The Saban Rule

Anyone who has ever met Alabama football coach Nick Saban knows he's a warm, engaging, charismatic personality ... if you happen to be a major-college prospect.

Some of his peers in the profession thought Mr. Warmth was a little too personable last year, however. They claim he routinely violated the "bump rule" by exchanging more than a simple greeting when he encountered prospects at their high schools. Quarterback Star Jackson of Lake Worth, Fla., reported spending "a couple of minutes" chatting with the Bama boss during one such inadvertent bump last year.

Such incidents angered coaching rivals, especially when Saban wound up signing the top-ranked recruiting class in America last February. That anger eventually led to adoption of the so-called "Saban Rule," which bans head coaches from visiting high schools during the April 15-May 31 evaluation period. Only college assistants may visit the schools during this time, and they may speak only with coaches, teachers and guidance counselors.

Saban got mad, then got around the rule in a very creative manner. According to The Birmingham News, the coach held a face-to-face conversation with prospect William Ming of Athens (Ala.) High via The Internet. Saban reportedly spoke into a computerized camera mounted in his office, while Ming spoke into one located in his school's distance learning lab. After witnessing the computer-driven conversation, Ming's prep coach told The News it was "the next-best thing to being there in person."

Best of all – from Saban's perspective anyhow – the visit was perfectly legal. The NCAA lumps video conferences into the same category as phone calls, and prospects may initiate as many phone calls to college coaches as they wish.

Clearly, Saban has found a way to subvert the very rule that was instituted and named specifically for him.

Of course, Slick Nick isn't the only head coach devious enough to discover a detour around the new recruiting regulation. Former Florida head man Ron Zook, now running the show at Illinois, found a fiendishly simple antidote to the Saban Rule: He and his assistants merely held a series of free coaching clinics during the spring.

If you can't go and visit the coaches, get the coaches to come and visit you.

Had he exhibited that level of creativity when he was in Gainesville, Zook might still be coaching the Gators.


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