More criticism of ‘Saban Rule’

Another coach has joined the growing chorus of complaints about the ‘Saban Rule’. WVU coach Bill Stewart thinks the new rule stinks, according to

The purpose of the rule was to punish hard-working, well-known coaches like Nick Saban or Pete Carroll. The result was to hurt lower profile coaches too.

It’s one thing if Jim Bob Goober, the linebackers coach, goes into a school. He generally doesn’t draw that much attention. …

And as a result, Bill Stewart – who will freely admit he’s a lot closer in profile to Jim Bob Goober than to Nick Saban – can’t even drive across town and talk to Morgantown coach John Bowers or University’s John Kelley about a player or two. Nor can he fly to Virginia Beach or Florida or Alabama and do the same.

“It’s all about the glitter and the so-called stars out there,” Stewart said, referring to any number of high-profile head coaches whose popularity borders on rock star status in some football-crazy places. “Most of us aren’t like that.”

Stewart thinks the rule is bad, but the most vocal critic has been USC’s Carroll.

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The LA Times has reported Carroll feels trapped or caged by the rule change. He is shackled to his desk instead of hitting the road.

Nevertheless, he was left to fidget, begrudgingly take vacation and throw trademark elbows during campus basketball games while awaiting updates from assistants.

The Trojans staff is reconvening this week to review film and share impressions with Carroll, but the head coach laments, “It’s not the same as being out there.”

In the months before each of his first seven seasons at USC, Carroll’s mission – his passion, really – was traveling nonstop during May, hop-scotching to dozens of high schools in Southern California and across the nation, meeting with coaches, shaking hands and chatting up school personnel and evaluating prospects.

Like most rules, this one has unintended consequences. Saban innovated by making a webcam a recruiting tool, and not just something for online porn. What will come next?

Many, though, are using the time to pay more attention to the players they already have in school.

Doesn’t that make Saban more dangerous? Many of his critics (ie: Auburn fans) claim he does a poor job coaching, especially on game day. More time developing players, watching film and game planning should strengthen Saban as a “coach”. And as the video conferencing taught rivals, you don’t want to give Saban time to innovate—because he can and he will.


Add Yours
  1. 1

    Geez, more people who aren’t looking out for the kids? Where does it end?


    I mean, Saban’s first Freshman class only got a 3.0. And the team performed well on the APR. No priorities at all.

  2. 2

    IMO the “Saban Rule” helps a coach like Pete Carroll more than it hurts him. At least, when talking about losing a player to another school. Today USC is the #1 football program in the country and they have the pick of the litter in most cases.

    Now, I could see the rule hurting WV, but there are other things to consider….the Big East has an advantage over the SEC and other conferences when it comes to qualifying kids…so they still have an advantage and shouldn’t cry too much.

  3. 3

    If the early signing period works as some speculate (to benefit the big schools), and this Saban Rule benefits the big schools.

    The rich just get richer. Which is something the NCAA (in theory) hates.

    If we take Carroll at his word that evaluation was used for evaluation—I can understand why it frustrates him. Five Star recruits are always nice to sign, but you need to see the three and four stars who have the potential to grow into All-Americans.

    It also wouldn’t hurt to see the five star recruits in practice. Maybe identify the slackers Carroll would rather pass on.

  4. 4

    I have no problem with Saban and other coaches opposing the rule, but for God sakes let’s be honest about why Saban liked the old system better. Saban knew that when he planned a trip to visit a high school, it would be like a rock concert. The entire school would gather round in the gym to see him, it would be a pep rally atmosphere, and there was just a “slight” possibility that the high school coach might call over the recruit during all the hoopla to “tell Saban hello”, thus invoking the “bump rule”. Obviously, that 17 yr old recruit walks away from that experience with stars in his eyes. I don’t fault Saban, it’s an effective recruiting techique. However, these bald faced lies he keeps spewing about not being able to “evaluate talent and character” are nauseating. Fact – the rule only prohibts head coaches from visiting the actual high school. If the head coach wants to vist coaches and teachers offsite to “evaluate talent and character”, that’s perfectly legal. Are you telling me that if Saban set up a meeting at any local Holiday Inn conference room that he couldn’t get every local coach and teacher he wanted to attend? If Saban’s true objection is that the new rule punishes his devotion to hard work, then he can rest easy knowing he’s still allowed to do every ounce of personal “talent and character evaluation” that he could under the old rule. He just won’t be “evaluating” during the midst of a pep rally given in his honor. As to coaches like Bill Stewart, I agree that the new rule probably hurts them a little. They don’t have the public appeal to pull in coaches and teachers to an offsite meeting, especially given that teams like West. Va. sign so few in state players. Believe it or not, those coaches were actually visiting the school to evaluate recruits.

  5. 5

    Some fair points. There is no question visiting a school helped every coach recruiting that player. It is flattering that a Division 1 coach comes to your school.

    Now let’s be honest on the talent evaluation. You can’t get a real feel for a player’s talent without watching them in practice and workouts.

    Have you ever talked to a high school coach about a recruit? What about two or three or four?

