During his lifetime Coach Bryant was noted for his philanthropy, but one of the most impressive gifts he ever made was the Bryant Scholarship Fund. An initial investment of $1 million provided a scholarship at Alabama to the sons and daughters of former players, coaches and staff associated with Bryant.
In an interview several months back with Tim Gayle of the Montgomery Advertiser, Tide Athletics Director Mal Moore talked about the scholarship fund.
"It was one of the most remarkable things that I know a coach has done for his players," Moore said. "When Pat Trammell died, he wanted it done (for Pat Jr). He realized the need. From then on, there have been a little over 700 children of coach Bryant's players to go through The University on a scholarship. There are 78 or so this semester."
The fund is monitored by Paul Bryant Jr., currently a member of the Alabama Board of Trustees, and a committee that includes athletic director Moore, who was both a former player and assistant coach under Bryant.
Since the scholarships are named for Bryant, its understandable that many confuse them with athletic grants. However, while occasionally athletes may be eligible to benefit from the money, as far as the NCAA is concerned, the Bryant Scholarships are no different from countless other grant monies available to college students.
In fact, this year no less than four current high school seniors that also happen to play football could conceivably benefit from the fund. Jake Wingo (6-0, 200), the son of former Tide linebacker Rich Wingo (‘76-'78) plays defensive back for Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa. Mountain Brook High School Head Coach Joey Jones (‘80-'83) starred as a receiver for both Bryant and Ray Perkins. His son, Joe Jones (5-9, 170), played (what else?) wideout for him this past season. Johnathan Lowe (5-6, 154, 4.5), the son of former Tide linebacker Eddie Lowe (‘80-'83), played tailback this past season at Central High School in Phenix City. And Tyrone King (6-0, 185, 4.46), whose father Tyrone Sr. (‘72-'75) played defensive back for the Tide, competed at defensive back for Minor High School in Adamsville. (Fans will remember that King Sr. died this past year from cancer.)
All four student-athletes could conceivably attend Alabama next fall, taking advantage of the Bryant Scholarship. And yes, even if their academic bills are being paid by the scholarship fund, they would still be eligible to walk-on and play for the Crimson Tide football team.
In that regard, the Bryant Scholarship is viewed no differently than Pell Grants or even Georgia's Hope Scholarship program. All three provide college money to students, regardless of athletic ability, which of course is the key point.
In the case of Wingo, Jones, Lowe and King, the recipients might also happen to be athletes. But their eligibility for the Bryant Scholarship has nothing whatsoever to do with their talent in football. In fact, female children of former Bryant players and coaches have equal access to the fund.
The only possible problem for any football player eligible for the Bryant Scholarship lies in whether or not the NCAA would consider him to be "recruited" or "non-recruited."
If Alabama were to use the Bryant Scholarship to entice an athlete to attend (in other words, if a Tide coach were to talk about the possibility with a potential player), then the NCAA would consider them in the "recruited" category. And any athlete in that category that received the Bryant Scholarship, must be on campus for two full years before he could see game action. Otherwise he would have to count against both Alabama's initial and total scholarship numbers for the year he first enrolled.
In fact, David Cavan, Alabama's starting tight end this past season, fell into that category. "Recruited" by the Tide coaches as a prep senior, he did not receive a football scholarship and used the Bryant Scholarship to pay his expenses while he walked onto the football team. Fans may remember that the Bama coaches wanted to use Cavan in games by the end of his redshirt freshman season but did not. In fact, they could not, because there was not room to "backcount" him against the 2000 class, which would have been necessary had Cavan played in 2001.
Would any of the four prep seniors this year be considered "recruited" by the NCAA's definition? There's no way to know for certain, but all indications are "No."
That of course does not mean that all or any of the group will end up enrolling at Alabama, much less walking on to play football. Jake Wingo, for one, claims a scholarship offer from Clemson. He played mostly strong safety in high school, but some think he could grow into a linebacker like his Dad. Wingo is being recruited to Clemson by Dabo Swinney, a former Tide player and assistant coach, who is good friends with the Wingo family. Ordinarily fans would assume that Wingo would have a better chance at playing time with the Tigers. But given the current relative positions of the two programs, that's not necessarily true.
Jones and Lowe are both very good athletes but also very small, by Division 1A football standards. Jones had a good prep career at wideout, helping Mountain Brook quarterback Tribble Reese to an outstanding season. He may not be quite as fast as his father, but Joe is a sure-handed athlete.
Johnathan Lowe continued the Lowe family football legacy in Phenix City this past year, playing running back for the Central High Red Devils. He also returned kicks and is projected by some as a defensive back.
Every year several athletes fall between the cracks for one reason or another. Those fans that have seen Tyrone King Jr. in person praise his toughness and coverage skills. For whatever reason he lacks a scholarship offer from a major program, but King would almost certainly have the option of signing with a lower-level school.
In the case of all four athletes it's fair to assume that Bama's coaches would welcome them next fall as walk-ons. Each youngster will of course make the decision he believes is best for him. But if needed, the Bryant Scholarship is available.
RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 24 players in February, anticipating that several will not become qualified. It's also possible that one or more players may be asked to delay entry into The University until the following January, counting against 2005 scholarship numbers, depending on how qualifying issues play out.
"Non-recruited" walk-ons would have no effect on Alabama's scholarship numbers.
Read all of the recent recruiting stories on Alabama recruits from TheInsiders.com.