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.
“What sparked the conversation was we were talking about the last touchdown Alabama scored (in a 49-7 win against Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl) and how tough it is to still compete without trying to make the other team look bad.”
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, not one of the Crimson Tide's main options this season, scored and brought the conversation to talking about running backs and Ingram's situation.
Ingram, who won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, was one of three Alabama players to declare Friday for the NFL Draft.
Heritage Hall head coach Andy Bogert spoke with Saban and Alabama recruiting coordinator Curt Cignetti on Monday morning before he went on vacation in Mexico. Bogert texted Sanders that Saban would be in town Wednesday and told Sanders to call Cignetti for the details.
“This situation happens all the time,” Bogert said in a text message. “A coach calls and says he's coming, and I text Barry to call the coach (Cignetti).”
Neither Bogert nor athletic director Rod Warner were at Heritage Hall on Wednesday. Instead, it was Adams and strength and conditioning coach Chris Gfeller that led Saban and Cignetti on a tour of the Heritage Hall campus.
“I would say he arrived at right around noon, I don't have the exact time,” Adams said. “He was probably out of there by 12:15 or just past 12:15.
“He took a tour of the campus, and we walked in the commons area (cafeteria area), and he crossed paths with Barry. He asked about his foot, and that was it and started talking with me again.”
Adams said he gave Saban a highlight video of Shepard, and that was supposed to be the end of the trip.
However, once students realized Saban was at the school, they began asking for pictures and tweeting the information.
“We're aware of the fact that coaches cannot talk to players,” Warner said. “We know the rules, and the college coaches know the rules. This happens all the time where coaches come through our offices for short visits.”
Said Adams: “I let Barry baby-sit my 10-year-old son. I talk to Barry all the time, and he's very astute about this stuff. He would never knowingly do something wrong.”