Medical Hardship Scholarship Abuse

Hannah Karp and Darren Everson at the Wall Street Journal have decided to probe the Alabama football program and the topic of medical hardship scholarships.  The results are interesting.

At least 12 times since coach Nick Saban took over the program in 2007, Alabama has offered players a "medical" scholarship, according to public statements made by the team. These scholarships, which are allowed under NCAA rules, are intended to make sure scholarship athletes who are too injured to play don't lose their financial aid. A player who receives one of these scholarships is finished playing with that team.

Three Alabama players who've taken these exemptions say they believe the team uses the practice as a way to clear spots for better players by cutting players it no longer wants. These players said they believe Mr. Saban and his staff pressure some players to take these scholarships even though their injuries aren't serious enough to warrant keeping them off the field.

"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."


The article is pretty much in line with everything we have been saying here on this topic, except this time it's actual former Alabama players saying the things we have said instead.

In light of the admission from former Alabama players that they felt pressured to take the medical hardship scholarships to free up scholarships, are we really still supposed to believe that guys like Star Jackson transfer completely on their own free will and that there is no pressure whatsoever from the coaching staff to move guys out in order to make the 85 limit every year.

To be fair, Alabama is not alone here, LSU and UNC are just as bad when it comes to abusing the bogus medical hardship scholarship loophole.

"Alabama isn't the only school that has given players medical scholarships. Including the Crimson Tide, the 12 members of the Southeastern Conference have given at least 25 of these scholarships to football players in the past three years. Ultimately, it's the school's decision whether a player is healthy enough to play football."

No one is forced against their will to take a medical hardship, some players said they were pressured, some said they were not pressured.

In some cases, the players who took these scholarships say they didn't feel pressured. Charles Hoke, a former Alabama offensive lineman who took a medical scholarship in 2008 because of a shoulder problem, said the choice was left entirely up to him and was based on the many conversations he had with the team's doctors and trainers over the course of his junior year.

Others who took these scholarships say they believe the school is violating the spirit of the rule. Mr. Kirschman, the linebacker, said he injured his back in April 2008 but continued practicing with the team through the spring of 2009. That May, he was approached by coaches and trainers and asked to take a medical scholarship.

"I wasn't playing significant minutes, but I was personally upset because I did anything coach asked, I was a team player, I had a 4.0 average," said Mr. Kirschman, who played in two career games, both in 2008, and is now working full time as a robot programmer at Mercedes.

But that doesn't mean all of the players were happy about it.

On the surface this looks like the perfect little loophole to get around oversigning.  These kids are given a scholarship to continue their education, so the coaches can sell them on that, plus the coaches can work the "it's for the good of the team and your school, which you'll still be able to attend" angle, which is much more appealing than, "hit the bricks we don't need you and we need to make room for better players." 

Couldn't this be looked at as giving players money to go away instead of giving them money to come?  "Hey, we'll give you $20-30K in the form of paid education and perks such as game tickets if you'll just leave your football scholarship so we can give it to someone else, and by the way, you'll need to sign this medical waiver so the NCAA doesn't slap us with rules violations and probation." 

Mr. Kirschman said the school offered in the summer of 2009 to pay for his graduate degree in business—an offer he accepted—and that he still gets some of the same perks as players. "I still get game tickets, which is nice," he says.

Mr. Kirschman said the decision to take the medical scholarship was ultimately his, and that he decided to do it to open up a scholarship for the good of the team. But he said he felt he was pressured. "It was pushed," he said. "It was instigated for several players."

In today's day and age, it's becoming increasingly harder to give players money and gifts on the front-end to entice them to come to a school without someone noticing, so why not give it on the back end to make room for better players.  That is what this is all about.  You don't build the kind of teams LSU, Alabama, and UNC have, as quickly as they have, without making as much room as possible for new, better players.

Just like the oversigning abuse, this is an issue that is being exploited by certain schools and it needs to end.  You would think the schools that abuse these loopholes would take more pride in just competing straight-up without having to bend every rule in the book or exploit every loophole, but that is obviously not the case some places.   What good is winning a National Championship if you oversigned 40+ guys in a 4 year period and ran off a bunch of kids in the process?  And shame on the conference commissioners, athletic directors, and university presidents that allow their coaches to do this kind of stuff to innocent kids.

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  1. Well well, I wonder what excuses our Crimson Tide friends will pony up now? I know they’ll find something.

    Why not just admit Saban is a sleaze? It’s not like you won’t still be able to crow over all your glorious championship seasons.

    • I assume I’m right in an argument because of an article concerning sports in the Wall Street Journal

      I don’t lke this teams coach. I don’t like that they brag about winning things.

