This week, Alabama and Auburn players both made decisions regarding their future in college or the NFL.
At Alabama, you had 2010 Heisman winner Mark Ingram and All-Americans Marcel Dareus and Julio Jones flanked by their head coach at an official, University sanctioned press conference. Each player was decked out in matching University of Alabama gear. The three superstars announced their decision to join the upcoming NFL draft, while fellow teammate Dont’a Hightower decided to stay in school for his senior season.
Again today, Mark Barron was joined by Alabama head coach Nick Saban in a University of Alabama press conference, where the talented junior announced he was staying for the 2011 season.
In both instances, players took questions, there was discussion with the media, and there was nothing to hide.
Shifting gears, across the state, Auburn had two players with decisions to make.
Cam Newton, easily the most meaningful player to the Awbuhn Fambly since the now fat Bo Jackson played for the Tigers, announced Thursday night that he would go to the NFL.
No press conference. No Gene Chizik offering an endorsement in-person. Just an awkward, rambling and at at times in-coherent interview in what looked like a closet, hitting ESPN around 9:00pm.
The following day, the dirtiest player to play in the SEC since…ever…had a decision to announce, but like Cam’s announcement under the cover of night, Nick Fairley chose to announce far from Auburn University at his high school. He too would enter the NFL draft, but no Chizik, no Auburn, nothing.
Recruits, sit up and take notice. At one school you have a head coach whose goal is to do what’s best for his players, even if it means what isn’t best for him and his team personally. If Coach Nick Saban can get you to the NFL in three years, where you’ll make millions of dollars simply by signing your name, he will. You will be escorted to the table with honor, and your departure won’t be shady, but rather celebrated.
At the other, the Auburn announcements just felt…icky. What were the players afraid of? Where was the Auburn brass when these players had an opportunity to shine? Is this brass only interested in themselves and not the well-being of their players?
Recruits today are not fans of any one team. They want to make it to the NFL, and want to know they will play somewhere that gives them the best chance to set their families for life. Alabama can get you there, and from outside appearances, wants to.
Possibly the reason Barron’s announcement came today was it is one of if not the biggest recruiting weekend before signing day for the Tide. The talent on campus this weekend is a virtual who’s-who of top 2011 prospects, and no doubt they had a front-row seat to sit up and take notice of a staff committed to getting them their best chance to be employed in the National Football League, if they have what it takes.
Does Auburn offer the same honor? Doesn’t look like it.
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