Jim Tressel announced today that three walk-on players will be awarded with scholarships: Ricky Crawford, Chris Malone, and Scott Sika.
Sika has already graduated and will get an entire year of his graduate degree paid for by Ohio State. Crawford and Malone are set to graduate this year. Odds are that none of these guys see significant playing time, this is simply a reward for their dedication, hard-work, and character, and is the net result of Jim Tressel's recruiting philosophy, which is based on signing the number of kids you have room for on National Signing day and then awarding scholarships to walk-on players based on the shortfall between the number of guys signed and the 85 limit. We outlined this method of roster management a while back--the contrast to this style is to signed 26-28 recruits instead of 17 and instead of adding walk-on players to the scholarship roster you cut lesser performing or injured scholarship players to get down to 85.
In contrast, this is the polar opposite of the recruiting styles of coaches such as Nick Saban and Les Miles, who purposely sign at least 8-10 more players than they have room for and then get rid of whoever they have to get rid of via medical hardships, transfers to lesser schools, or just flat pulling a scholarship, like Les Miles did to Elliott Porter this year, in order to get down to 85 players by the NCAA deadline in August.
Tressel has had this philosophy since the beginning of his time at Ohio State and has never once oversigned a class and has awarded over 40 walk-on players with scholarships in his time at Ohio State. You have to admit that it is pretty remarkable how he has been able to keep Ohio State in the National Championship picture despite working against such a disadvantage in terms of the numbers. When you look at the numbers you see that Ohio State and Texas were very evenly matched in terms of numbers and the performance on the field against each other. USC is a little different story given that they are currently on probation because of recruiting violations. That leaves Florida, LSU, and Alabama, teams that have run through players at alarming rates, but who have also enjoyed a tremendous amount of success.
National Championship Coaches 2002 - 2010
Tressel has some interesting comments regarding the scholarship awards given to the three walk-on players. The link below is about an 8 minute clip and his comments on this topic come around 2/3 of the way through. He mentions that it is one of the neat things he gets to do and wishes he had 10 scholarships to give out to walk-on players every year.
If you can't already tell, we've been bitten by the medical hardship scholarship bug. If anyone out there can help shed some light on the topic it would be greatly appreciated. In the meantime we are going to look for cases of players who we know were injured badly enough to be unable to continue to contribute to the team on the field, yet remained on football scholarship and remained part of the team.
Despite how warn and fuzzy it feels to hear that an injured player is given a free ride to continue his education as long as he leaves the football team to free up a scholarship for another player, we believe that guys in this situation, unless they simply can't walk, should be allowed to stay with the team, work hard at whatever capacity they can, and continue to earn their scholarship by working as hard as they can, instead of just kicking them to the curb with a free meal ticket in order to avoid APR penalties, but then again, we believe in commitment and teaching guys commitment by sticking with them through injuries and continuing to mold and shape them through the 4 most life-altering years of their lives. Of course we're not getting paid $4 Million Dollars a year to win football games either, though.
Maybe for some coaches the pressure to win is so great that they don't have a problem talking a kid into leaving the team and taking a medical hardship scholarship (which we still don't understand how it works other than the player has to leave the team and he gets his education paid for).
First stop, Mike D'Andrea, former #1 linebacker recruit from the 2001 recruiting class.
"Mike D’Andrea (6-3, 248, Sr.) – D’Andrea was the third member of the shining 2001 recruiting class that included Clarrett and Zwick (and, of course, Smith) but, so far, Mike’s career at OSU has been plagued with bad luck and injuries. A man-child as a freshman, D’Andrea worked hard and saw some playing time backing up Matt Wilhelm but had shortened sophomore and junior seasons. His junior season ending with knee surgery. He sat out all of last year and seems to be struggling to get back in health for this season. If he can get everything together and stay healthy, OSU will be thick at middle linebacker."
Why was Mike D'Andrea not given a medical hardship scholarship so that Ohio State could replace him with a new recruit? Simply put, because that is not how Jim Tressel rolls. He doesn't oversign and he doesn't abuse the medical hardship scholarship thingy. Instead, Mike D'Andrea finished his degree while on a football scholarship and watched the last 33 football games of his college career from the sidelines, with no real hope of ever seeing the field in a meaningful way.