    • Just what is it that makes Saban a sleaze? Do you really think Saban just goes up to a perfectly healthy player and tells him he has to take a medical scholarship? If you read this site much at all, they accuse him of just cutting them and not caring about what happens. Even if this article’s accusations are accurate, the worst you can say is that Saban wants his players to get their education wether they can finish their term or not – again, not something you get from reading the opinions on this and other sites.

      • No. He won’t go up to a healthy player and tell them to a med scholarship. He will “suggest” the player to transfer because they won’t be playing at bama.

        • Again, what’s wrong with that? If a guy has been there for three years and is being passed by on the depth chart by younger guys, it is obvious that he will never get meaningful playing time. It seems reasonable and the right thing to do to sit the guy down and talk about his options – which include staying and not playing, or transferring. Why not help him transfer to a place where he can finish his career on the field, not the bench? Not sleazy, responsible.

  2. Josh,

    We all could see this a mile away. Anyone who thinks Saban is not bending the rules to get his NFL type of team on the field, is blind and doesn’t want to face the facts. All Saban cares about is cutting the dead weight anyway he can, so he can bring in more 5 stars that are able to produce on the field. He doesn’t care how he does it doesn’t care about the people he walks over, all he cares about is winning to the point he is willing to exploit loopholes and violates the spirit of the law. That is your SEC Coach for you, win at all cost, do whatever you have to do to win. Funny part, the SEC hasn’t told the rest of the nation they are allowed to play by these same rules, because they aren’t doing these things and abuse. Kind of makes their last 4 NCs a little tainted doesn’t it.




      • The only schools that oversign that Ohio State has played since 2000 are Miami and LSU. OSU hasn’t played Alabama since the 1995 Citrus Bowl, though if the rankings hold out they will in the NC Game. Whoever you are, pull your head out of your ass: this isn’t about jealousy, this is about oversigning being unethical and the fans of oversigning schools being willfully ignorant.

  3. Hmm-it wasnt from former Alabama players, it was from 1.

    Hoke says that he wasnt pressured at all and that it was his choice. Griffins admits that he failed the physicals and couldnt pass them and felt disappointed that he couldnt live up to his potential.

    Kirschman does come out and say that he felt a little pressured. But then again, the choice was his. He didnt say it was that or his scholarship wasnt renewed.

    I notice you didnt include this quote, because its contrary to what you want people to believe.
    “In some cases, the players who took these scholarships say they didn’t feel pressured. Charles Hoke, a former Alabama offensive lineman who took a medical scholarship in 2008 because of a shoulder problem, said the choice was left entirely up to him and was based on the many conversations he had with the team’s doctors and trainers over the course of his junior year.”

    And once again, you bring up Star Jackson, when he came out and said he wanted more playing time. So we must assume that the players leaving OSU are pressured too.

  4. Oh, and you want to paint with a broad brush, why not bring up the other Bama medical cases

    Jennings Hester – hamstring issues plaguing him since his senior yr in HS, yet was on regular scholarship for 2 years before going medical, because they wouldnt go away

    Evan Cardwell – back issues that threatened his daily life activities

    Taylor Pharr – recurring concussions, yes, lets keep him back on the field

    Darius McKellar – wrist injury that wouldnt heal

    Ty Prothro – leg breakage that gave him a permanent limp

    Milton Talbert – shoulder issues so bad, he couldnt even practice

    but lets not bring these cases up. They actually sound medical, so it wouldnt make your point.

  5. Joshua now lives in California and goes by “Jim Nabors”. See his comment in the WSJ.com article. And the idiot drags out Star Jackson again, no mention of the Ohio State backup QBs who have transferred in the last several seasons as there will be no mention of the one or more who will likely transfer after this season.

    As for the legitimacy of the last 4 SEC championships, including two beatings of Ohio State their fans would like to pretend never happened, that’s pretty rich considering the only national championship Ohio State has won in the last 40 years required a star player who should have been ineligible and one of the worst officiating calls ever.


    “According to Clarett, Tressel arranged loaner cars for him and Tressel’s brother, Dick, found him lucrative landscaping jobs that he did not even have to show up for. He says members of Tressel’s staff also introduced him to boosters who’d slip him thousands of dollars, and the better he played, the more cash he’d receive. He says boosters eventually began inviting him into their homes or would meet him out in the community.
    “When you’d leave, [the booster] sets you straight,” Clarett told The Magazine. “They say, ‘You got any money in your pocket?’ They make sure your money’s straight.”

