The Machine

In a story ESPN The Magazine published on the birth of Georgia State's football program, they interviewed recent Alabama transfer Star Jackson, and when we read the following quote the first thought we had was William Bradford Huie said this 69 years ago.

"Bama is a machine. You do it like this, and if you don't -- your ass isn't playing."


Star Jackson's transfer to Georgia State has drawn a lot of attention, primarily because of when it occurred (which was after Saban accepted more signed letters of intent then he had room for when he accepted them AND after Jackson spent the summer competing against a new QB recruit 5* Sims for a spot on the roster) and the circumstances surrounding his transfer.

His comment regarding Alabama and calling it a machine rings a bell for us because one of the first posts on this site was about a man named William Bradford Huie.  Huie wrote a spectacular piece on his Alma Mater in 1941 called  How to Keep Football Stars in College, and in his piece he refers to Alabama as a machine.

"Three thousand hopeful young men have entered the University of Alabama to play football during the fifteen years I have been close to that machine. Fifteen hundred fell out by the end of the first semester. All of these initial casualties had played football in high school and had learned little else. When the athletic department dropped them, what could they do? Even if their parents could afford to send them to classes, they were not prepared. They had come to college prepared only to play football. Had football not robbed them of their opportunities in high school some of them might have worked out successful college careers." 

More from his piece here.  The problem back in the old days at Alabama was not the scholarship limit, but the 5-year eligibility rule.

"The Red Shirts composed the "suspension" squad. They were the fifty or more prospects who had already served their time on the freshman squad but had not yet been chosen for the varsity. You see, under the five-year eligibility rule in the Southeastern Conference a boy can play a year on the freshman squad, a year on some intermediate squad, and still play out his full three-year varsity career. Thus in the spring the coaches look over the varsity and see what is needed to fill the holes resulting from what the sports writers politely call "graduation." They look over the Red Shirts first since they are older and better developed. Then they pick up a few from the freshman squad. Next they consign the rest of the freshmen to the Red Shirt pool to grow and develop another year. The chaff portion of the Red Shirt squad is then fired off the pay roll, and the brain trust promptly allows them to flunk and fall out of school. This fate will already have caught up with more than a hundred freshmen before the end of the first semester." 

We highly recommend you read our previous post on his piece and read his entire article yourself. 

Things have changed a great deal since Huie's time, or have they?  Sure there are scholarship limits now and the sheer numbers have changed, but based on Star Jackson's story and his calling Alabama a machine, how much has really changed?  Guys are still trying out for scholarship spots against oversigned rosters and fighting an uphill battle against numbers, just like back in the day.  Things were a lot more brutal back in those days, guys nowadays are at least getting medical hardship scholarships and opportunities to transfer to other schools. 

In the end, the bottom line is that institutions of higher learning are not supposed to be football "machines."  And according to the NCAA mission statement they exist to ensure that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount, not the sports experience.

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  1. Do you think Star is gonna have something good to say about Alabama in all seriousness? He was an Elite 11 QB, 4* recruit that got passed by arguably 2 QB’s at Alabama is gonna say something different?

    At what point does he have skin in the game? He is a student athlete and his scholarship is yearly, you don’t commit to a recruit for 4 years, it’s yearly. If you aren’t good enough to play, then you shouldn’t take up one of the 85 spots. I hate that it happens, but if that isn’t an incentive to step up, then I don’t know what is. Star had every opportunity to be a STUD and apparently didn’t take it, so he got chewed up by the machine…or he couldn’t cut the mustard.

  2. ‘In the end, the bottom line is that institutions of higher learning are not supposed to be football “machines.”‘



    • LOL You do realize that both of those are POSITIVE about tOSU? So much research, such a waste of time.

      • Um, yeah, that was the point. To show that being referred to as a machine isn’t necessarily a criticism. You do realize that Star Jackson meant his statement to be a POSITIVE as well, don’t you? As in, the Alabama football program is run so efficiently and effectively, it is like a machine. Do you think Jim Tressel plays players who don’t do things the way their taught in practice? If not, OSU is similarly a machine.

