Nick Saban had some comments recently at an Alabama booster event that will be of interest to college football recruiting fans. Specifically, Saban discussed the concept of a non-committable verbal offer with Mike Herndon of Al.com:
... Early next month will be a particularly big evaluation period for quarterback prospects, whose offers are not committable until Saban sees them work in person in Tuscaloosa.
"It is our philosophy at certain positions that we really like to learn a lot about players and one of the best ways to learn about a player is when they come and visit you, because you're limited in terms of the contact you can have with them off-campus," Saban said. "To get some of them to come here in the summer I think is a really big tool in evaluation as well as an opportunity to get to know guys, to see if they have the right character and attitude to fit in your program."
So a prospect has an offer, but it is not committable? That's right. This ridiculousness is brought on by NCAA rules that, among other things, prohibit contact between coaches and recruits, making it difficult to evaluate prospects.
Verbal offers are, of course, not binding on the school, and verbal commitments are not binding on the school or the player. And at this point, players only have verbal offers. Written offers, which are somewhat binding in a sense, can only be given later in the year.
But the concept of a committable v. non-committable offer is different altogether. I've discussed this subject before for SB Nation in this article, titled College Football Recruiting Starts Earlier And Earlier, Whether NCAA Likes It Or Not, in which I explained:
...The process of extending all of these verbal offers has even spawned a new definition of the term "Committable."
com·mitta·ble adj.:The binary measure of an offer's validity: Randy discovered that his verbal offer to State University was not committable at the time, as the school had other prospects rated higher on its board.
The reality, of course: an offer that is not committable is not an true offer. It's a mere expression of interest by the school in the recruit.
The real news here is not in the practice, which isn't all that new, but rather that a coach is admitting it. It happens a lot more than the average fan probably realizes. If a player claims an offer from a school that is considerably better than all of his other offers, there is a good chance that the offer is more of an expression of interest, or an invite to come and camp.
The reason why acknowledging it is big news is that it really makes coaches, parents and players angry, particularly when a player tries to commit to an offer and the school is not ready to accept his commitment.
And Alabama is hardly the only school doing this. It's prevalent throughout the SEC, and at some other schools as well. In the 2013 cycle, Florida State was stuck in a situation with Adrian Baker, a South Florida defensive back, who committed to his "offer" from the Seminoles. FSU eventually decided to accept the commitment and avoid a PR mess, but Baker, perhaps feeling unwanted, eventually did decommit and ended up at Clemson.
Baker's situation was unique in that it became public. But this sort of thing happens all the time behind the scenes without becoming public, usually because a player wants to avoid embarrassment in having news get out that his offer from a school wasn't valid and that his attempt to commit was turned down.
The situation is unfortunate, but not all that avoidable. Prospects take schools waiting to offer as a personal affront, and value early offers in an illogical, confounding way. Coaches often talk about the importance of being the first offer, or the first major offer for a prospect. Thus, schools must balance offering a half-hearted offer early on with waiting to evaluate first.