    Clarett also says he likely would have been ineligible for Ohio State’s national title season of 2002 if the football staff had not “aligned” him with an academic advisor whose goal was simply to keep him eligible. He says the academic advisor enrolled him in Independent Study courses and also put him with hand-picked teachers who would pass him whether he attended their classes or not. He says his advisor also introduced him to a tutor who prepared outlines and told him what to write for assignments.

    Another former Ohio State player, linebacker Marco Cooper (2000-01; Spring 2002), corroborated many of Clarett’s comments. Cooper, who was suspended from the team following two arrests for drug possession, says he also had bogus landscaping jobs, that a booster helped furnish his apartment, and that he was able to borrow cars from local Columbus dealerships in exchange for signed OSU memorabilia.

    In a story separate from the Clarett issue, another former Ohio State player, current Maryland running back Sammy Maldonado, says he was placed in so many courses that did not put him on the road to graduation that only 17 of a possible 40 credits earned would transfer to his new school.”

    • I see you have posted that Clarett story before. Do you think if you keep doing it, it will magically be true? You do know that the NCAA didn’t find anything to back up the allegations MC made? Or that he admitted to lying to “get back” at Ohio State for suspending him? Or that he refused to talk to the NCAA once he told his “story” to ESPN the Mag.? Or that former player’s were angry that some of their comments were taken out of context by Tom Friend? Maurice was not ineligible ever during his short but amazing career at Ohio State. And wishing won’t make it so, nor will recycled crap from ESPN.

      • but Joshua constantly bringing up Star Jackson, when he has said multiple times that he left for more playing time, will make it magically true?

      • So it’s OK for Jim Nabors and the other Buckeye fans there to take every allegation from any non Ohio State player as the gospel and assert the worst must be true when it comes to every other school, but for OSU there’s a different standard of evidence?

        Clarett was from Youngstown, Tressel had just come from Youngstown State where he ran a dirty program (“lack of institutional control” according to the NCAA). And Maldonado’s comments about being steered into easy courses is consistent with comments of Katzenmoyer and Robert Smith and others with regard to Ohio State football and academics.

        And it wasn’t just from ESPN. The original story on Clarett and academic fraud at Ohio State was in the New York Times.

        • So, because the same story was in the NYT’s that makes it true? Sorry, NCAA investigation trumps ESPN and the NYT’s.

          And what does this story have to do with over signing anyway? Tressel doesn’t do it and he didn’t do it when Clarett was there.

          • That was a real thorough NCAA investigation:


            However, the NCAA issued a statement Wednesday that said it tried to interview Clarett after his allegations, but that Clarett did not make himself available.

            “As a clarification to recent comments made in the media, the NCAA enforcement staff attempted on numerous occasions to interview Maurice Clarett during its investigation of Ohio State University.

            “Not once did Mr. Clarett respond to our repeated requests to meet with investigators or provide information. “Specifically, over the course of a month in November and December 2004, phone calls were placed to Mr. Clarett’s reported cell phone numbers, relatives, former legal representatives and friends. But the messages left were never returned. In addition, attempts to contact him in person failed.

            • So, you really think that was the extent of it? Trying to get MC on the phone? Try an 18 mo. investigation where the NCAA camped out in Andy Geiger’s office. They interviewed EVERYONE. Why do you think he didn’t return calls? He runs his big mouth to Tom Friend and then when the s@#$ hits the fan he hides? I work at tOSU and have for 35 years, in the freakin’ AD no less. And one more time, what does this “story” have to do with over signing other than Jim Tressel and Ohio State don’t do it?

            • “None of Clarett’s most explosive allegations — that coach Jim Tressel orchestrated a system in which players received free cars, improper academic assistance and cash for no-work jobs — were verified.”

              I guess you didn’t read that part.

  6. Jim Nabors, who oversigned 40+players in a 4 year period? Could you take us through the calculcation, making sure not to count an individual player who is counted in 2 or 3 different signing classes more than once?

    And please, you can’t write “to be fair” without everybody laughing at you. You have no interest in being fair, might as well drop the pretense.

  7. Alabama fans are crazy and would defend Saban if he killed someone. I lived in that state for a year and it’s like a weird cult when it come to Saban and Alabma fans. Glad I moved.

  8. They WSJ folks cite 25 medical scholarships given by SEC member institutions in the last three years. Does anyone have the numbers for each individual SEC team? It is implied that LSU is also possibly abusing the medical scholarship. What are the numbers for each of the SEC teams individually?

    • LSU has had 7 since 2008.

