Nick Saban is consistently ahead of the curve and should be used to blowback from critics that ofttimes include his peers, but apparently the Alabama head coach had heard enough about one particular issue.
Over the past month or so, it’s come to light that Saban had used some of his former players, including recent NFLers Trent Richardson and Blake Sims, as stand-ins on his scout team during practices. The usage of former players is permissible up to a certain point; specifically, NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, which falls under the heading of practice requirement exceptions, states that “[a] former student at the certifying institution [e.g., former student-athlete] may participate in an organized practice session on an occasional basis, provided the institution does not publicize the participation of the former student at any time before the practice session.”
Saban’s counterparts in the SEC seemingly have no problem with the practice. One former SEC head coach, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, was openly intrigued when informed about what Saban was doing and that the NCAA allows it.
There have been critics of Saban’s usage of former Tide players, chief among them Brian Kelly. “I think it’s absolutely ludicrous. Doesn’t sound like college football to me,” the Notre Dame head coach said late last week.
I don’t know if Kelly’s criticism was Saban’s tipping point, but the coach used his radio show Thursday night to express his frustrations over being criticized for something that’s well within the rules.
“Now everybody is complaining that we did it and they want to change the rule,” Saban said by way of al.com. “We didn’t break any rules. If they want to change the rule, they can change the rule. I don’t care what rules they change if it’s the same for everybody. I just wish people would quit complaining about what we do — that’s allowed by the rules — and why don’t they just do it. I hear this all the time. I hear this all the time.”
Like there was with those ‘ridiculous‘ satellite camps — remember those practices that were completely legal but Saban and others railed against? — expect there to be at least some discussion at multiple levels of the NCAA in the coming months regarding this issue. And perhaps, ultimately, some changes — as was eventually the case with satellite camps.