        • Ah, the joy of logic. Are you saying that Huie was using machine in a positive sense, then? That his article is actually praising Alabama for forcing so many people to wash out? Oh Bammer, never change.

          Ridicule aside, the point is: you’re looking at a very different aspect/interpretation of “machine”. In the two links, Ohio State is a machine in terms of producing NFL-caliber talent, which also applies to the Alabama program. That’s the positive aspect of “the machine”: the negative aspect of that is the fact that, in order to increase NFL-caliber production, some programs, one of them Alabama, are pushing more people through the program, knowing that they’re going to make tens and dozens of kids wash out of college in exchange for that extra productivity. You know that Luie’s article and Joshua’s website are focused on the negative aspect of the machine that was purged decades ago and has been resurrected in the Deep South.

          You also know damn well that Alabama has the highest attrition rate in the country because the coaches force people out of the program because of oversigning. You know it’s unethical; you just don’t care.

          • Addendum: now that I think of it, Syracuse and Tennessee probably have higher attrition rates this year. Claim retracted. Instead, I’ll make a bet I won’t lose: next season, Alabama will oversign on National Signing Day, and “encourage” people to leave/implement zero tolerance to get below the limit, and fans will continue to insist that nothing shady happened and anybody who says otherwise is just jealous.

          • Let’s see. Did I say anything about Huie’s writing? Since I stated I was referring to Star Jackson’s comment, then it’s probably a pretty safe assumption that I was talking about Star Jackson’s comment and not Huie. Nice attempt at ridicule though.

            A coach like Saban has high attrition rates due to the demands that he places on his players. There is nothing unethical about player-initiated transfers or players being removed from the team for repeated violation of team rules. Nice backtracking on your initial allegation by the way.

  3. Star Jackson’s quote in the ESPN article on Georgia State is out of context. Here’s the link to the article and the relevant portion:


    ‘Jackson picked Alabama because of Nick Saban. He says he thought it would be like playing in the NFL, under a man who’d sent dozens of guys to the league. He wasn’t wrong. “Bama is a machine,” Jackson says. “You do it like this, and if you don’t — your ass isn’t playing.”

    At Alabama, Jackson never backed down during the disciplined practices. He just couldn’t unseat McElroy. During the national title game, Jackson stood on the sideline, feeling as if he weren’t even there. On the flight home he thought about the upcoming season, imagined that same feeling again. He decided his career at Alabama was over. When he got his championship ring, he gave it to his mom.

    As a star at Lake Worth High, in Florida, Jackson had been close to Anthony Midget, then Lake Worth’s defensive coordinator and now GSU’s defensive backs coach. Midget would sometimes take Jackson home from school or out to eat hot wings. Midget and the head coach, Errick Lowe, remain close friends. When Lowe drops the idea that Jackson wants to transfer, Midget is thrilled. He talks to Jackson, tells him about the new program, describes what it’ll be like. But Midget also says that his new coaches will be hard on him. Jackson buys in.

    “I watched him play in Alabama’s spring game, and in my view, he was the best QB,” says Curry’

    So Alabama and Saban were what Jackson expected when he was recruited and decided to go there. He wanted the type of coaching and system that would prepare him for the NFL. At programs like Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, etc., coaches don’t tell the players to do things however they like. They’re taught how it is supposed to be done and if they don’t do it the right way they are unlikely to play.

    The article doesn’t say that Jackson didn’t do things the way he was taught or thought he should be able to play QB however he wanted to. It says he didn’t beat out McElroy last year, knew he wouldn’t beat him out this year and was frustrated by it. It happens at every school, highly recruited kids want to play and when there’s more than one of them at QB where one guy typically gets most or all of the playing time, kids who don’t play often decide to transfer. As has been pointed out numerous occasions 2 QBs have transferred from Ohio State in the last couple of years and I’ll bet that one or two on the current roster will transfer before their eligibility is up.

    Joshua, this article doesn’t support your theory that Star Jackson was “cut” after losing a competition to Phillip Sims this spring. It says Jackson pretty much decided he’d transfer after the BCS championship game and that he chose Georgia State because one of his high school coaches was on the staff there.