Here's a nice summary of Mike D'Andrea's time at Ohio State: http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=10399&draftyear=2007&genpos=ILB
Obviously there is a fine line between protecting a player that is truly at risk and abusing a loophole to make room for an overstuffed roster. It's hard not to be suspicious of medical hardships that come during spring and summer practice and conditioning when a roster is oversigned and no matter what players have to be released or the school will face NCAA violations for being over the limit of 85.
Simply put, we would not be so suspicious of medical hardships that Nick Saban and Butch Davis dole out if their rosters weren't so heavily oversigned. Even if you submit to the notion that the medical hardships are legit, the fact that they oversigned ahead of time still leaves us feeling as though they are taking advantage of a loophole. We'll state this again, coaches should have to prove where a scholarship is coming from before it is given out. If a player is going to take a medical hardship then his scholarship shouldn't be given out until he is officially removed from the team.
What football player do you know of that suffered career-ending injuries but remained on football scholarship and remained with the team until they finished school? We want to know!
We found the list below posted over at shaggybevo.com. Basically, this is Nick Saban's attrition since 2007 (this is not all of it, just what was listed at shaggybevo.com).
|2007 (25 Players Signed)||2008 (32 Players Signed)||2009 (27 Players Signed)||2010 (26 Players Signed)||2011 (22 Players Signed +2 GS)|
|Crump - quit football||Johns - arrested, cocaine||Dial - grades, juco||Grant - not renewed||Glenn Harbin - baseball|
|Elder - armed robbery||Bolton - grades*||Moore - grades||Sikes - not renewed||Demetrius Goode - transfer|
|Fanuzzi - transfer||Hood - MLB||P. Hall - transfer Div II||McKeller - medical hardship||Petey Smith - transfer|
|Hester - transfer||Jackson - transfer||Burnthall - quit team||Jackson - transfer||Brandon Moore - transfer|
|Lett - medical hardship||Lawrence - transfer||Fanney - transfer||Sims - din't qualify||Corey Grant - transfer|
|McGaskin - grades||Lewis - grades||Cardwell - not renewed||Pharr - medical hardship||Arron Douglas - died|
|Murphy - grades*||Matchett - medical hardship||Higgenbotham - transfer So. Ala||Talbert - medical hardship||Robby Green - released|
|Ricks - grades||Neighbors - bryant scholarship||Kirschman - not renewed||Woodson - not renewed||Kerry Murphy - medical hardship|
|Tayler - transfer||Preyear - kicked off team||Hester - medical hardship||Kendall Kelly - medical hardship|
|Farmer - transfer||Ray - MLB||Wes Neighbors - medical hardship|
|Smith - transfer|
* = guys who were resigned later so they get counted twice by websites like oversigning.com.
Quit - 1, kicked off - 2, Other Scholly - 3, Transfer - 7. MLB - 2, Grades - 8
Couple of things to note here:
1. Where would Alabama have been had they taken normal numbers and still suffered the same attrition? Or would they have had the same amount of attrition? Those are the primary questions. Had Alabama signed a normal amount of players (18-21) and still had kids transfer out, commit armed robbery, and fail to make their grades, there would be gaping holes in the roster that would have crippled the program for years.
Let's break it down by class: let's say in 2007 Alabama signs 21 guys and suffers the attrition of 10 players, that puts that class at 11 players; in 2008 let's say Alabama signs 25 in order to make up for the attrition the previous year, but suffers the attrition of 11 players, that puts them at 14 players.
The last time Alabama had back to back season with less than 20 players you have to look at 2002 and 2003, 19 & 19; that was the last time they were unable to sign extra players because of scholarship reductions. Here's their record: 2002: 10-3, 2003: 4-9, 2004: 6-6, 2005: 10-2, 2006: 6-7. 2007: 7-6. Could you imagine if they had to deal with only 11 & 14 players in back to back classes because of all the attrition? They wouldn't win a game.
2. How did Nick Saban miss on all these guys - he is regarded as one of the best recruiters in the country? Or, is it that Saban just runs through more players and the cream rises to the top? That has to be the case because we have already documented that he signed roughly 35-51 more players than Brown, Tressel, and Carroll.
3. Why does this even happen? Schools all over the country such as Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State, Texas, USC, etc. do not need to do this. Is it because the available talent pool is prone to that much more attrition and without oversigning to cover for it Alabama would be dead in the water, or is it because they prefer to go through more guys just to keep them away from the competition? Our historical research showed that they used to do it (oversign) for both reasons.
