TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban’s frustration with a looming rule change regarding camps reared up again Saturday afternoon during his press conference following the Crimson Tide’s first spring scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
With Saban not scheduled to meet with reporters again until next Friday, the final question was about how a ban on high school coaches working collegiate camps might negatively affect the football program.
The NCAA is poised to approve proposed bylaw 188.8.131.52.5, titled “Individual Associated With a Recruited Prospective-Athlete,” when the Division I Council meeting begins Wednesday. If passed, it will ban colleges from employing anyone associated with any recruit who might participate in the camp, including coaches.
The American Football Coaches Association voted to support the proposal during its national convention Jan. 8-11, when Alabama was playing Clemson for the national championship.
The coach gave a lengthy answer to the question:
“Basically, what I’m learning — of course I’m not the smartest guy in the world, nor do I spend a lot of time worrying about what other people do — I guess people don’t really have camps any more. We’re one of the few people that have an old-fashioned camp where we get 600 guys, you know, what are high school players at two different camps, two different occasions. So that’s 1,200 guys. We may have 50 guys in each camp that are really prospects. The rest of the 550 are just high school players who really want to get better, try to go and help their team, improve themselves and work hard. That’s the kind of camps that we have.
“I think when you pass rules that are basically, I guess for recruiting purposes, I guess the reason that a high school coach is not supposed to work a camp is that he might bring one of his players, or he might bring 20 of his players. All 20 of them may not be prospects, maybe none of them are prospects, maybe one of them is a prospect. Maybe none of them is a prospect. But, so, obviously that’s not going to happen.
“It’s a great experience for the young guys to be able to come to a camp and experience a place like the University of Alabama or any SEC school for that matter. My other concern is that the kids are still going to come to camp, the prospects, so who’s going to bring them now? If the high school coach doesn’t bring them, some third-party guy is going to bring them, and that’s what we’re really trying to eliminate.
“I don’t understand the spirit of the rule. I don’t really know why we’re doing it. I really don’t. I think sometimes we pass rules and don’t really understand the consequences, and there’s a lot of unintended consequences, and you think you’re solving one problem, but really in reality you’re going to create 10 more. I think it’s bad for football, I think it’s bad for high school coaches.
“We had a high school coach here the other day, I’m not going to mention any names, and his son’s a prospect and he used to be a college coach. So now he can never go work at a college, can never work a camp, he can’t come speak at clinics. We just had over a thousand coaches here at a clinic and had a great camp, which is the way that I feel we serve the high school coaches and have a chance to give back to them for all that they do in terms of the hard work that they do in developing players, helping us be able to evaluate players, giving us information about their players. I guess we can’t do anything. I really, I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.
“I guess we’ll have to try to staff our camps another way. We also have a little kids camp here, certainly not a recruiting camp. There’s not even any high school players in it, and we’re not even certain that we can have high school coaches work that camp. That might be under the same scrutiny that if they have any relationship with a prospect then they can’t work our camp. That’s the way I understand it, that’s the way our compliance understands it. I guess we’ll figure it out when the rule passes or whatever.
“I guess I’m just too old-fashioned. If people didn’t help me when I was coming up as a coach and visit with me, and help me grow and learn as a coach, I would never be in the position that I’m in, or have the success that we’ve been able to have, even when it was just being a position coach. So I guess it’s my respect for the profession and the paranoia that everybody has that somebody’s doing something because a high school coach comes and works your camp is pretty ridiculous, but it is what it is.
“Is that how we’re ending this?”
The proposal states: “In football, an institution or staff member shall not employ (either on a volunteer or paid basis) an individual associated with a recruited prospective student-athlete at the institution’s camp or clinic (including a coaches clinic or a camp or clinic involving non-prospects), unless at least two years (24 months) have elapsed since the prospective student-athlete’s initial full-time enrollment at the institution.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has repeatedly called the measure, ” stupid.”
Saban initially brought up the proposed rule change after the Crimson Tide’s first spring practice, when he went on a rant following a question about the teams’ offensive identity under a new coordinator.
“The people who scream the loudest kind of get the attention and they pass some rule that everyone has to live with, or there’s some law, the consequence of which messes up a lot of other things,” he said at the time. “It happens all the time. They’re doing it right now. The NCAA is doing it, we’re going to change the way we have summer camps. We can’t have high school coaches working summer camps. It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.”
He added: “We say we don’t want third parties dealing with players, so we’re not going to let a high school coach bring a guy to camp and some third-party guy can bring him to camp. It makes no sense at all. But all the people who have common sense don’t say anything about it.”