Good morning. The Rammer Jammer is a daily rundown of everything you need to know about Alabama athletics, published every weekday morning.
The typical dreariness of early bowl season has been broken by two high-profile decisions by players to break with precedent and skip their bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft. Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette aren’t the first players to skip bowl games for the sake of their pro careers, but they’re the latest, and probably the most notable.
In Fournette’s case, the decision is understandable. Fournette has battled injuries for his entire career, and despite showing game-changing talent, there’s no guarantee he’ll make it to a second contract if he can’t shake the injury bug. The future of his family for generations, which has labored to improve its lot in life bit by bit, moving out of the poor and violent Seventh Ward in New Orleans and weathering the storm of Hurricane Katrina, depends, at least partially, on his draft stock. Plus, there’s this:
Only person I owe something too….. pic.twitter.com/QaLDGDC9Nw
— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) December 20, 2016
That’s Fournette’s young daughter, Lyric, born premature almost two years ago. He’s putting his family first. In every situation — except the comments section of college football articles, apparently — that’s commendable.
McCaffrey’s situation is a little less easy to explain. The son of a 13-year NFL veteran, McCaffrey has no children of his own (as far as is known, anyway), and he has no injury history to speak of. His father, Ed, did miss a season due to a sudden leg break. Presumably, McCaffrey will have a family of his own one day. He may feel he has a fiduciary duty to them. That’s fine.
“But his teammates!” I hear some of you scream. Sure, their teammates might take issue with their decision. That’s up to them. They know their teammates better than I do. If LSU or Stanford players are aggrieved by this decision, they have every right to be. But I am not either of those, and most likely, neither are you. If NFL GMs think the players are too selfish to be drafted to organizations that require exceptional personal sacrifice, that’s their prerogative, though I’d likely disagree. The players will have the chance to convince them otherwise.
There’s also been some talk of the players “reneging” on their “contract” with their respective universities, or rule changes that would keep this from happening in the future. But NCAA scholarships are not, according to the federal government and particularly the IRS, payment for services. Scholarships are annual agreements entered into for each academic year, nonrevocable except in violations of very particular situations, with the understanding that a player will join a team, but are not necessarily required to play. They are not compensation for required performance like graduate school grants or teaching stipends.
If they were, they’d be taxable compensation. It’s the same issue the Missouri administration ran into during the boycott. If universities began to require performance in exchange for these scholarships in a quid-pro-quo arrangement, that would open up the door to challenges to the amateurism model. Any NCAA decisions to try to keep this from happening in the future would have to be carefully considered in that context.
- Check out our list of the 10 best plays from the Alabama football season, capped by a particular sack.
- We continue our countdown of the top 10 players of Alabama’s season. Tuesday’s installment: Jalen Hurts. Check back later on Wednesday for more.
- Ross Pierschbacher doesn’t think Alabama would beat the Cleveland Browns because he is a rational human being.
- Shaun Dion Hamilton’s teammates expect the junior linebacker to be back ‘better than ever’ when he returns for his senior season.
- AL.com’s Michael Casagrande does a great job contextualizing the statistics around the best-Alabama-defense-ever conversation.
- Travis Reier of BamaOnline has video and analysis of practice on Tuesday.
- Nick Saban has headed “coach rehabilitator” to his legacy.
- Roll Bama Roll has begun its own countdown of the most important plays from Alabama’s season, beginning with Eddie Jackson’s punt return against Ole Miss.
Built by Bama
- Amari Cooper, Landon Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, C.J Mosley and Julio Jones all made the Pro Bowl, the most of any school.
- Former Alabama defensive lineman Jeffrey Pagan is working out for the Patriots.
- Jordan Spieth, golfer and friend of Justin Thomas, picked Alabama to win it all.
Avery Johnson’s squad will host Arkansas State in Huntsville on Wednesday in what promises to be a tougher game than it may initially appear. Arkansas State is currently ranked No. 34 in RPI. A win would be by far Alabama’s best of the year — which isn’t saying much, I know. Alabama, for its part, is ranked 172nd. The Red Wolves have gone 3-1 in matchups against teams in that RPI neighborhood, losing to North Dakota State in the opening game of the season. Arkansas State averages 10.6 more points per game than Alabama, although the Crimson Tide’s stingy defense has been five points better on average.
The Red Wolves move and shoot the ball better than Alabama, dwarfing the Crimson Tide’s meager 42 percent field goal and 30 percent 3-point percentages. On the boards, the teams are about equal, each averaging 32 rebounds a game. Alabama should — should — have an advantage in the post in this game, but given the ice-cold nature of the Crimson Tide’s offense in the loss to Clemson last weekend, it can’t count on much.
If Alabama’s going to win, its guards have to shut down Devin Carter, who is averaging 17.6 points per game, a scoring clip he has surpassed five times this season — once in an upset win over Georgetown and including each of the last three games.
The game will air on the SEC Network at 9 p.m. ET.
Around the Capstone
— Alabama W Basketball (@AlabamaWBB) December 21, 2016
- Ashley Knight was named SEC women’s basketball freshman of the week after blocking 6 shots against McNeese State.
- The baseball team will host a ‘First Pitch dinner’ to start the season.
What to watch: Bowl season
BYU takes on Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. BYU is favored by 7.5, but Wyoming has the offense to keep things close. Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards this season, while running back Brian Hill is fourth in the country with 1,767 rushing yards. He’s scored 21 touchdowns. Each of BYU’s four losses was within one score, so the Cougars are likely better than their record indicates.
The game will air on ESPN.