And for those that argue "those extra guys don't count because they didn't make it into school or they transferred out," we say, if they don't count then why sign them to begin with? Take normal numbers and deal with the attrition - why should Alabama, or any school for that matter because this is not about singling out Alabama this goes for any school, be allowed to subsidize its attrition while other schools take normal numbers and either avoid attrition by taking better quality (academic and character) guys or "take it in the chops," as Nick Saban would say, meaning if they have attrition then they have a hole in the roster until they can fill it with the next recruiting class. How is it that these other schools only take 18-22 guys every year and still compete on the same field for the national championship as a team that takes 28-32 and culls down their roster? You can thank the NCAA for allowing the oversigning loophole to exist, then you can thank the conference commissioners and athletic directors for allowing their schools to exploit the loophole, and finally you can thank the multi-million dollar coaches who exploit it. Hopefully one day you can thank us for helping to eliminate this from college football all together.
Bottom line: Either Alabama takes extra players to cover the expected attrition because they have to given the pool of players they have to select from, which means if they took regular numbers they might not be able to field a team, or Alabama takes extra players in order to have a larger pool of players to pick from thus pushing out lesser quality players by way of medical hardships, transfers, poor grades, violation of team rules, or armed robbery. Those are the only two reasons and neither of them are appealing. Anyone who thinks otherwise either doesn't get it or has an agenda.
One last comment on this. If Alabama (and other SEC schools) truly take more signees because the pool of players they have to select from dictates that they need to take extra to account for the mass numbers that won't make it academically, isn't that an indication of a much bigger problem? And what kind of message is it sending to kids? Shouldn't the message be: "if you want to play football here you need to be squared away academically or we can't even afford to look at you as a prospect."
We have already compiled recruiting numbers for schools and conferences, see our "Recruiting Numbers" link above for that data, but now let's take a look at the numbers for National Championship coaches from 2002-2010. Make sure to read our footnotes at the bottom regarding the data in the table below.
National Championship Coaches 2002 - 2010
The first thing that jumps off the screen is that despite being out of college football for 2 years (2005 & 2006), Nick Saban still signed 193 recruits, which is second only to Les Miles his successor at LSU when Saban left in 2005. Saban also has the highest average recruits per year at 27.50. In 7 years, Nick Saban has never signed less than 25 recruits in a single year.
Let's compare that to the same set of years (2002-2004 & 2007-2010) for the coach with the lowest numbers, Jim Tressel. Tressel signed 142 players in the same years that Saban signed 193 recruits. That is a difference of 51 players over the same period of time, 7 years. That is mind boggling to say the least.
And to further put that into perspective, only 4 BCS programs in the entire country have signed fewer players than Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Stanford (170), Georgia Tech (177), Wake Forest (174), and Northwestern (170). Notre Dame tied with (180). For Jim Tressel to win a NC, compete for 2 more, and win the Big 10 Conference 5 Times in a row with those kind of numbers is simply amazing. The same goes for Pete Carroll, although his numbers are just slightly higher, and what he did at USC. Imagine if either one of those coaches had an extra 40-50 players to select from or to use in order to fill in gaps from unexpected attrition such as career ending injury.
Click the link to continue reading >>>
Somewhere Mark Richt and Randy Edsall (who we fricking love for his stance on recruiting services) are watching this and shaking their heads in agreement that you have to stay within your recruiting budget.
Nick Saban on the other hand, not so much.
Alabama had roughly the same amount of slots open as Ohio State (with 66 returning players, Alabama has room for 19 new recruits before they hit the 85 limit). Instead of signing 19 (or less for fear of going over as Tressel expressed), Nick Saban and Alabama elected to sign 29 commitments on national signing day. As we've already mentioned, they will back count a few to last year's class in order to stay under the 25 limit this year, but they are going to have to shed 10 players in order to get under 85. 66 + 29 = 95. A few recruits will not qualify academically, others will take a medical hardship, and some will just quit or transfer.
The interesting part is that when asked about his numbers by the local media, Saban immediately gets upset:
"It's none of your business. Aiight? And don't give me this stuff about the fans need to know, because they don't need to know."
Then when asked if he was worried about his numbers and the fact that players would need to be shed in order to get down to 85, Saban had this response:
"I'm not worried about them. It'll all work out. I mean, the whole thing has a solution to every issue. You don't put yourself in a position where you don't know what's coming, then have to take it in the chops."
There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that depends on kids to fail or suffer a career-ending injury in order to get the numbers where they need to be.