    Every coach I’ve ever interviewed has always said Player X is great. Player X is smart. Player X is a hard worker. I stopped writing recruiting stories after I realized everyone says the same things about the kids they are promoting.

    Do you honestly think they’ll tell Saban or Carroll or anyone else something critical? HS Coaches want their players to get scholarships. And they are biased. You like the people who play for you.

    It does help to see the player actually doing football things. For someone like Saban or Carroll who thinks he can pick—he wants to make sure he picks the right ones.

  6. 6

    According to various media outlets, including the Tuscaloosa News, this was Saban’s response to the new rule:

    “I think it’s ridiculous that we’re doing what we’re doing,” Saban said. “When you’re talking about developing relationships and knowing players and meeting guidance counselors and talking to principals and all those kind of things, I think we’re putting ourselves at a tremendous disadvantage in terms of evaluation. We will be accountable in the long run relative to the decisions that we make on character and all those factors.”

    As you can see, there is no mention of watching the recruit practice or work out. Saban simply spat out some bs about principals and guidance counselors and character evaluation as his basis for opposition to the rule. Now, I agree that personal evaluation outside of talking to the hs coaches is very important and must be done. But let’s get real: Saban’s not there to watch a kid run skelton drills or lift weights. That’s what asst coaches do, and that’s what game film is for.

    Now then, let’s also look at the true reason this rule was proposed: The majority of SEC coaches knew that Saban was repeatedly and egregiously violating the no contact rule during these on site “evaluations”, and trying to cover his a$$ by claiming it fell under the “bump rule”. This has nothing to do with other coaches not wanting to do “hard work”. It has everything to do with Saban willfully breaking the damn NCAA rules. The thing that amazes me is that Saban has the audacity to not only commit the violations, but then turn around and act indignant when he gets called on it. He ought to just be thankful the NCAA isn’t looking at all those high school vists under a microscope and be quiet.

  7. 7

    Your premise is that everything Saban says is BS. Saban is a cheater. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

    Coming from that viewpoint, there isn’t much to discuss.

    The real reason the rule was passed is that coaches who get beat bitch and moan. And the lazy recruiters were getting their asses kicked by Saban and Urban Meyer and Les Miles.

    And the lazy coaches who wouldn’t go out and work knew it was only a matter of time until Saban had sufficient talent in Tuscaloosa to kick their asses on the field.

    Bluntly, the rule was passed to stymie Saban. And now it is only going to make him better. I find that enjoyable.

    FYI, you can google Saban’s remarks on spring evaluation, and he talks about practice and watching film at the schools, etc. You and I both know actually watching the practice is important. So, I guess when Pete Carroll says it is important, he’s a liar too?

  8. 8

    Even Tubby said he wasn’t crazy about getting his visits limited, that he liked doing in-person “character assessments.” Gues he’s lying too.

    So now Pete Carroll’s lying.
    And UW’s Bielema (sp?).
    And Urban Meyer.
    And Bill Stewart.

    And any coach that might just care to do their job thoroughly, rather than benefit from some farcical “rock star” effect. Please.

  9. 9


    Do you honestly think the “Saban Rule” was passed because everyone is afraid of Saban? Wasn’t the “Saban Rule” discussed while Saban was still coaching in the NFL.

    I have noticed that you have used the phrase “lazy coaches” about 100 times …what coaches in the SEC do you classify as lazy?

  10. 10

    Forget whether the coach in question is Saban, Les Miles, Pete Carroll, Chris Peterson, or Larry Blakeny. Honestly answer this question. If a head coach is repeatedly going to high schools and having direct contact with players, is he not breaking the rules? (That is not covered by the bump rule, which only excuses brief, unintended, accidental contact. If a coach visits 100 schools, and he has extended direct contact with the recruit at 95 of the schools, it’s obvious that’s not protected by the bump rule). Now, if you want to abolish the no contact rule, that’s a different story. But the SEC coaches were left with choosing between committing conduct that they felt was illegal, or taking action on stopping an abuse of the rules. But I guess when you worship Saban, you consider a coach who refuses to break the rules to be “lazy”.

    Next, I never said that everything Saban says is BS. I said his response on this particular issue is BS. And yes, Pete Carroll’s response on this issue is BS for the exact same reason. I believe, as do many coaches, that Saban was clearly violating the no contact rule. If you say that makes him a cheater, that’s your call.

    Finally, I believe that Saban is a damn good coach, and probably one of the best recruiters that has ever been in the game. As to “talent and character evaluation” that he spoke of in response to the rule change, I think you would agree that nearly every unbiased recruting expert in the country would say that Tuberville is one of the best evaluators of talent and character in the country. He certainly didn’t get that reputation by being “lazy”. Therefore, any claim you make about Tubs being too lazy to do the work required to properly evaluate talent and character is pretty ridiculous.

