Friday, August 13, 2010

Shooting The Messenger: Nick Saban Edition

Lets say there's a person you don't like. They have done things you find reprehensible. They seem to have a pompous way about them. And they seem to get breaks you don't think they really deserve.

And then they go and say and or do something that you actually agree with.

What do you do?

I mean its easy to ignore them and act as if you don't agree with their point. Even easier still to point and laugh at them and bring up all their previous transgressions as a way to devalue their point. And even further still you can try to confuse the point all together so that nobody really understands whats going on which will serve to undermine them completely.

Yeah it would be easy, but would it be right?

There are reports that Nick Saban has banned NFL scouts from his practices. He has done so in response to one of his players in addition to several other top notch players on several other college teams, having their eligibility put in peril by an unscrupulous agent. Its a pretty courageous move when you think about it.

But you wouldn't know that to hear the chatter arising from the story.

See Nick Saban is an asshole.

Yes, I said asshole.

Oh I don't know the man personally, but I have heard enough personal accounts from people who do know him to take it as a fact.

But even if I never heard it from these people I would strongly suspect it anyway. You see he has done some things very publicly that also speak to his being an asshole. Like for instance the fact that when he left Michigan State to go to LSU, a job most folks would consider an upgrade, almost none of his staff went with him.

Now whether that's because they didn't want to go or because he didn't offer then the chance to come, you would have to think either way it points to him being an asshole. If the assistants didn't want to go to a better program (which ended up winning the National Title by the way) why do you think that was? And if he didn't offer the guys who helped him get the job at LSU in the first place the chance to go with him what does that make him?

Then there was that one time when he was coaching the Miami Dolphins and looked right in the camera and said he was NOT a candidate for the University of Alabama job.....days before announcing he was leaving to become the head coach for the University of Alabama.

I think you get my point.
But the question is, if an asshole stands up and does something right should we all just ignore it?

Let me get one argument out of the way. Its the "the players should be paid" argument. First off I agree, players should be paid to play football in college, especially those at big time Universities that bring in millions and millions of dollars each year from their programs. The problem is how to do it? I have yet to hear anybody come up with viable way to pay players AND be fair AND be Title IX compliant. So I'm sorry but let's have that conversation another time ok?

Also let me say this, college players do get something. As much as I agree with folks who say players should get paid, I vehemently disagree with the ones who go on to say that scholarships aren't really worth anything.

I think they say that because they don't know that some players actually DO take getting a degree seriously. I think they say that because they believe that every player goes to college with only getting to the NFL in mind. I think they say that because they don't realize that to at least some of those kids a college scholarship is literally a life save that pulls them out of bad situations in bad neighborhoods and at least gives them the opportunity to go out into the business world with a degree and having met other people who may be able t help them along their way.

Or maybe they just say it to try to make their point about paying players look better.

Either way, no matter what you think about a particular head coach or the NCAA system, the truth is most players who get a college scholarship actually get something out of it. Definitely isn't a fair exchange and the school definitely usually gets the better end of it, but the player gets something.

Tell me this, what exactly will Marcell Dareus, Weslye Saunders, and Marvin Austin going to get from a shady agent?

Oh yeah they will get some money or maybe invited to some glitzy parties, but what they don't realize and I guess most folks don't understand is that they are really partying with their own money. See agents and runners never GIVE a player money. Its ALWAYS a loan whether they know it or not. Those guys are just trying to get their hooks into the players so they will have leverage when its time for them to choose an agent or a "marketing" person. But understand that they will be asking for it back.

Even when you have a good agent here's the transaction. They negotiate for you based on YOUR talent and YOUR efforts and then they get you a fair market value deal and in turn you pay them a percent. But for those players the truth is 99% of what they were going to get in their first contract as a rookie was going to be slotted anyway if they were drafted. So there wasn't going to be a lot of value added in that situation.

On the other hand the risk is that those players lose their eligibility and in turn the millions if not tens of millions of dollars they stood to make with another great season.

And I know, I know, the players bear responsibility too. They know better than to take money from an agent or anybody else for that matter. But lets be real for a moment, how many people would have the strength to turn the money down if it was offered? Oh I'm sure some of us would, but many of these kids weren't raised like you, don't have the same background as you and most of them never think they will get caught. These are college students after all. How many college students you know that are angels?

The truth is some guys are always going to say yes, it is what it is. So the question becomes how do you keep agents from offering in the first place?

And that's really where Saban comes in. For years and years people have complained that bad agents don't really get punished harshly enough for their actions. This has led some states to enact their own legislation with criminal penalties for agents that engage in shady practices. But ultimately the NFL and NFLPA should be doing more to put the fear of God in agents that even consider jeopardizing these guys' careers.

So Saban took it upon himself to send a message, pretty much the only way he could send a message to the NFL and the NFLPA. He banned NFL scouts and encouraged other head coaches to do the same in hopes of compelling the NFL and NFLPA to act. It is, no doubt, a move filled with risk. Recruiting is a no holds barred situation. There will without question be some rival head coaches using this move as a way to steer kids away from Alabama on the pretense that it will hurt their chances at getting to the pros. And some in the media have and will continue to excoriate him for the move without really fully explaining why he's doing it.