      *Class of 2006
      OL – Mark Snyder ( Medical in ’08)

      *Class of 2007
      WR – John Williams (Medical in ’10)
      TE – Jordon Corbin (Medical in ’08)
      DT – Kentravis Aubrey (Medical in ’09)
      CB – Delvin Breaux (Medical in ’08)

      *Class of 2008
      FB – Thomas Parsons (Medical in ’10)
      OL – Clay Spencer (Medical in ’10)

      • Wow that makes things look even worse for Bama. So 19 of the 25 medical scholarships given by SEC institutions in the last three years were given by Bama and LSU. That means Bama averages 3/year, LSU averages 2+/year and the other 10 SEC schools combined have averaged only 2/year. It’s a shame that Saban, and Miles to a lesser degree, are allowed to skirt the rules like this. There is no way that Bama could possibly have that much bad luck when you see the numbers all laid out.

  9. Deb Goodwin,
    We are GLAD you moved…..

  10. Well I guess they would like it better if Saban just cut them from the team, no scholorship…. nothing.. That way there would be no issues right? Isn’t that what the rest of the schools are doing? Remember the reporting about Kentucky’s basketball program with the coach getting rid of the former BB players? They got nothing.. Their only hope was to get on at another school. Saban is only doing what all schools should be required to do and that is finish what they promised… Giving the kid a scholarship.

  11. Josh,

    Even you must admit that this article is not just incredibly misleading, but downright factually incorrect. It states:

    “Three Alabama players who’ve taken these exemptions say they believe the team uses the practice as a way to clear spots for better players by cutting players it no longer wants. These players said they believe Mr. Saban and his staff pressure some players to take these scholarships even though their injuries aren’t serious enough to warrant keeping them off the field.”
    Only Kirschman’s quotes can even remotely be considered to fit in with the above summary by this author, and even that is a bit of a stretch. The other two players the ‘article’ quotes flat out say they DID NOT feel pressured. These authors basically crafted the message they wanted to convey, and reference these players who, unfortunately, do not all validate their claim. It’s really bizarre to me that this made it past the WSJ editors. Regardless of your thoughts on this issue, this level of journalism is worthy of an official reprimand and apology.

    Look, we could debate the merits of your argument and that is fine. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that these Northern writers who most want to address this topic are either unwilling or incapable of reporting this problem in a fair, none Michael Moore esque manner, without absurd and factually incorrect embellishments. To an unbiased reader, I would imagine this would be quite telling that no one wants to just let the facts speak for themselves in this issue.

    But hey, the title of the article paints Alabama in a bad light so you’ll run with it. I bet you don’t have the stones to address these factual mistakes in the comments or by editing your presentation of the WSJ article. Prove me wrong.

  12. LSU is simply following the system Nick set up while he was there. This story is old news to those of us who live in the state. The major problem is that the NCAA is now headed up by the very person who was Saban’s boss while at LSU. Neither LSU nor Bammer will get in trouble as long as Nick’s buddy is in that position. Bear didn’t get in trouble since his hunting buddy was president for all those years he was at bammer. Nick is a cheater. He not only violates the spirit of the law but the letter of it too! Go to Gadsden and check out Dre Kirkpatrick’s mom’s car and the job she has had since he went to bammer. Also look at the scholarship his girlfriend has at bammer since he signed with them. It was known for a long time that Jackson was leaving. Word out of West Vance was that he was gone long before he left since Nick wasn’t following thru with chances as promised. BTW… lurking bammers, how is that wildcat package working for BJ Scott since he got on campus? How many snaps has Earl Alexander ever taken (EVEN IN PRACTICE) since he got on campus? Nick is a fraud, liar, and cheater. I just can’t wait for him to get what’s coming to him. I can’t think of a better place for him to get nailed at either. One more thing… how many other head coaches get on the radio and routinely get away with dropping expletives and get away with it? Just curious!

    • Earl has played in 39 career games with 16 catches for 213 yards prior to this, his senior season. This year, he has 2 catches for 37 yards so far. BJ moved to DB this year to shore up the thin secondary. What does this have to do with anything? How do you know Nick isn’t following through with chances? A chance is not a guarantee. If a player is given a chance to play a certain position, but they aren’t the best at it and needed elsewhere, guess where they are going to play. Nick is a cheater? Show me. Where is he cheating? I know there are a lot of teams out there that would take full advantage of this evidence you surely have. Geez, what a bitter soul.

  13. Read the actual WSJ article. Saban is slimy.

    12 of the 25 medical hardships in the SEC since 2007 have come from Alabama. This is just too much to be some sort of coincidence.

    Also, what about Jeramie Griffin? “he [Griffen] was surprised to learn he’d failed a physical earlier this year – after finishing spring practice with no apparent issues from an ACL tear in 2009. (“At that point, Mr. Griffin said, Mr. Saban sat him down and asked him what he wanted to do besides playing football.”) By the WSJ’s count, almost half of the medical hardships in the SEC since 2007 (12 of 25) have been issued by Alabama.”

