Saban Protecting Players With Ban

Now, it seems, it was the heat, not the deceit. Alabama Coach Nick Saban banned National Football League scouts from Crimson Tide football practices and conventional wisdom had it that Saban's actions were in retaliation for unscrupulous agents.

A little conventional wisdom when it comes to Alabama Coach Nick Saban is a dangerous thing.

Saban met with sportswriters Thursday and said he was only protecting his players. He doesn't think it's fair for Bama players to be judged by NFL scouts when they are practicing in 110 degree weather (which has been the average heat index, the combination of heat and humidity, in recent days in Tuscaloosa).

"I know there's been a lot made of this whole sort of NFL scout thing and really I don't think it's fair to our players for people to come in here and evaluate our players when it's 110 degrees outside and we're going through two-a-days," Saban said. "So, I don't really want the [scouts] here when we're going through two-a-days. It's especially hot this year and what I told people is we'll put out a schedule some time after Aug. 25th. So we didn't close this to the NFL for any particular reason."

Saban, who has a history as an assistant coach and head coach in the NFL, has always been pro-friendly when it comes to access for scouts.

Many presumed that Saban's action went back to his Southeastern Conference Media Days pronouncement of unscrupulous agents being "pimps," and suggesting at the time that if the NFL or the NFL Players Association couldn't do something to curtail the actions of those "bad" agents.

No, no, no, no, no!

But, since the subject of agents came up...

Saban is not one to sit on his hands and let outside forces affect his football program. The University and the NCAA have investigated the incident that propelled much of the agent talk since this summer, when Marcell Dareus (among a number of top college football stars) accepted a trip to Miami Beach which was reportedly agent-driven and, thus, in violation of NCAA rules. Dareus, a junior defensive end who is a potential top ten draft choice, is awaiting a verdict from the NCAA.

That Dareus is a junior is significant. Rules allow seniors to have guidance and conversations with those who can guide them through the world of sports agents, the draft, etc. Juniors are prohibited from that process.

"Where you have prohibition, you have bootleggers," Saban said.

Saban said that Alabama's problems in this area have been when juniors (Andre Smith in 2008 and now Dareus) make mistakes.

"Why is that?" Saban said. "Because no one is allowed to talk to them."

During their senior seasons, Alabama has potential pro prospects and their families meet in an agent education program, which is permitted. "We bring agents into this building and they have professional meetings with these guys at certain times of the year. We let them talk to them at certain times of the year, and we have no issues.

"We had 13 guys who signed some sort of professional contract after last year. Two of them were juniors and they weren't allowed to talk, but those guys handled it the right way. The other 11 guys we had no issues. And they all talked to people right here.

"All we want is the opportunity so that it doesn't have to happen on a street corner, that there aren't any of these decisions being made on the street corner."

Saban doesn't let the players off the hook on this issue.

"You would think that the player would know that if a professional person who is an agent is willing to break the rules to represent him...why does he think the guy won't break the rules if he is representing him?," Saban said. "That's the part that's hard for me to fathom. So as soon as the guy broke the rule to me, I wouldn't let the guy represent me, I wouldn't let him have anything to do with me, and I wouldn't even call him back.

"Some players contribute to that with the decisions they make, and we need to control that, educate them, and when the system fails, the player has to be somewhat responsible."

Saban organized a conference call to discuss the matter. It involved other college coaches, representatives of the NCAA, athletics directors, "the agent community," the NFL Players Association, and the NFL commissioner.

"I'm pleased with the group," Saban said. "It's all guys I have a tremendous amount of respect for.

"We're all trying to put our heads together to figure out what we're going to do to level the playing field so that everybody that's in the agent community – which some of them are very professional – have the same opportunity to recruit players and that the bootleggers out there are guys that get punished and penalized and they players that deal with them are going to have some of the same consequences. And maybe those consequences ought to carry over into their NFL career.

"Is it not conduct detrimental if a player does the wrong thing in college and gets suspended for his senior season just so he can play in the NFL? It hurts the NFL. It hurts the college. It hurts the player. It hurts everybody. So why shouldn't he get suspended for conduct detrimental just like Roethlisberger or some of the other guys that doesn't do the right thing? Now I like Ben Roethlisberger. I have respect for him and I don't mean that in a negative way, but he's being suspended right now for not doing the right thing in a particular circumstance, so why wouldn't someone else get it for the same thing?

"So a lot of those things are issues that are being looked at and we're all sort of trying to get our heads together in a positive way to resolve this issue. I was pleased with everybody's attitude towards trying to find a better way, to manage what goes on.

"What everybody needs to understand is that all agents aren't bad. And the agents that are the good guys get penalized by this too. There are things we need to reconsider.

"I don't think the NFL wants it that way. I don't think the NFLPA wants it that way. I know the colleges don't want it that way and I know the NCAA doesn't want it that way. So everybody is trying to contribute in a positive way to try to fix this.

"If we are going to be responsible for this as schools, we need to manage it all in-house, and people who don't allow it to have it in house, they should be penalized. If they have anything to do with a player getting punished, they should be penalized. Now it's all up to the legal system and they have to prove it. That's something the NFL P[layers] A[ssociation] could handle."

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