Saban Sausage Factory Facing Expiration Date?

Last week at an alumni gathering in Greenville, S.C., Georgia football coach Mark Richt spoke out against his SEC coaching colleagues by sharply criticizing the recruiting tactic known as oversigning.

The practice includes head coaches signing more players than there are scholarships available, then using various, stealth tactics to essentially cut current players deemed as non-productive.

Or, in some cases, a player who was promised a spot as a recruit, and who turned down other schools, ends up without a scholarship.

The most infamous purveyor of such techniques is Alabama’s Nick Saban. Why?

1) He regularly oversigns
2) He hides player scholarship information from the media under false pretense (federal privacy laws do not govern such information)
3) He makes a lot of money
4) Alabama makes a lot of money from its football program

Though thanks to the media, and coaches like Richt, the Tide may be finally turning against Saban and his compatriots in the practice.

During his talk to Georgia fans last week, Richt said of oversigning:

“If you bring them (recruits) in in the summer, and you work them and you let your strength staff work with them, and you kind of decide which ones you like the best, and you tell five of them, ‘Hey we know we signed you, and we expected you to be able to come in, we don’t have space for you, we’re really sorry about that but we don’t have space for you – you’re gonna have to leave and come back in January.’

I think that’s an awful thing to do, I think that’s the wrong thing to do. And it’s nothing that we’ve done since I’ve been at Georgia.

“These other coaches have been over-signing, trying to grayshirt, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 (scholarship limit) number. But in doing so have they done it in an ethical way, which is what you’re asking. And I’d say not. That’s why the NCAA is trying to change its rules. ..

“.. There’s been a bit too much of the winning at all costs in college football. And I hope the tide turns in the other direction.”

On Feb. 2, 2011, college football recruiting signing day, Saban went out of his way to defend his oversigning to the media, reading off prepared notes as he defended himself:

Here’s part of Saban’s statement:

When you look at the numbers without knowing all the facts and internal information, I think that is a little premature and unfair.

So how does one procure such facts?

Good question, as Saban blocks, some say unlawfully, such “internal information” to the media that is otherwise volunteered to the public by virtually every other similarly situated school in the country.

Or you can ask former BIRMINGHAM NEWS reporter Ian Rapoport, who had this infamous exchange with Saban on April 14, 2008, about Alabama player scholarship information:

Rapoport: “The numbers is issue. First, do you know, is Colin Peek on scholarship?

Saban: “I don’t know. You ask me, do I know…

Rapoport: “I think you do know.

Saban: “You’ll have to ask somebody else. … You’re asking the wrong guy.

Saban later admitted to the reporter that the player was indeed on scholarship.

More from the conversation:

Rapoport: “How are you going to handle the numbers and when do you start to worry about it?

Saban: “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. Aiight? We know how it has to be managed, and it will be managed.

Saban: “And you don’t need to call me and ask me to write a column for you, and I won’t call you and ask you how to manage our numbers. How’s that?

Rapoport: “So you’re not going to tell us?

Saban: “I’m not going to tell you what? 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.

Rapoport: “I would never say that.

Saban: “Don’t even ask. Aiight?

As an Alabama football beat writer who had to face Saban ever day that season, Rapoport played off the exchange as playful in his report of the conversation. But the video may suggest otherwise. At the very least, Saban got his point across.

On 2/2/2011, Saban said of the criticism of his oversigning: “When you look at the numbers without knowing all the facts and internal information, I think that is a little premature and unfair.”

When Saban was asked point blank about “all the facts and internal information” on 4/14/08, the coach replied: “It’s none of your business.

Follow Brooks on Twitter or join him on Facebook for real-time updates.