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Last week Gentry Estes of the MOBILE PRESS-REGISTER has the latest installment of Alabama Coach Nick Saban forcing an underperforming though eligible player off his team to make room for a better prospect.

Nick Saban

Alabama coach Nick Saban has confirmed this morning’s earlier news that sophomore reserve quarterback Star Jackson plans to leave the Crimson Tide in pursuit of a transfer to another school.

Saban had this to say before tonight’s Crimson Caravan stop in Mobile …

“Star Jackson has done a fantastic job in our program, made a tremendous amount of improvement. We hate to see any player leave the program, but quarterback’s kind of a unique position where one guy can play, and we have a lot of competition there right now. Greg’s the starter coming back, AJ has done a fantastic job of improving, Phillip Sims came in at mid-semester and showed a lot of promise this spring.

“Star has made a tremendous amount of improvement and done a very, very good job. But I think sometimes when quarterbacks can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of when they might be able to play, they get a little antsy and might want to go someplace else. Star and I have discussed it, and we’re going to help him do what he feels is going to make him and his family the best decision for his future.”

A native of Lake Worth, Fla., and former Super 11 quarterback recruit, Jackson saw action in five games last season as a redshirt freshman for Alabama, completing 13 of 18 throws for 116 yards. He is now likely headed to an NCAA FCS or Division II program, his high school coach told the Press-Register earlier today.

Attempts to reach Jackson have been unsuccessful.

If player “transfers” like this didn’t happen all that often in Saban-coached programs, I guess you could accept the coach’s comments at face value. But Saban is notorious for oversigning recruiting classes and then cutting eligible players under the ol’ “transfer” pretense.

Saban is far from alone in the practice, which has gotten so out of control that a website called (via Da Wiz) was launched earlier this year to track coaches who brazenly game so-called scholarship limits.

The most recent example of a coach misrepresenting the departure of a scholarship player is Missouri basketball coach Mike Anderson. The ASSOCIATED PRESS has a scathing report on Anderson’s abuse of the truth in announcing the departure of sophomore forward Tyler Stone:

After scoring just 22 points all season in mop-up duty, Missouri freshman forward Tyler Stone has no illusions of bolting college for the NBA after a single year.

Instead, the 6-foot-7 Memphis native is a different sort of one-and-done: a college athlete leaving a school sooner than his family expected as a prized recruit takes over his scholarship.

“I can’t see how a school can love him to death one year and the next year cut him loose,” said his mother, Sharon Stone. “They had to get rid of somebody.”

The NCAA says its rules are clear. Athletic scholarships are one-year, “merit-based” awards that require both demonstrated academic performance as well as “participation expectations” on the playing field.

College sport watchdogs — and, occasionally, athletes themselves — tell a different story. They see unkept promises and bottom-line decisions at odds with the definition of student-athlete.

Those discrepancies apparently have caught the attention of the U.S. Justice Department. Its antitrust division is investigating the one-year renewable scholarship, with agents interviewing NCAA officials and member schools. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment because the probe, announced on May 6, is ongoing.

“This happens a lot more than anybody even believes,” said New Haven management professor Allen Sack, a former Notre Dame football player and vocal NCAA critic. “You’re allowed to do it. According to the NCAA, there’s nothing wrong with it.

“Coaches don’t go out of their way to clarify (scholarship length). They make it as vague as they possibly can.”

It is the responsibility of the players and parents to know the scholarship renewal rules. That’s not really what bothers me in this situation. It’s a coach denying that he’s essentially cutting a player.

Anderson’s explanation is Exhibit A:

At Missouri, the school announced on April 12 that Stone and sophomore guard Miguel Paul were transferring to seek more playing time. Two days later, the Tigers signed a pair of the country’s top-rated junior college transfers, rugged 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Ratliffe and guard Matt Pressey, whose younger brother Phil will also join Missouri as a freshman in the fall.

Missouri coach Mike Anderson called the timing of the two announcements coincidental. Both Stone and Paul had previously expressed interest in seeking a fresh start, he said, calling their decisions to leave “mutual.”

“I don’t have a lot of guys go in and out of my program,” he said. “My kids are like my family, and I want my family to be happy. If you’re not happy, then maybe this is not the right place.”

Paul told The Associated Press that “the coaches wanted me to stay but I told them this wasn’t the place for me.” He is transferring to East Carolina.

Stone, meanwhile, will play for mid-major Southeast Missouri of the Ohio Valley Conference after sitting out the required year for Division I transfers. He declined an interview request, but his mother spoke with the AP at length in several interviews and made it clear that her son was pushed out.

She described a celebratory spring break barbecue touting her son’s first year in college. Her son went back to campus afterward and, hours later, called with unexpected news. “He came back (to Columbia) Monday and said, ‘I have to transfer,’” she recalled. “I thought he was going to graduate from that school.”

So why do coaches like Saban and Anderson twist the truth when forcing players out? Because it doesn’t square with the student-athlete myth perpetrated on the public by the NCAA. What college football and basketball coaches are often doing is treating student-athletes exactly like pro coaches treat their players. Athletes are commodities, “pieces,” nothing more.

I’ve no problem with that concept in college either, and it’s important for student-athletes to know exactly who they’re dealing with when signing on with a school.

No, what’s disgusting is how the NCAA misrepresents its mission.

Coaches like Saban and Anderson, in gaming scholarship limits while lying to the public about it, inexorably confirm that Division I college football and basketball players are nothing more than walking ATM machines to the NCAA. But unlike the NFL and the NBA, there’s no password.