Despite the negatives, many recruits like defensive tackle Dominic Lee simply couldn't see themselves signing anywhere else. "To go there just for the tradition is enough," Lee said. "But the academics are also super.
"Alabama is me."
Tailback Tim Castille, rated by most analysts as the top running back in the state, agreed. "Mostly my decision was based on my love for Alabama," Castille said.
The son of former Tide All-America Jeremiah Castille, Tim obviously started out inclined to listen to what the Bama coaches had to say. After meeting with new Tide Head Coach Mike Price, Castille's knew he had made the right decision. "I felt it was the best place for me," he said. "Alabama is close to home--the tradition--the new staff. And the offense they run fits me perfectly."
Alabama's situation consists of one more year of sanctions that carries a bowl ban in 2003 and another signing class of limited scholarships. For the remainder of the probation period (two years), there are no sanctions or limitations, just the probationary window.
Cornerback Eric Gray considered his options, but for him there was never really any doubt. "The opportunity to attend a major university and have an equal chance at playing time was important," Gray said. "Their tradition is great and in the end my heart was just at Alabama."
The Tide's long history of winning also didn't hurt. "The team will always be in contention for national championships and that was also a draw," Gray added.
Offensive lineman Travis West relayed his commitment to the previous staff, but his pledge was really to the Crimson Tide. "It's just the University of Alabama!" was how he put it. "There's no better place to play football in the country."
The college recruiting game is as tough as it gets, and numerous rival coaches took Bama's penalties to a far greater length than what actually exists in writing. From an Alabama fan's point of view, the young men that fought through the negative tactics and still signed with Alabama are to be commended for their courage.
As the top combination return man/wide receiver in the state, Matt Caddell had his pick of major schools. And when the previous staff bolted for "greener" climes, many recruiting gurus expected Caddell to renege on his commitment to the Tide.
They thought wrong.
"Alabama was the place for me," was Caddell's simple explanation. "My love of the Alabama family, its tradition, and the new coaching staff makes it a great situation for me to play."
Linebacker Earnest Nance re-signed with Alabama after a knee injury delayed his entry into college for a year. "My family has always been Alabama fans," he related. "That is where I have always wanted to play."
Prior to the coaching change the Tide had accumulated an impressive list of commitments. But once word of the early-morning flight on board an Aggie booster's jet got out, rival recruiters pounced.
Some might suggest that once a youngster has committed he shouldn't have to face such tactics from recruiters, nor should he be forced to sift through the semi-truths and flat-out lies that were bandied about.
Mississippi quarterback Cliff Davis was a late commitment to the Tide. "The tradition at Alabama, the 12 National Championships, and the family atmosphere were important to me," he said.
O-Line recruit Justin Moon related similar thoughts. "My reasons for signing include the tradition, the new coaches, the best strength and conditioning coach in the business, team unity, the players, and the campus itself."
Many pundits assumed that the coaching change would cripple Bama's recruiting, but in fact the various athletes have all been very impressed with the new staff.
Offensive line prospect Chris Capps switched his commitment from Oklahoma State to the Tide after taking an official visit to the Tide campus late in the process. "They have a great coaching staff," Capps explained. "It's a great school; it's SEC football; it's close to home. And with the family I have in Tuscaloosa, it makes a perfect fit for me."
Northport native LeRon McClain temporarily took back his commitment to Alabama, worried about how he would fit into Mike Price's new offense. But after getting to know the coaches, he recommitted to his hometown school. "They have a great coaching staff," he stated. "I even bonded more with this staff than the former staff."
McClain's high school teammate, Terrence Jones, echoed his thoughts. "The sensation of being around the new coaching staff and the fact that everyone will be on an even table for starting spots convinced me," he said.
Some, like cornerback Chris Felder cited the chance for early playing time. While for William Roach it was simply a family affair. "It's Alabama," he replied. "I have a lot of family there (middle linebacker Freddie Roach and director of high school relations Tim Bowens), and it's a great tradition.
"The new coaching staff with a brand-new offense also makes it a great situation for incoming players."
Athlete D.J. Chambers also cited family ties, but his involved a promise to his grandfather. "The winning tradition and the family atmosphere were important, Chambers said. "Plus I promised my grandfather on his dying bed that I would play for Alabama."
Safety Demarcus Waldrop summed it up. "I like the tradition and the coaching staff is up front and tells you the truth. I felt it was the school that will give me the best opportunity to win a national championship, plus I'll get my degree from a state school.
"That's important since I plan to live in Alabama."