Nick Saban made waves earlier this month when it was revealed he used former Crimson Tide All-American running back Trent Richardson as a stand-in for LSU running back Leonard Fournette as Alabama prepared for an eventual 10-0 win over the Tigers.
The news was met mostly with surprise and admiration. The move was, after all, perfectly legal according to NCAA bylaws.
Urban Meyer’s reaction upon hearing Saban’s move encapsulated most coaches’ response.
Brian Kelly, though, disagreed. “I think it’s absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “Doesn’t sound like college football to me.”
Word of the criticism against Saban’s exploitation of the rule book made it way back to Tuscaloosa, and Saban answered with a predictably strong opinion.
“Now everybody is complaining that we did it and they want to change the rule,” Saban told AL.com. “We didn’t break any rules. If they want to change the rule, they can change the rule. I don’t care what rules they change if it’s the same for everybody. I just wish people would quit complaining about what we do — that’s allowed by the rules — and why don’t they just do it. I hear this all the time. I hear this all the time.”
Again, there’s no disputing that Alabama did what was allowed to them within the rules. Credit should go to him and his staff for out-working the rest of college football to find a way to give his team an advantage. That’s football.
But it seems like Saban’s utilization of that rule may be a little bit too successful. By making everyone aware of that rule, it’s possible that Saban’s weaponization of a little-known rule could get that rule nixed.
Kind of like Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camp tours of 2015 and 2016: an exploitation of a rule that, while it may not follow the spirt of what the rule’s writers intended it to be, still falls perfectly within the bounds of said rule.
That brings a question to mind — what was Saban’s original take on satellite camps?
“I certainly think that we need to address this if it’s going to be a competitive disadvantage and other people are going to have these kind of camps,” Saban said last April. “So, I think it’s something that we’ll probably address as a conference, and I think it’s something we ought to look at from an NCAA standpoint because I think it’s best to have a rule where people come to your campus, they can come to your camp.”