Hey, remember when class of 2012 recruit Barry Sanders Jr. (yes, that Barry Sanders) told the world that Mark Ingram would be declaring publicly for the draft this week because Nick Saban had told him so? And then Ingram officially declared today and he was right? That was pretty cool, huh?
Maybe a little less cool for Alabama, since according to the same OKBlitz.com website that broke the original Ingram-to-turn-pro story, that conversation qualifies as an NCAA violation :
Such an extended conversation between Saban and Sanders [still a high school junior--ed.] is a potential violation of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, which states “Off-campus recruiting contacts shall not be made with an individual (or his or her relatives or legal guardians) before July 1 following the completion of his or her junior year in high school."This is the well-known "bump rule," which Saban has already been accused of stretching to its breaking point in the past. Though obviously the NCAA will take its time ruling on the incident one way or the other, the case would appear to be pretty cut-and-dried; the link above includes a photograph of Saban and Sanders having their conversation, and Sanders' comments about Ingram make it clear that, to quote the bylaw, "dialogue occurred in excess of an exchange of a greeting." That compliance officials at both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were willing to go on the record as saying they would want the Tide's compliance department to examine the incident is a strong indication they believe a violation occurred.
NCAA Bylaw 13.02.4 defines contact as “any face-to-face encounter between a prospective student-athlete … during which any dialogue occurs in excess of an exchange of a greeting. Any such face-to-face encounter that is prearranged or that takes place on the grounds of the prospective student-athlete’s institution … shall be considered a contact.”
Then again, nothing in the murky world of recruiting and recruiting bylaws is official until the NCAA says it is, and Saban has already publicly denied exchanging anything more than a greeting. Even if found guilty, Saban would only have committed a single secondary violation, at worst. Punishments are likely to be minimal regardless.
But if Saban is found guilty, he could be subject to the NCAA's recent decision to make suspensions available as a punitive measure for coaches committing secondary violations, and his reputation as a coach willing to ignore the exact rule he appears to be flaunting here might make him too juicy an example to pass on. (The NCAA could also impose limits on Alabam's recruitment of Sanders Jr., though it's highly debatable how much of an impact those would have in any case.) Don't expect anything to come of this other than a quietly self-reported violation on Alabama's part and the proverbial wrist-slap, if that, but it'll be a story worth following all the same.