If the SEC fathers wanted to stop oversigning by imposing a hard 25 limit, they are going to have to live with coaches being very harsh at times with their early commits.
Justin Taylor is the latest victim of a system that doesn’t do enough to protect student-athletes.
Taylor is a running back from North Atlanta High School who has been committed to Alabama since February. Unfortunately, Alabama coach Nick Saban is no longer willing to honor the scholarship he promised to give Taylor for the upcoming fall, according to Taylor.
Alabama has cited a knee injury Taylor suffered in August as a reason he should wait until 2013 to sign with the Crimson Tide. But Alabama already has 27 commitments for the class of 2012 and appears to be trimming the list to make sure it fits under the SEC’s 25-player signing limit.
“(Saban) said the only reason he can’t sign me is because he can’t sign 26 people,” Taylor told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They can only sign 25 people. He said he was going to sign me with the next class.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that would happen.
Taylor’s initial response was to accept Alabama’s offer to sit out the fall and enroll at Alabama next January. But Taylor seems to have decided that’s not in his best interest.
“At first I was cool with it but the more I thought about it, the less I liked it,” Taylor told al.com. “I have already missed an entire season of football because of my injury. I decided I just can’t miss another season. It’s no hard feelings against Alabama but I just decided it’s best for me if I go somewhere that I can be at least practicing with the team this year, even if I have to redshirt.”
Credit Taylor for handling the situation in a mature manner. He has a right to be upset but hasn’t expressed it publicly. The same can’t be said for his coach and legal guardian, Stanley Pritchett, who played fullback in the NFL for nine years.
“I’m disappointed,” Pritchett told the AJC. “I’m disappointed with the whole process. If a kid commits and the college accepts it, then the college should honor it.”
The problem is the college isn’t required to honor any commitment it makes to a prospect, even after a student-athlete signs with a school.
Offensive lineman Elliott Porter signed a National Letter of Intent with LSU in 2010 and arrived in Baton Rouge to begin classes that summer. But too many players qualified academically and by August, Porter’s scholarship was gone.
Porter had two options: 1. Grayshirt, which meant he could be a student only on a part-time basis and enroll the following fall or 2. He could go somewhere else.
Porter elected to attend Kentucky but decided not to stay. He ended up transferring back to LSU last spring where he joined the Tigers as a walk-on.
Porter’s case shows a glaring flaw with the National Letter of Intent. Student-athletes are bound to the document they sign unless the school releases them. But the school receives no penalty if it doesn’t honor its commitment with the NLI.
Saban and Miles aren’t the only coaches who take part in such questionable practices. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was recently unable to promise he would honor the scholarship he offered a prospect for the 2012 class.
The prospect, linebacker Khalid Henderson from Austell, Ga., didn’t appreciate the lack of loyalty from Dooley.
“I thought it was a bunch of crap,” Henderson said.
Other coaches will likely make similar decisions because of the SEC’s rule that caps the number of signees each year to 25. When schools get close to the number, some coaches will have to decide whether to cut loose players to make room for more highly-touted prospects.
Surely this wasn’t what SEC commissioner Mike Slive intended when the 25-player limit was put in place by the league in June.
“We set out to be fair to the student-athlete and the institution,” Slive said at the time. “The goal is to make sure we can balance equity between the student-athletes, prospective student-athletes and the institution.”
It appears that goal hasn’t been met.