But the truth is this, NFL scouts can get film on anybody they want. Going to practices is what they have always done and so they keep doing it but I doubt they actually NEED to do it. And this is a good time to remind everyone that many scouting departments are perfectly willing to throw out a player's film based on how they perform at the combine or private workouts. So in some ways the move is more symbolic probably than anything else, but again there wasn't much more Saban could do.

But at least he's doing something.

Here is a guy coming off a National Championship season and picked by quite a few people to repeat standing up and making a stand that he had to know wouldn't be all that popular. Or rather he had to know since it was him doing it the media wouldn't cover it all that favorably.  Do you think he wants or needs this kind of a distraction leading into the season?

And still he did it. Not only that he tried to influence other coaches like Urban Meyer to join with him in banning NFL scouts from practice. And there are already signs that he has at least gotten his point across since the NFL and NFLPA agreed to do a conference call with him earlier this week to discuss the issue.  No doubt its self serving because Dareus is one of his best players and no coach wants to lose a guy to this kind of foolishness.  But in the end the people who benefit most are the players.

That's usually something people would admire, but not when its Nick Saban.

Imagine for a moment that it was Joe Paterno banning NFL scouts to get the NFL to act? Or maybe Mack Brown?

If they had come out and done this I can almost guarantee you that members of the media would have hoisted them on their shoulders and proclaimed that they should have streets named after them. Fans would be marching in the streets with signs showing their support. And the NFL and NFLPA would have infinitely more pressure put on them to actually do something about policing shady agents.

But good ideas don't always come from only the people we like. Nick Saban may be an asshole but he's on the right side of the issue on this one. And whether you like him or not people should support this move. The more head coaches there are that agree to ban scouts from their practice until harsher rules are put into place, the more likely something will get done sooner rather than later. And in that situation everybody wins.

Or we can all keep making the issue Nick Saban.

But then who's the asshole?


  1. I'm not going to shed a tear for Saban b/c the way he runs his program promotes situations like this. Now that one of his star players is in trouble he's acting righteous.

    Would he have been leading the charge if Dareus hadn't been involved? No. Does something need to be done about shady agents in college athletics? Yes but coaches like Saban, Meyer, Calipari et al. are just as culpable for creating the environment college athletics is currently in with regards to agents. The NCAA should be taking a hard look at these coaches. It goes both ways.

  2. Just out of curiosity how did any of those coaches "create the environment"? id really love to hear your explanation.

  3. When you have guys on campus that you paid to be there don't act pissed off when someone else wants to pay to take them away.

    I find the righteous indignation from Saban laughable when his own recruiting practices are unscrupulous.

    Direct quotes from agent Ralph Cindrich:
    “Before Saban hurls insults at agents he best check to see the dirt they have on him. He’s as clean as a bed bug. Starts in college.”

    “You have to not want to know. All you have to do is walk out in the parking lot or look at the ‘bling’ or have someone visit their room.”

    “…old Nick knows that. I’ve seen him out on the road a time or two. He’s contacted a client of mine or a family member of a client of mine. I know what goes on out there and he knows that I know. The bottom line is that to stand up on a pulpit and start preaching that way, and maybe I’m doing it, take a shot at me, that bothers me, especially when it comes from a guy like Nick Saban.”

    “Don’t put USC in your rear view mirror…there is a lot more going on there. Those guys out there from neighborhoods that are deprived who are driving Range Rovers and the Mercedes and all the rest, they just earn that on their own on the weekends in the offseason.”

    Ever heard of the Red Elephant Club? Here's their charter:

    "…an elite group of individuals who will support the University of Alabama Football Program enthusiastically and wholeheartedly in a manner that will showcase our first class organization displaying the pride and tradition of the University of Alabama. We will provide donations to assist with funding football scholarships. We will strive to support our current and former football athletes as well as our football coaching staff in any possible way. We will assist current players with appropriate summer employment, preferably relevant to their chosen field of study."

    Yeah nothing shady going there at all.

    Like I said something needs to be done about agents in college but Nick Saban leading the charge is flat out laughable.

  4. Soooo based on the words of an agent who never hurls any actual allegations but rather generic innuendo the argument is Coaches, whom hes arguing are turning a blind eye to stuff he cant prove, are creating an environment for shady agents to go after players?

    Look as I said in the article ppl will allow their own biases to cloud their judgement on this and I understand that. But heres the difference. If in fact boosters are paying players there is a system in place to investigate and when called for severely punish everyone involved. With agents no such system exists so the can act with impunity. The problem with knocking Saban for leading the charge is nobody else sees to want to. So you can either have a guy you dont like leading the charge or not have a charge at all.

    As for me I dont give a damn whose leading what as long as something changes. It is what it is.

  5. Nicely written article.