    And please, no lectures from an Ohio State partisan on institutions of higher learning versus football machines:


    At around 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, the first day of Ohio State’s preseason football camp, Buckeye tailback Robert Smith was hunched over his dorm-room desk. A sophomore premed student, Smith was slogging though a chapter of General Chemistry, the text for inorganic chemistry, his bear of a summer school course. The final exam was two weeks away, and Smith was worried. He needed a good grade to stay on track in his premed program.

    Suddenly, his door swung open. “Lights out!” barked Elliot Uzelac, the Buckeyes’ new assistant head coach-offensive coordinator. Smith tried reasoning with him. No luck.

    “Lights out!” Uzelac repeated. Incredulous and furious, Smith defied Uzelac. Finally, Uzelac went away.

    Nine days later Smith was cheek by jowl with Boris Yeltsin on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Yeltsin had dissolved the Communist Party in Soviet Russia, but Smith had done something really shocking. He had walked into coach John Cooper’s office on Aug. 23 and quit the team, citing these reasons:

    •Cooper and Uzelac were not concerned with their players’ physical well-being.

    •Cooper and Uzelac had been “stripping players of their dignity.”

    •Ohio State coaches were less concerned with their athletes’ educations than with keeping them eligible to play.

    According to Smith, on at least three occasions Uzelac pressured him to miss class to attend football practices or meetings. At various times Uzelac told Smith, “You’re here to play football” and “You take school too seriously.”

    • Why are you bringing up an article from 20 years ago? Jim Tressel has been the coach for 10 years and Cooper is retired. There is nothing relevant to the issue of oversigning in this except for the fact that Cooper didn’t do it then like Tressel doesn’t do it know. It’s hilarious that you do all this research to find nothing that relates to the present.

    • You are absolutely correct that these actions by a coach should not be tolerated. Ohio State showed that it agrees too when it fired John Cooper for a “deteriorating climate within the football program.”

      • Yes, I’m sure Cooper’s 2-10-1 record against Michigan and 3-8 record in bowl games had nothing to do with his dismissal.

        • No DP. It was his lack of attention to scholastic endeavors and his poor attendance at nuns’ fundraisers. He also failed to say “gee” and “gosh” every fourth word during press conferences. No wonder they canned him.

        • It had plenty to do with it along with not giving a crap about academics.

  4. Seriously? YOu try and connect Star Jackson to the way things were seen back in 1941? And you wonder why more people dont take you seriously?

    Wow, you know, Ohio State had a coach that attacked a player. That must be the way things are now, because it did happen there.

    See how idiotic it would be for me to compare the Woody Hayes era to now?

    And please, you did not see Star’s quote and think, yeah, that sounds like some writer that wrote an article 70 years ago. Plus the ‘Machine’ is also the nickname of the on campus greek society, student council, etc that is said to ‘run’ things at Bama. Keep it up, you ruin more of the ‘credibility’ you think of all the time as you do more of these pieces.

    And BuckeyeXB, how different is that to bring up an article about what Bama was like in 1941?

  5. Is it a coincidence that when you think of the Coaching Legends of College Football, they are mostly a bunch of hard-nosed disciplinarians who demanded a TON from their players and worked them like dogs? Bear, Woody, Switzer, Rockne, etc. They were all cut from the same cloth, but their players loved them and stand by them like John Wooden’s players do. Saban is the closest thing we have to this in the Modern Day, yet is made out to be a bad guy… When it’s all said and done, his name will be right there with the one’s mentioned above. Along with 4 or more National Titles.
    For anyone who wants to get a close up look at the best coach in College Sports and a good look at The Machine, you should turn over to ESPN on Wednesday. ESPNU and ESPN will go inside Alabama football in an hour-long special. Check out “College Football Special: Alabama All-Access” Wednesday (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET) or Thursday (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

  6. I know you touched on this story in the past. Mr. Wesley (miami guy booted to make room) has now come out publicly trashing his former coach


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