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February 28, 2012

Hurt: Saban to offer four-year scholarships

On Feb. 18, the member institutions that comprise NCAA Division I voted narrowly not to rescind legislation that allows schools to offer multiyear scholarships instead of strictly offering renewable one-year scholarships. It was by the slimmest of margins, but multiyear scholarships survived.

That, in turn, led to dire predictions of a Tower of Babel situation, with every school making different offers to recruits in an impossible-to-decipher jumble of various terms and limits.

Nick Saban doesn't see that happening.

"We're going to offer four-year scholarships," Saban said. "Our whole conference is going to do it, all the schools, I think.

"And we're happy to do it."

The University of Alabama head football coach, interviewed in his office Tuesday, said that he had waited until after the Feb. 18 vote on rescinding the measure before making any public comment, but stated he had "no problem" with offering four-year football scholarships to prospects for 2013 and beyond.

"Last year, it was something that was tabled," Saban said. "Then there was the vote to rescind. We just wanted to know exactly what the rule would be before we made a comment. What if we had started offering four-year scholarships and then the rule had been changed back?"

Alabama voted for the rescission of the multiyear scholarship rule last week, placing UA alongside more than 60 percent of the voting Division I members. Every in-state Division I school except Auburn University also voted for rescission. Ten of the 14 Southeastern Conference members voted in favor of multiyear scholarships with Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M joining Alabama in voting to rescind.

"We had the (four-year) rule years ago, and there were legal challenges to it," Saban said. "So we changed to the one-year scholarship then. I think that was why some of the schools had concerns."

Saban serves as the national lighting rod for issues in recruiting, ranging from over-signing to grayshirting, and he has frequently voiced his displeasure with "people who make it seem like the coaches don't have the best interest of the kids at heart, because I don't know a single coach who is like that."

However, Saban said he has "no problem" with multiyear scholarships because "they aren't that big of a change."

"Most of the conditions are still the same," he says. "The player will still have to be academically eligible. He will still have to obey team rules and regulations. And the player is still going to have the same rights and the same appeals process that he has now."

Saban's stand goes against speculation that Alabama -- which has had high attrition rates in recent offseasons -- would be a holdout in the move to multiyear scholarships because it would make it more difficult to "cut" players.

"We don't cut players," Saban said. "I don't know anyone who does. So I don't think that's an issue."

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0225.


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