Todd covered the basics last night of the move by Nick Saban to offer four year scholarships, but as an addendum I did want to address a couple of additional points.
First and foremost, it was evident all along that if this placed Alabama at a competitive disadvantage on the recruiting trails, it would only be a matter of time before 'Bama capitulated to the groupthink. As I wrote just ten days ago:
For Alabama, to date the Crimson Tide has refused the publicly acknowledge one way or the other as to the specifics of its scholarship offers, though most have assumed that 'Bama offers only single-year scholarships. Perhaps that is true and perhaps that remains the case moving forward, but as committed as Nick Saban is to success on the recruiting trails, if he feels that the lack of multiyear scholarship offers is putting Alabama at a competitive disadvantage for the nation's rising college prospects, expect 'Bama to go quickly go the way of the multiyear scholarship offer as well.
Perhaps this is somewhat surprising given that it came about so quickly, but the early returns on the recruiting trails have made it clear that rising prospects are impressed with the four year scholarship offer. In turn, schools offering four year scholarships have used it to boast about their own alleged commitment to prospects while at the same time using it as a sword to attack other schools for their alleged disregard for the prospects' future and well-being.
'Bama commitment O.J. Howard, for example, recently touted Auburn's offer of a four year scholarship, contrasting it to the one-year offer at Alabama. Auburn commitment Earnest Robinson, who 'Bama had largely backed off due to academic concerns, cited the same, and many other prospects outside the state have made varying statements to the same effect involving other schools.
At which point, all of this becomes an elementary decision. Place a high value on recruiting? Well enough. And if something you are offering, which can otherwise be easily changed, is putting you at a competitive disadvantage in the pursuit of such prospects? Simple enough, you just change whatever that something is and it becomes a complete non-issue.
In any event, the real takeaway here ought to jump off the digital page. All of the hot air and hyperbole notwithstanding, just pay close attention to this passage in the story yesterday by the Tuscaloosa News:
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.
You can expect that final paragraph to be writ large, too, even if in small print in the actual scholarship papers. Major athletic departments, knowing the risks involved, will employ a small army of lawyers to protect themselves from those who step over the line by cleverly drafting the relevant contractual language to work to their benefit. So scholarships are now for four years and not just one year, what of it? The risk of noncompliance will ultimately fall on the player, as has previously been the case, and all of the high talk to the contrary, schools will still retain the ultimate discretion over roster management and case-by-case punishment for players who do not live up to their expectations off the field or in the classroom.
In other words, meet the new regime, same as the old regime. For all of the ultimately pointless discussion surrounding this topic, this move should have all of the marginal impact of a North Korean election.