    The NCAA needs to (1) investigate Alabama….again, and (2) change the rule.

    Stay classy Bama!

    • If anything, this is the only valad negative in the article, and the authors didn’t even go with it. It is quite questionable that one school out of 12 has half the medical hardships. Are the other schools not taking advantage of a resourse available to their injured players? Not likely, but a review of the cases I have seen are legitimate. The only ones are listed in this article (they state three, but only one of them feels like he was wronged – and that is a stronger word than I feel is warranted reading his comments. I have read articles on several players that are legitimate injuries – see the list given in an earlier response. I don’t know what to take from this stat. Yes, Saban may have a lower bar set for a medical hardship, but the player doesn’t have to take it if they think they can play. They can transfer to another school and play there or just flat out refuse the medical hardship and stay on scholarship at Alabama – with the knowledge that Saban is less likely to play them due to the increased risk to their health.

      Again, I’m not sure what the complaint is. The kids stay in school, so they aren’t getting screwed like Josh often laments. The school goes through with its pledge to the athelete to provide an education, but since he can no longer contribute to the team, they are able to replace him with someone who can. Where’s the problem?

  14. Give me a sec, and I’ll go and fine 1 disgruntled Ohio st. player and write an article. This is week sauce.

  15. I can’t believe you want to keep players from finishing their education in the event they are injured. Not one of these players from and SEC school has come out and said: “hey, I’m not hurt…I’m good to go.” They all have legitimate injuries and were diagnosed by a medical staff. Of coarse, some of the players want to think they could have still played. What athlete ever thinks they can’t do something? That is contrary to the mindset that allowed to compete at the highest level. In the end, however, they knew deep down it was time to give up the dream and finish their education even if they are still trying to accept their fate. Another thing you have to remember is that football in the SEC is much more physical than most of the other conferences. It is closer to the NFL as far as how physical the game is played. Just watch some SEC conference games and you will see that these players played in 8-10 very physical games per year while players in conferences like the Pac-10 may play in 2-3 physical games per year.

  16. If Mr Kirschman truly felt he could still play, he could have easily transferred to another school. I wonder why he didn’t?

    Also, he doesn’t seem to upset with the school as he did accept the graduate school scholarship they offered.

    • That’s not the point. The medical hardship scholarship exists so that players who absolutely cannot play football anymore can continue to attend school on scholarship. By utilizing medical hardships in this manner, Saban makes a mockery of the entire system and shows an utter disregard for the spirit of the rules, something which very few other coaches do.

      Literally any other school in the country could use medical hardship scholarships like Saban does. Those that don’t use medical hardships liberally do so because they respect the integrity of the rule.

      • But you don’t get my point. If he could still play, he would have transferred, not signed for a med.

        • Choice A: Transfer to a lessor school and deal with the academic hassle of transferring and the pangs of leaving the school you love. Then sit out a year before you can play football again.

          Choice B: Accept the medical hardship scholarship and get all of grad school paid for. Continue to attend the school you love.

          The issue here is that the medical hardship scholarship is being abused for a competitive advantage. It’a purpose is that so people who are severely injured and can no longer play athletically do not miss out on a college education. It is not supposed to confer a competitive advantage. Saban has taken advantage of this rule in order to attain a competitive advantage. The question is not whether Saban is breaking rules (after all, he could simply cut players outright and still follow rules), but whether he is acting ethically. The evidence clearly shows that he is not.

          To be fair, Saban isn’t even close to the least ethical coach in college football. That distinction belongs to Houston Nutt. However, Saban is clearly the biggest abuser of the medical hardship scholarship rule.

          • I guess the point of contention is what constitiutes the level of injury that warrants a medical hardship? Obviously if a player like Prothro breaks his leg and cannot walk without a limp, he is eligable. Likewise a player whose wrist has had problems, and surgeries have been unsuccessful in repairing the problem is eligable. A player who has had numerous concussions would also be a candidate, especially with today’s environment(all of these are examples of Bama’s recent Med exemptions). But what about a kid who tears his ACL? Most of the time these injuries can be overcome, but what if a player could cut on a dime and run a 4.4 40, but after an injury lost his edge and dropped to a 4.9? This player could still run on the field, but no longer has what it takes to compete at an upper Div I level. This is at no fault of the student, but also at no fault of the university’s team who is spending a scholarship spot on someone who will not see the field. Is this not a viable candidate? It is a valad argument, and one that many would likely disagree on, but not one that would rise to unethical, especially when the students in question are receiving a free education.

