I don’t pretend to understand all the nuances involved in SEC Commissioner Mike Slive’s attempt to come up with league legislation dealing with “roster management.”
I’ll admit, though, that my gut instinct is that anything Nick Saban, Houston Nutt and Gene Chizik howl about is probably a good idea.
And despite that howling, predominantly from the SEC’s wild West, I also have a feeling that Slive is enough of a politician that he wouldn’t have put the issue up for discussion if he wasn’t pretty sure the conference’s presidents will give him at least an approximation of what he wants.
I think Tennessee’s Derek Dooley’s stance might be indicative of what will come out of the conference gathering in Destin: The number of new signees each academic year might not be reduced from 28 to 25, but some of the loopholes being used by Steve Spurrier and others likely will be closed. As Dooley said, it’s not fair to the kids to let them enroll in summer school, see how they do in workouts, and then cut them before the season starts. And no matter what time of year a kid signs, he should count.
I like the position Mark Richt has staked out in all of this: There’s nothing wrong ethically with a coach telling a player there might not be room for him and that he might be asked to delay enrolling until January — the practice known as grayshirting — as long as it’s done up front, before the player signs.
But, as Richt said, “if you sign five over, and you get to the moment of truth, and you have to tell two or three kids that thought they were coming in with everyone else, and then all of a sudden you spring the news, all of a sudden there’s no room, you’ve gotta come in in January, I don’t think that’s right.”
Where roster management gets really hairy is in how some coaches appear to get creative in dealing with players being disqualified because of injuries. Some coaches have the reputation of using such disqualifications to run off players who haven’t met their expectations.
And then there’s Richt, who carried running back Albert Hollis on his active roster for a couple of years even though he knew the kid would never play for the Dogs. As the coach explained to The Athens Banner-Herald, if “you can still keep him on scholarship and you can help him get his degree and keep him in your program and have him help you coach or do something in strength or whatever to keep him where he’s part of the family still, he doesn’t feel like an outcast out there.”
With Hollis, Richt said, he could have medically disqualified him early on but “this guy’s got nerve damage, he’s got drop foot, he’s got some rehab ahead of him. I had to sit there and make a decision, what’s in the best interest of this kid. In my opinion the best interest in this kid was to keep him active in the 85. Once you DQ him, you can’t unDQ him two years later. He’s got at least a two year rehab. We felt like his best chance with rehab where he could walk again as normal as possible. He needed to have that carrot out in front of him where he might be able to play again one day.”
I won’t hazard a guess on whether Saban would have carried a kid who was never going to be able to play on his roster like that.
But I’m awfully glad UGA has a coach who did.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg