Ever tried to move a refrigerator or a piano through a 32” door? Angles and tricks—like taking the door off—can help do the job.
Nick Saban performed such a move to get Alabama’s roster to the required eight-five scholarships with an incoming class of thirty-two for 2008. (The NCAA limits football scholarships to twenty-five per year.)
- Two signees decided on major league baseball careers.
- Two counted towards the class of 2007—originally a class of twenty-five.
- Two went to junior college.
- One was a Bryant scholarship (more on that later).
- One signee was deferred until 2009 due to a medical condition.
By the time Saban finished—even in the wake of 116 letters of intent signed with Alabama in the four previous years—Nick had room for scholarships for three walk-ons. Voila. The piano is in the living room, unscratched, beautiful—NCAA approved.
With redshirting—when a player gains another year of eligibility because he does not play, usually his freshman year—and with medical years granted by the NCAA, Saban’s achievement is even more impressive. One hundred and forty-one recruits over five years, including possible redshirt years, signed with Alabama.
A few were counted twice due to academic ineligibility or greyshirting. Greyshirting is the opposite of early entry, which is a semester early. A player who greyshirts enters the University the second semester, and counts against the next year’s scholarships. When the Tide averages over twenty-eight letters of intent per year for five years, some movement of recruits is expected.
The Bryant scholarships are awarded to all children—male or female—of a player who played for the Bear. They are considered institutional aid. A male recipient could practice football and be on scholarship. When he “engages in intercollegiate competition”—plays in a game, he is counted towards the NCAA scholarship limits.
Currently, three sons of Bryant players are on the Alabama football team. The Alabama roster lists one hundred and five players, necessitating twenty-two players sharing numbers. Would you want to be a greyshirt, a JUCO, a Bryant scholarship or a medical redshirt trying to get back onto the team and see playing time?
Saban may be saving his greatest trick for this year. Minus the Seniors who have used up their eligibility and expecting Glen Coffee to join Andre Smith for the NFL draft, seventy-three players on scholarship will return next year for the Tide. Four players are expected to join the team—two are early entries and have started school, one is the medical deferment from last year, and one player has resolved some academic difficulties.
Seventy-seven leaves eight scholarships for 2009. Nineteen other recruits have committed to Alabama for 2009 so far with the Tide involved in some more possible commitments that will go down to Signing Day. One conservative estimate is 23 total commitments. (The two early entrees somehow counted towards last year.)
Twenty-seven recruits signed letters of intent with Alabama on Signing Day.
How Saban will finagle the difference between eight available scholarships and twenty-seven signees will be truly magical. It’s somewhat like fitting an elephant through a door—and into the living room.