  11. 11


    I think the Saban Rule was directed mostly toward Urban Meyer, and hitting Saban too was an added bonus. I think both men are successful because they work hard. Harder than the other guy. And people who don’t like to work hard regulate to punish the guys who do like to work. In politics, I think that is called a progressive tax. 😉

    Do I have any coaches in mind when I say lazy? Maybe the same ones Pete Carroll has in mind?

    To be fair, lazy is probably harsh. Each coach has things they like to do, and parts of the job they hate. They’ll focus on what they like, and ignore the parts they don’t. Sometimes it hurts you. Sometimes it doesn’t.

    Whether recruiting is an area you can let slip is a judgement each fan must make for themselves.

    Tuberville has done a good job over the last few years. We’ll see how it pans out now that he has real recruiting competition, and not someone as Lazy or Inept as Mike Shula at his chief rival.

    And that is where I think Tuberville knows his time in Auburn is limited—his days are numbered. Mark Richt is a good recruiter (but he is interested in more than just football), Urban Meyer is a good recruiter, and Saban is a good recruiter.

    With great recruiters surrounding him, Tuberville is going to have to do an even better job at talent evaluation and development than ever. Is he up to it?

    Probably. If he’ll hustle. Will he?

    Were coaches violating the bump rule? I don’t know. You seem sure.

    In my experience, people complain about everything. It was Auburn fans and some coaches who were LIVID about the webcam stuff. There were charges of rules violations, etc.

    Until a high school coach with firsthand knowledge and without an agenda tells me, I’m going to reserve judgement. Because up until now, the only people telling me Saban violated the bump rule are those with an anti-Saban agenda.

  12. 12

    Cap, a couple of final points from me and I’ll quit kicking this dead horse:

    1. I’m not aware of any Auburn fans or coaches from any school who were livid about the webcam. That’s specifically allowed by the rules, so what is there to complain about? I do have to say that I think it’s hilarious how much discussion has been garnered over Saban’s use of a freakin $89 webcam you can buy at Walmart, and how some people think that this is going to revolutionilize recruiting. I guess it just shows how thirsty SEC fans are for news during the offseason.

    As to Tubs’ days being numbered at Auburn, I think you are dead wrong. I don’t say that from some stupid, emotional, Auburn homer standpoint. I say it upon evaluating the major reason any person would change jobs: Where are they as far as their station in life? Personally, Tubs is 53 yrs old. He’s got two sons that are about jr high age that have been attending the same great school system since they started school. He certainly doesn’t want to uproot them now, and any father will tell you that’s a huge factor to consider. Professionally, he’s not going to want to coach but another 7 or 8 years. He’ll be around 60 then, and I don’t think anyone sees him sticking around like a Bowden or Paterno. You know his career goal is to win an NC, so the burning objective question is where does he have the best chance to do it? Don’t get me wrong, if USC or Texas opens up and offered him, he’d obviously go. That’s not going to happen. The schools that would offer would be middle pack ACC, SEC, or Big 12 schools (i.e, Tex A&M, UNC, Arkansas) that would need rebuilding. He’s got a much better shot at winning an NC at Auburn than he does going to one of those type teams and trying to rebuild it in that short period of time. Finally, I know all about the A&M and Ark rumors last year, and I’ll be the 1st to admit that Tubs let the talk keep flying. He did it to try and strengthen his bargaining position on facility commitments, and it blew up in his face. He definitely payed for it in recruiting, and he knows it. He won’t make the same mistake again. (One last final jab at Saban: How hard will it be for opposing coaches to convince recruits in a couple of years that he’ll be jumping ship when they point out that Saban insisted on a huge buyout if he gets fired, but further insisted that he gets to leave with no penalty?)

  13. 13

    It doesn’t matter, either way, The University of Alabama basically recruits itself, and having an already proven recruiter, Nick Saban, at the helm, recruiting should no longer be a major issue for us. The road got a little rocky with sanctions, and of course, that drove a lot of quality recruits away (and George Bush like leader in Mike Shula played a hand in that as well), but Alabama will be Alabama again. So, we needn’t worry about that.

  14. 14

    I love and hate the “Saban” rule.

    The reason I hate it……
    Despite of who is visiting the school,
    if the player messes up, washes out, or goes out and does a drive by shooting, the responsiblity lands at the HEAD COACHES feet. The Head Coach is ultimately responsible and his CAREER AND LIVLEYHOOD partially depend on what these young men do on and off the field.
    Why shouldnt he have the time needed to evaluate the prospects?

    The reason I love it
    In every state #2 U will have even less time to compete for the top shelf recruits. Whether it be in their home state or in surrounding states. If your school’s name isnt Univerty of __________, recruiting just got a little tougher.

  15. 15

    Also The “Saban” Rule is a huge advantage to “celebrity” Coaches. Coach “Average Joe” Smith has less time to sell himself to the prospects.

  16. 16

    NYC, that’s the complacent attitude of entitlement that is music to the ears of us Auburn fans, (i.e Bame recruits itself, Bama will be Bama again so we needn’t worry.) The main reason I worry about Saban is that he might finally finally change that attitude in Tuscaloosa for the first time in 25 years. Fortunately, he won’t stick around long enough for that to happen.

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