By Michael Rand
This story has been out there for a couple of weeks, but it caught our eye this morning as we logged six miles on the treadmill: Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, the king of recruiting loopholes, has found another one: video conferencing with athletes during what is otherwise a period in which coaches cannot visit high schools. As far as we can tell, the work of Saban — obviously pictured just a split-second before delivering the punchline to his favorite joke, “What has two index fingers and doesn’t care about ticking off other college coaches” — first was written about in the Birmingham News on April 25. Let’s have a look-see:
The so-called Saban Rule prohibits head coaches from visiting high schools during the current evaluation period, which started April 15 and ends May 31. It hasn’t prevented Saban from showing his face on a high school campus without setting foot on that campus.
And, according to the NCAA, completely legal.
Like a lot of college coaches – including those from Auburn, Michigan, Oklahoma and Notre Dame – Saban is recruiting Athens High School defensive end William Ming. But Saban found a creative way to make contact the other day.
Alabama assistant coach Curt Cignetti visited Athens High, which has a Distance Learning Lab that allows Athens students to take online classes by using a live webcam.
Cignetti left behind a web address that Ming used to log on later that day and spend 15-20 minutes talking, through the webcam, with Saban, who was in his office in Tuscaloosa.
Athens High Coach Allen Creasy, who witnessed the conversation, called it “a first from a recruiting standpoint” for his school.
“You could see (Saban’s) facial expressions and hand gestures just as if you were sitting across the desk from him,” Creasy said. “It’s the next-best thing to being there in person.”
We have to imagine the NCAA is going to put a stop to this pretty quickly. For now, though, what do you think: Creative interpretation of the rules and a savvy application of technology or a violation of the spirit, if not the letter of the law?