            • Medical hardships are intended for those who can no longer play football at any NCAA level. The idea is that if you could conceivably transfer to another school and still play, then you shouldn’t be offered one. If any school offers a medical scholarship because they can’t play at the upper D1 level, then they are making a mockery of the rule.

  17. is this another one of those Wall Street Journal articles where the writer is sitting in an apartment somewhere in New York, never leaving it to do boots on the ground research?

  18. I’m glad we don’t let kids with back problems in their early 20′s continue to suit up. Nice job Coach Saban and staff!

  19. Bama fans: why does your football program have as many career-ending injuries as the other 11 teams in the SEC? Alabama has provided 12 of 25 medical hardship scholarships in the last three years, with the other schools having 13 combined. Since they’re only to be used when a player can no longer play football, and since you say that all the hardship scholarships the program has handed out are legit and obviously have nothing to do with oversigning, what’s your explanation for Bama’s injury woes?

    A. The Alabama medical staff is incompetent and lets players aggravate their injuries.
    B. Pure coincidence that Bama gave out as many hardship scholarships as the rest of the SEC combined.
    C. Alabama has a lower standard for career-ending injuries than the rest of the conference and DQs more people as a result.
    D. Saban’s program causes significantly more career-ending injuries than Shula’s did.
    E. Other (please specify)

    What’s your answer?

    • E. Learn how to read, douchebag. The WSJ article says SEC schools have given “at least 25″ medical scholarship offers in the last 3 years. In other words, they didn’t research the other 11 SEC schools, or any other schools in the NCAA, to find out how many medical scholarships they’ve offered. That would have been too much work and might have disproven the premise of their story. Nor did they do any research on the Alabama medical scholarships other than the 3 players noted in the article. Presumably Alabama castoffs would be good enough to play elsewhere, certainly at smaller schools, yet the only Alabama medical scholarship offer I’m aware of who went on to play elsewhere was Zeke Knight. Knight was a starting linebacker on the 2007 who collapsed in practice and was subsequently diagnosed with a heart condition. Alabama team doctors wouldn’t clear him to play again, but he had aspirations of an NFL career and was willing to take the chance, so he played his last year of eligibility at Stillman.

      • You’re telling me to learn to read, and yet you’re an Alabama fan. The irony, it is delicious!

        Also, you’re not too keen on reading comprehension yourself. They cite “at least 25″ as a number, which means they found the data on the other schools that offered medical hardship scholarships. Are you telling me the Wall Street Journal fabricated the other 13+ scholarship offers? You also seem to think that research “would have been too much work and might have disproven the premise of their story.” First: do you really think the Wall Street Journal is too lazy to do research but cares enough to interview at least three former Alabama players? Second: are you saying that the Wall Street Journal has it out for Alabama football, like some kind of conspiracy? The Wall Street Journal is a reputable source of information, and neither of us can discredit it.

        You think that Alabama castoffs would be good enough to play elsewhere. That’s true for healthy castoffs, but it is absolutely false for medical scholarship offer castoffs. Medical hardship scholarships are supposed to be offered when the team doctors decide that a player is physically unable to compete for the rest of his career at his school. In essence, when a player receives a hardship scholarship offer, the doctors think it’s a career-ending injury, and if a player accepts it, he agrees with them. The fact that only Zeke Knight went on to play elsewhere (if you’re correct, and I trust you on this) shows that it’s essentially career-ending in practice as well as theory.

        I promise to lay all insults aside for this last part. The answer you gave before (“E. Learn how to read, douchebag.”) skirted the question. I will rephrase it more politely and you can answer it however you like: why has Alabama had so many more medical hardship scholarships than any other team in the SEC?

        • No, “at least 25″ doesn’t mean they found the data on all the other schools, it means “at least 25″. If the exact number is 50, “at least 25″ is an accurate though incomplete description. If the WSJ had researched all the SEC schools they would have an exact number. And if they had an exact number why wouldn’t they use it instead of saying “at least 25″?

          My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that they researched the numbers for Alabama and maybe one or two other SEC schools, or they did a little bit of research quickly and easily found 13 other medical scholarships among all other SEC schools without doing an exhaustive search.

          So my answer is by necessity a little bit long winded:

          1. We don’t KNOW that Alabama has had “so many more medical hardship scholarships” than any other team in the SEC. If you can’t comprehend the difference between an exact number and “at least” I can’t help you. We don’t have the data on all the schools, nor apparently does the Wall Street Journal.

