the defensive back.

In December of last year, Brown was sent home from the Cotton Bowl for a violation of team rules.  It was subsequently reported that Brown had started a fight with a teammate during the College Football Playoff semifinal and the Tide’s leadership council decided to send him home.  That incident, seemingly unrelated to the suspension, also led Brown to miss the win over Clemson in the national championship game.

Brown, a five-star 2014 signee, was arrested in mid-January of last year on charges of failure to obey and resisting arrest, although he managed to escape Nick Saban’s doghouse that time and tie for the team lead in special teams tackles in the 2015 regular season.

Four-star 2017 recruit who decommitted from OSU because Urban Meyer didn’t recognize him commits to USF

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Football players from the University of South Florida Bulls hoist helmets to show unity before play against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Raymond James Stadium on September 22, 2007 in Tampa, Florida.  USF  won 37-10.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Getty Images
4 Comments

As it turns out, it’s USF that will see a prospect gain from Ohio State’s recruiting loss.

Bruce Judson is a four-star 2017 recruit rated as the No. 37 player at any position in the talent-rich state of Florida.  He committed to Ohio State in January of 2015, becoming one of the first OSU commitments for the 2017 cycle.  In October of 2015, Judson abruptly decommitted from the Buckeyes.

Why?  Generally speaking, there was, in Judson’s opinion, a lack of communication between himself and Meyer post-commitment. “Coach Meyer contacted me enough to get my commitment,” Judson said, “[b]ut after a couple months, he just stopped talking to me.”

Specifically, however, there was one incident that seemed to lead to the decommitment — Meyer not recognizing Judson while on a visit. From SECCountry.com‘s early-May interview with Judson:

Long story short, I was walking in the hallway about to go to the indoor field and work out. (Meyer) was like, ‘Hey.’ I looked around. ‘Come here.’ He was like, ‘How you doing, you like your visit?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ Then he’s like, ‘What up Richard LeCounte? Are you showing this guy (Judson) around?’ I was like, ‘Coach, I’m showing him around.’ He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ I told him Bruce. He said, ‘Oh, Bruce Judson from Florida. The speedy guy.’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I’m glad that you’re on board and glad you got up here.’ After that, I knew I was de-committing.

Fast-forward nearly three months, and Judson has now given a verbal commitment to USF. And, the fact that the Bulls are at least going to take a peek at the athlete at the quarterback position seemed to tilt the odds in the AAC program’s favor.

“USF told me I can come in my freshman year and work into the quarterback rotation and start at another position,” said Judson told the Orlando Sentinel. “I know I got big shoes to fill … going in trying to step in Quinton Flowers shoes at quarterback. I’m ready to fill his shoes and make something special at USF.”