Saban Backs State-Funded Scholarships

Nick Saban advocated state-funded scholarships like those in Georgia and Louisiana on Thursday, saying they would help the University of Alabama football program.

The Georgia HOPE scholarship and the Louisiana TOPS program provide in-state residents tuition to in-state colleges and universities, provided they meet certain minimal requirements. Both programs are funded by state lotteries.

Alabama voters rejected a lottery proposal in 1999 that would have ushered in a similar program.

Saban pointed out on Thursday that the lottery program helps a football team in terms of its invited walk-on program, and said he would support a way to level the playing field in Alabama.

"It helps," he said. "It helps in all sports. It helps the ones that don't have the numbers and have to split up scholarships."

Football and basketball have different scholarship rules than other sports. The 85-scholarship limit in football applies to all players the school is considered to have recruited, regardless of the source of their financial aide - be it academic, athletic, lottery related or otherwise.

Those restrictions also apply for basketball, but not for sports such as baseball, track or tennis, where there are not limits on the number of recruited athletes who may receive non-athletics related aide (the exception being an overall cap on roster size in baseball.)

Alabama baseball Coach Jim Wells and Mississippi State Coach Ron Polk have lamented the uneven playing field created by lottery scholarships and for years, but Saban is the first to tie the lottery programs into helping football as well.

He also said he supported a law against agents having improper contact with athletes, which Alabama has.

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