Sports fans have access to more information about teams, players, and coaches than ever before. Most of that information comes from the observation of on-field performance, the tracking, processing, and synthesizing of which is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and what off-field information teams, players, and coaches decide to make public, something they’re doing more often and to a greater degree thanks in part to tools like social media.
Still, some information and interactions remained elusive, though that list is shrinking. In the last decade, Baseball Prospectus retained a lip reader to transcribe the often-heated arguments between MLB managers and umpires. Loose treatment of the NFL’s popular “mic’d-up” programming has permitted more exposure of in-game player commentary (even as sideline reporters are compelled to limit what they share with public audiences).
And now, thanks to pandemic-induced videoconferencing, we can step inside the world of top-tier amateur athletic recruiting, courtesy of this clip of a Nick Saban player pitch on behalf of the Alabama football program:
While obviously incomplete, there isn’t anything surprising here. Saban runs through the high points of his monumentally successful resume before addressing the counter-pitching refrains of his lesser rivals.
Plenty of the conversations about player recruiting in college athletics involve the subject of improper benefits, something Saban of course doesn’t mention in this clip. (If he had, you’d be hearing about this from someone other than me.) I have not been a Saban fan since his unceremonious departure from Michigan State, but his track record is undeniable. I think it’s plausible that programs like his don’t need to do much off the books to entice top players. Even within the SEC, bottom-feeder Tennessee probably needs to hand out McDonald’s bags full of cash to try to siphon prospects away from the conference elite. When it comes to Alabama, though, players might consider slipping Saban a few bills– or maybe an oatmeal cream pie— to improve their chances at a roster spot.