Grayshirt Controversy: Petrino Villainized, Saban and Others Given Pass

Posted on Feb 5 2015 - 4:22pm by Nick Burch
Photo - Grant Halverson, Getty Images North America

Photo – Grant Halverson, Getty Images North America


National signing day 2015 has come and gone, and here is what we learned: college football recruiting can be ugly, dirty, and unfair, because when it is all said and done, it is a business, and coaches everywhere are forced to make difficult decisions in order to keep their class size within the NCAA guidelines. However, when that coach’s name is Bobby Petrino, it is especially horrid and cruel, and the man should be tarred, feathered, and dragged through the streets in shame. At least that is what some in the national media would have you believe.

Petrino drew public ire on Monday when it was announced the Louisville staff had informed Matt Colburn, a 3-star running back and Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina, his scholarship offer to be a member of the 2015 class would no longer be honored. With only a day and a half before signing day, it left Colburn, a player who had done all the right things and had been loyal to Louisville since he committed last summer, scrambling to find another school. The timing was unfortunate and unfair, but with Louisville’s class size expanding, he became the odd man out. The staff did not pull his offer completely, though, asking him to “grayshirt” and spend a semester at prep school before enrolling in the spring or the following fall. However, this is something neither Colburn nor his family wanted or appreciated, and he is now considering schools like Wake Forest, Furman, Coastal Carolina, and Gardner Webb.

A grayshirt is nothing new to college football. Jeff Sentell of helped define the term in a recent story, describing it as “more like a pause button on the recruiting process than a delayed redshirt. A grayshirt will not report for summer drills or fall practices. Those student-athletes wait until the second semester to begin their freshman year. The strategy keeps the NCAA five-year eligibility window from opening. Grayshirts are not permitted to enroll as a full-time student or receive scholarship benefits or be a part of the program in any official capacity, including practices.”

In other words, his scholarship was not “pulled” as some of these people have misreported, but it would be honored following the fall semester of school. It is not exactly something any recruit would be thrilled to have offered to them (and can be interpreted as insulting, as was the case with Colburn) but it is not the same thing as pulling a scholarship completely. To the people already on the attack, though, that was of little importance.

Following the news becoming public, those in the national media on the attack expressed their disgust and disapproval of this move via social media…

What these national media types riding their moral high horses fail to mention is that while this is an unfair, unfortunate action, it is also COMMON. It is something that happens EVERY year with MANY top-tier teams. Where is the outrage for the rest of the coaches that make the same moves?

Auburn, Alabama, and West Virginia are just three of the schools who did yesterday exactly what Petrino did. Alabama asked Christian Bell, a DL who had been committed to the Tide since April of 2014 (three months longer than Colburn was committed to Louisville) to grayshirt. 3-star LB Elijah Sullivan committed to Kansas State after Auburn, where he was committed, asked him to grayshirt. West Virginia did not even offer a grayshirt to WR Tavares Martin, who had been committed to the Mountaineers since December, but rather just pulled his offer.

Why do Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, and Dana Holgorsen get a pass? Why is it okay when they do it, but when Bobby Petrino does it, it is considered worse than one of the seven deadly sins? These “critics” are acting as if Petrino gleefully made the call, then proceeded to kick a litter of puppies before running a bus full of sick orphans off a bridge while laughing maniacally. Their comments on those other coaches? Crickets.

The Petrino-bashing soon came to the point of hypocrisy, courtesy of ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who directly before tweeting his unhappiness with Petrino, tweeted this:

So one man who offers a grayshirt is praised for a great class, but the other gets a disapproving shake of the head. Got it.

Perhaps the biggest hypocrites in all of this, though, are the members of the media in South Carolina, Colburn’s home state. The vitriol coming from them exceeds anything anyone else is saying, and they act as if Petrino should be prosecuted for high treason. Yet, it was their state school, South Carolina, who did the EXACT same thing to Lorenzo Mauldin around the same time during the recruitment period Louisville did it to Colburn. Why no mention of that? Mauldin was pushed out of Steve Spurrier’s 2011 class after they had no more room, and he ended up at Louisville. It all worked out for both parties, it should work out the best for Colburn, too.

The reason for all this centering around Petrino is due to something Louisville fans already know: this is not about a grayshirt or an offer being pulled, this is about Bobby Petrino. The man came to Louisville with more red flags than a communist rally, and the man has burnt more bridges and offended more members of the media than anyone could count. Therefore, when he steps out of line, even an inch, he will be attacked with full force. It is something Louisville fans should get used to, if they are not already.

What Bobby Petrino did was not right, it was not fair, and it should not be something anyone applauds, but it is something that happens every year throughout the country this time of year. Because the coach in question is Bobby Petrino, though, it will generate more attention.

No one cares that this is a common practice, or that it is hypocritical to focus their negative energy all towards him when other coaches of elite programs do it. No one cares that their “disgust” is hypocritical without calling out the rest of the coaches who engage in such practices. They do not care that their “outrage” in singling out Bobby Petrino as a modern-day Stalin makes them sound perfectly accepting of other coaches offering the same deal. If one is attacked, all should be, as a grayshirt offer from Louisville is no different than one from Alabama, but again, to these “professionals,” it is no matter.

All that matters is Bobby Petrino did something that can be criticized, so anyone and everyone he has offended or wronged in his time as a coach will do everything they can to blow it out of proportion. And that is something Louisville fans need to familiarize themselves with, fair or not.

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2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Fred February 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    I don't think you really understand why a grayshirt offer blows. The coaching staff LIED to this player about his scholarship status and is now asking him to wait the summer and fall semester. But there is literally NOTHING to prevent them from doing it again in the Spring. So as a player you have to trust a coaching staff that just LIED to you and hope they don't do it again.

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  2. Carl Garrett February 6, 2015 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    You stupid people act like Petrino is the first head coach to ever ask a kid to grey shirt. Those ESPN pundits act like they pulled the kids scholarship. He has a choice, wait for a couple semesters and take the time to work on your body and your game, or go somewhere else. The coaches didn't lie to Colburn. Situations changed.

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