          2. I don’t find the number of medical scholarships at Alabama to be at all surprising. Football is a violent game and I’d be surprised if at least 2-3 players of 85 wouldn’t be expected to suffer career ending injuries in a given year if somebody did a real study over a long time period with a large number of schools. Sometimes you don’t know if an injury is career ending until after surgery and 9-12 months of rehab. It may not be that the guy can’t possibly play, it may be that the injury has slowed him to the point that he’s gone from a marginal college player to a guy who is too slow to play at all. An overmatched player who has been hurt before is probably more likely to be hurt again. I’d guess that is what happened with the Alabama player in the article who played in only 2 games in his career before he got hurt.

          3. I don’t know if you have ever taken a statistics course or not, but 3 years of data with very small sample sizes is not exactly statistically significant. It is entirely possible that Alabama or any school could have 10 career ending injuries in 2 years and then none in the next 2 just by the luck of the draw. Alabama has had years recently when they were down to their 3rd string QB because of injuries but (knock on wood) in the last 4+ seasons they haven’t had a QB miss a snap because of injury. You can see this in any sport. Some teams are relatively injury free in a particular season and others are decimated. Maybe some teams hit more than others in practice or have more injuries because they practice and play on artificial turf or maybe it’s just luck.

          4. I’ve already pointed out that only one of Alabama’s medical scholarship players under Saban ever played football again in college, and he did so with a heart condition against the advice of multiple doctors. They’ve had an least two highly regarded recruits (Ivan Matchett and Darius McKellar) who never played a snap and received medical scholarships because of injury. Take a look of these high school highlights of Matchett and tell me if you think (a) Saban would have dumped him before he ever went through a full spring and fall practice and (b) a kid with Matchett’s talent who wasn’t really hurt would quit football and take a medical scholarship instead of just transferring. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH1E8RSZFok

          • First: thank you for your response. THIS is the type of back and forth that accomplishes something.

            The Wall Street Journal is a credible newspaper, so they get the benefit of the doubt in most cases. Therefore, when they say something vague like “at least 25″, I assume they they’ve done the research on the other SEC schools and mean somewhere in the range of 26-29. You are absolutely right in that they could find 50 and be technically accurate by calling it “at least 25″, but that would be very unethical. In response to your points:

            1. We don’t know the specific numbers for the other teams. This is true, and this is something I started to research tonight. I have emailed all 12 of SB Nation’s SEC bloggers asking them about this article and about medical hardship scholarships for their team since 2007 (If you want to see the text of the question I sent them, email me at njervey@gmail.com). Hopefully, this will provide accurate numbers for each school, and hopefully it will be similar to the WSJ numbers.

            2. I’m guessing that the number of medical hardship scholarships Alabama provided from 2007 to present is significantly more than any other individual SEC school. Also, I doubt that there’s a significant difference between Alabama and the other SEC schools in terms of preparation/play style that would account for a big difference in medical hardship scholarships awarded.

            3. A three year sample size is not too small to make conclusions, and it’s not hard to increase the range if need be. Units get gutted by injury just about every year on every team. I don’t follow Alabama closely, but I understand they have some depth issues in the secondary. Likewise, Michigan’s secondary has been ravaged by season-ending injuries/attrition/early draftees/etc. Career-ending injuries, however, are much rarer than season-ending injuries; that’s pretty obvious. I wouldn’t expect any more than one or two in a given season at most; if Ohio State had five in one season or ten in two, I would be very concerned about safety and medical incompetence. If career-ending injuries are rare occurrences and it happens regularly at Alabama, that’s a problem.

            4. I don’t think Alabama’s medical staff are incompetent, or that Alabama does anything particularly risky in practice. I have to wonder what Stillman’s team doctors were thinking letting somebody with a heart condition play.

            About Ivan Matchett and Darius McKeller: they weren’t as valuable as you remember. Both of them were 3 star prospects near the bottom of their draft class (by Rival’s ratings, Matchett was T-23rd out of 32 and McKeller was 26th out of 27). Each of the past four years, Saban has oversigned, and people have had to leave the team through whatever means to get down to 85. It is absolutely plausible to me that Saban would pressure them into taking medical hardship scholarships to get down to the limit. Frankly, I think he’s done that.

            • I left out the links to Alabama’s 2008 and 2009 draft classes, where you can see Matchett and McKeller’s ratings. Sorry about that.

              • Thanks for your responses. I think you overestimate the Wall Street Journal. I subscribed to it in print and then online for over 20 years continuously (for business, not sports) and dropped my subscription 2-3 years ago because I thought the quality of it had declined sharply. They have mostly very young reporters cranking out a high volume of relatively short columns and very few of the in-depth stories they used to be known for. The Financial Times blows away the Wall Street Journal in my opinion.

