Nick Saban: No recruiting violation in visit with Barry Sanders

Heritage Hall administration says it's a common occurrence to have coaches in for short visits. The Alabama coach ran into the Chargers' junior running back while at the school on Wednesday.
By Robert Przybylo, Staff Writer, bprzybylo@opubco.com Modified: January 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm •  Published: January 7, 2011
Alabama football coach Nick Saban said Friday he doesn't believe he was in violation of NCAA rules for visiting Heritage Hall High School and its star running back, Barry J. Sanders, on Wednesday.

The Heritage Hall administration agreed with Saban, who stopped by the Oklahoma City private school en route to Dallas for a coaches convention.

If Sanders was a senior, Saban's visit would not be an issue. But since Sanders has not completed his junior year, the recruiting rules are different.

According to the NCAA's rules and regulations:

“A college coach is only permitted to contact you in person off the college campus only on or after July 1 when you have completed your junior year of high school. If the coach meets with you or your parents and says anything to you or them, then this is considered a contact. Anything more than a very basic hello is a contact.”

The Tuscalossa (Ala.) News tweeted Friday that Saban said his contact with Sanders was “just a greeting” and within NCAA guidelines.

Sanders said Friday the only thing Saban asked him about his injured foot. Sanders had foot surgery a few weeks ago and missed the majority of the second half of his junior season as the Chargers made a run to the state championship.

“I was on my way to lunch, and we shook hands,” Sanders said. “He asked me about my foot, and that was the only face-to-face conversation that took place.”

Sanders and teammates Sterling Shepard and Markus Wakefield are in San Antonio this weekend for the U.S. Army National Combine.

Back in October, Sanders listed Alabama as one of his top-four choices among the schools that have offered him an athletic scholarship. Oklahoma State, UCLA and Florida State are in the running.

It was originally reported that Saban, during his brief conversation with Sanders, implied that running back Mark Ingram would not return to Alabama, which would make the encounter more than a “basic hello” — and NCAA violation.

However, Heritage Hall defensive coordinator Mark Adams said Friday that Saban was not talking to Sanders at the time, although Sanders said he was in the vicinity.

“Saban was talking to me at the time, and we were talking about the running back situation,” Adams said. “Saban told me you can never have too many running backs.

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