Rue's Rant on College Sports in Alabama

February 5, 2010 11:00 AM

Please Tell Saban Commitment Is a Two-way Street

Saban news conference.jpgAlabama head football coach Nick Saban climbed back on his sanctimonious horse earlier this week during his national signing day media conference, lecturing us about commitment.

Perhaps, it's because five-star recruit Keenan Allen, a wide receiver/safety from Greensboro, N.C., orally committed to the Crimson Tide in November, but changed his mind this week and signed with the California Golden Bears.

"I'm old-fashioned," Saban said. "I think a commitment is a commitment. We tell guys when they commit that we want the recruiting to be over or we really don't want them to commit. If you're not really ready to stop recruiting, then you aren't really ready to commit because committing means you are coming to that school. I would rather you go visit other schools until you're sure that this is what you want to do rather than making a commitment and then not feeling comfortable and wanting to go explore other opportunities.

"There is an old saying, 'If you're shopping, then we should shop.' It shouldn't be that way, but when guys make commitments and then don't stick up for them, then you kind of get stuck a little bit because there may be other guys that you didn't recruit, that you could have recruited, that could have actually taken their place.

"I wish there was a better way, but there is not. We'll just have to manage it and keep recruiting guys and do the best we can with them."

What Saban didn't say is that commitment is a two-way street. How many times have college coaches promised these young men the world, such as "you are our top choice at your position," "you will get to play early," and "I will be at the school until your career is over?"

Coaches fawn over these players and tell them how great and wonderful they are, anything to get them to come to their school. The pressure to get them to commit during their recruiting visit is intense and many players cave in to the pressure.

For the most part, these youngsters honor their commitments and sign with the school they have committed to. But please don't hold 17-, 18-, 19-year-old youngsters to a higher standards than coaches are willing to follow. Didn't Saban make a commitment to the Miami Dolphins, then changed his mind and accepted a job at Alabama a few years ago? And he was under contract. High school players aren't under a contract with their college until they sign their football letter-of-intent.

Sometimes, things happen beyond a recruit's control that causes them to change their minds, and sometimes they just tell coaches what they think they want to hear just like coaches tell players what they think they want to hear.

Alabama has benefitted from players flip-flopping. Brandon Ivory, a 6-foot-3, 335-pound defensive lineman from Memphis, Tenn., committed to hometown Memphis in early January, then changed his mind and signed with the Tide.

Why didn't Saban tell him to honor his commitment to Memphis? I'll tell you why. He believes Ivory can help the Tide win football games and another national championship.

Alabama also has recruited other players who have committed to other schools, such as Shon Coleman, a 6-7, 285-pound offensive lineman from Olive Branch, Miss., who committed to Auburn in April, but visited the Tide in January.

Why didn't Saban tell him not to come to Tuscaloosa and just stay at home because he already had committed to Auburn? Because he thought he had a chance to change the youngster's mind. At least Coleman honored his commitment and signed with the Tigers.

I'm old-fashioned, too. I wish players would stick to their words. I wish I had never heard of the term "decommit."

Saban is always talking about the process. Well, "decommitments" are an ugly part of the recruiting process just as coaches up-and-leaving a school after they have told a recruit they would be there is a detestable part of college football.


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