                I honestly take the “at least 25″ to mean they didn’t research the 12 SEC teams in depth and the number could be a lot higher than 25. If the number was 27, why would they write “at least 25″ instead of 27? Without intending to get into politics, the Wall Street Journal is now owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns “fair and balanced” Fox News and the New York Post and a tabloid in London known for showing topless chicks on page 3 everyday. The WSJ isn’t what it used to be.

                I don’t think the ranking of recruits out of high school is as definitive as you suggest for schools that are signing top 10 classes. Here’s a link to an ESPN ranking of Alabama’s 2008 recruiting class, which has Matchett in the middle of the class and above Marcel Dareus who figures to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft:


                If you look at ESPN’s descriptions of its ratings, Matchett’s 79 score was at the edge of 3 & 4 stars, which means a guy projected to be good enough to start for a major college for 2-3 years. He had plenty of other scholarship offers. Surely you don’t think he would have taken a medical scholarship and quit football with 4 years of eligibility left without ever playing a down if he wasn’t hurt? McKellar also never played a snap; he had multiple surgeries on the same wrist and the doctors wouldn’t clear him to play.

                • This is an interesting discussion, and got me thinking about this “at least 25″. Posted earlier in a comment was a list of LSU players receiving medical scholarships, and it numbered 7. Add that to Bama’s 12, and we’re already at 19, leaving only 6 for the rest of the SEC together. I did a quick, simple google search for “Auburn football medical scholarship”, and (after numerous links to the WSJ article) found this article:
                  In it, it lists most of Auburn’s attrition since 2006. Included in this were 4 medical hardships given (though one didn’t specifically state the med, but the player left the team due to a “career ending back injury” that the player blamed on one of the coaches.) Suddenly we are already up to 23, and we have only looked at 3 schools. I find it hard that the authors could not have done even a simple search such as what I did to get a more accurate number of the SEC, or leave that part out of the story – it is very misleading.

                  • On the other hand, those are the three SEC schools who have had the most oversigning over the past decade. The only other habitual oversigner is Ole Miss, and under Houston Nutt they have relied on the junior college system to take their leftovers. I’m still waiting to find out the specific numbers for each school, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that schools that oversign have more of these hardship scholarships.

                    • That’s a good point, but Auburn has had a scholarship deficit for the last few years. They may be close now, but I think they were around only about 77 scholarship players last year.

  20. I LOVE HOW YOU TURDS CAN’T ADMIT REALITY! The fact that bammer has half of the documented cases doesn’t faze you at all. They use those doctors at Don’t Come Here hospital in West Vance and (JUST LIKE THE TUSCALOOSER PD THAT WOULDN’T ARREST A BAMMER PLAYER SO AS NOT TO UPSET THE MIDGET) they diagnose players the way God Nicky tells them to. Tyrone Prothro would have never gotten staph infection if they’d used world renowned doctors just up the road in Bham. I’m amazed he doesn’t own the school after that mess. Nick was slimy at LSU and he hasn’t changed. BTW… call me next time you stand up to the little man and actually boo the opponent when they come on the field after he tells you not to.

  21. Catch5,
    Saban walked up to a player who had been practicing and asked him to take a medical redshirt…..I would say he is not broken enough to take a medical redshirt, dont you think?

    Mike Sander,
    You get it and you nailed it down. These Bama fans just will just not admit or have an answer for why Saban is the biggest culprit in oversigning and also (mere coincidence Im sure) of the medical hardship loophole.
    This is just like this radio station I just started listening to on College Sports radio on XM in the afternoon. Sane people will call in and debate what their teams chances are in beating Alabama and set off a wildfire. Alabama fan calls in as if you just kicked their dog even thinking they will ever lose another game, EVER! Mike Leach (form Texas Tech coach) was on the show today and he has Ohio State and Florida ranked higher than Alabama. His prediction was a Florida Gator win this weekend over Alabama and the fans called him every name in the book. Bama fans are redic and yes Bama will lose at least 2 games this year.

  22. I’m an SEC fan who finds the oversigning of the SEC West schools completely embarrassing, disgustingly unethical, and sadly rooted in social injustices others in the South and US have long fought to end.

  23. It’s college football…get a job…and a life.

  24. This entire site is a total “little brother can’t keep up” site. How incredibly sad that you are that obsessed with your rivals? I applaud you for taking college football fandom to a psychotic level rarely seen before.

    I guess this is where the losers congregate.

  25. There’s a football game tonight between as SECSECSEC team and one from Ohio. The SECSECESEC team signed 30 more, and churned them, and kicked them to the curb, than the Ohio Team, who did not oversign.

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