Alabama has won two national titles in three years and made two appearances in the SEC Championship Game (winning one). They’ve posted a nearly unprecedented 48-6 mark since Saban’s first signing class of 2008, put four first round picks in last year’s NFL draft and are poised to do it again in the 2012 draft. But none of that matters.
If you’re an SEC rival fan, when Alabama signs top recruits it’s because they’re cheating. If you don’t believe me, go look at almost every other SEC message board. There are more black helicopters buzzing around those sites than you’ll find at Fort Rucker, where the US Army trains combat chopper pilots.
The newest yarn being spun surrounds the recruitment of standout defensive back Landon Collins, a top-ranked recruit from Geismar, Louisiana. In a live ESPN broadcast segment during the Under Armor High School Football All America Game earlier this month, Collins chose Alabama over LSU, despite the wishes of his mother.
Collins later told reporters that he’d made his decision two years ago, after an unofficial visit to the Alabama campus during the Tide’s march to the 2009 National Championship. Collins girlfriend is also attending the school on an academic scholarship, and Collins’ biological father and extended family supported the kid’s decision to play for Alabama.
In one ear and out of the other for rival fans, including Collins’ own mother.
April Justin told MomsTeam.com’s Brooke De Lench that there was something else involved, and accused Alabama of what could be a major NCAA rules violation:
Was there anything else that didn't sit right with April? As it turned out there was. It had to do with Landon's girlfriend, Victoria. ESPN The Magazine reported about a confrontation between April and Victoria at the All-America Game after Landon's sister had urged her to stand onstage for his big announcement. April wanted only family in front of the camera. Landon's dad, Thomas, ended up having to intercede. When the cameras began rolling, there was Victoria standing directly behind Landon.
What the article didn't mention, however, was the reason April was apparently upset, which may have tipped the scales in Alabama's favor. According to April, Victoria had allegedly been offered a job to work in head coach Nick Saban's office.
There’s some more information for your backstory. It sounds like Collins’ mom doesn’t like his girlfriend very much. But there’s more. Collins’ mother has also said that head coach Nick Saban offended her during face-to-face discussions.
But the real fireball in that quote is the allegation of a job offer. This may or may not be a violation of NCAA rules regarding inducements. A school cannot offer friends and relatives any benefit that is not also available to the student body at large or is given just as freely to the general public. That is, if the girlfriend did get a job at the school, that job has to be available to all other students enrolled at the school.
MrSEC.com, among a plethora of others, are getting this story badly wrong. That website had the following posted:
If the allegation is true, it would appear to violate a 2010 NCAA rule put in place to prevent “package deals” for prospects and recruits. The rule states:
“During a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department non-coaching staff position.”
The rule cited is actually by-law 11.4.2 and pertains specifically to men’s basketball. It has no governance over football recruiting:
11.4.2 Individual Associated with a Prospective Student-Athlete—Men’s Basketball. In men’s basketball, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (or enter into a contract for future employment with) an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position.
Again, if Justin’s allegation is accurate (and no one has verified that it is), then this may or may not be an NCAA violation. My bet is that it isn’t—all of the boxes are checked and this one squeaks. Rival fans have been trying to hang thinly constructed stories like this on Alabama since the day Saban’s plane touched down.
Exit Question: When was the last time a Nick Saban program was cited for major NCAA recruiting violations and placed on probation? I’ll hang up and listen.