This, everyone, is what happens when you poke the bear.
Or in this case, the king of the South, Alabama football coach Nick Saban.
David Feaster has been one of the most successful coaches in Louisiana high school football in recent years, but today he’s out of a job, a casualty of standing up for his players by standing up to Saban, Alabama’s deity of a coach.
Feaster, the coach at Parkway High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, believes Saban is “not being ethical” in the way he recruits. Earlier this week, he went on Off the Bench on 104.5 ESPN Radio in Baton Rouge to explain why and to underscore that Saban and his staff are not welcome on his campus and haven’t been for more than a year.
Then social media took over. Then his principal found out about the ban.
Then Feaster lost his job.
This is football in the South—where the only thing more important is Sunday service.
“I guess Nick Saban won this round,” Feaster told Bleacher Report by phone minutes after he was fired. “I was told I don’t have the authority to do what I did. And that’s it. I’m done.”
It’s almost too rich to be true.
David took a shot at Goliath, and Goliath swatted away the stone like it was an annoying gnat.
In his six years at Parkway, Feaster’s teams lost more than two games only once, in his first season. He is the winningest coach in school history. He has won championships and has developed elite recruits at the 5A level, the state’s largest classification.
All that meant nothing once Feaster’s interview with Off the Bench went viral, and the ideal of a coach standing his ground against the king of college football was exposed for what it was: detrimental to players within the high school program.
Because no matter what Feaster believes Alabama did in recruiting his former star quarterback Brandon Harris (more on that later), his ban kept players within his program from a unique opportunity. With universities around the nation limiting their freshman-class numbers and increasing academic qualifications, the best path to college for some is through sports.
More important to most high school players: You’re not getting to the NFL if you don’t play college football.
This isn’t rocket science. When a high school coach—whose job is to facilitate the overwhelming and confusing recruiting process and do everything in his power to find college scholarships for his players—tells the most powerful coach in the game that he and his staff are persona non grata, he is actively working against his players.
“Big mistake,” one former Alabama assistant told Bleacher Report. “You’re going to pick a fight with a coach who, in the long run, will do exponentially more for you than you do for him? That’s lunacy.”
Before we go further, understand that recruiting is dirty and deceptive. It’s all kinds of distasteful.
If we could completely pull back the curtain on the seedy process and reveal the litany of lies and deceit from college coaches, high school coaches, handlers, hangers-on and players, every FBS school would be exposed for doing something it shouldn’t.
But if you’re a high school coach and you refuse to allow a college coach on your campus, you are willfully not performing a critical aspect of your job description. Because if Saban—who declined comment—or his assistants are at Parkway High School recruiting a player, and they see another player who has ability but may not fit their program or be a legitimate Power Five recruit, they’re passing that name to a colleague in the coaching fraternity.
It’s that simple, and that’s why you have to let them on campus.
Saban has former assistants all over the college landscape. Major Applewhite is the head coach at Houston. Lane Kiffin is at FAU. Jim McElwain was at Colorado State for three years before moving to Florida.
Numerous assistants have also moved on for different assistant jobs, including Mario Cristobal (offensive coordinator, Oregon) and Billy Napier (offensive coordinator, Arizona State) after this past season. All are connected to Saban, and all—regardless of whether they like him or left on good terms—will value his opinion if he passes on the name of a player.
This leaves two undeniable truths staring Feaster in the face after his bold stance against Saban, and both make him look utterly foolish.
Feaster acknowledged in his radio rant that he can’t keep his players from signing with Alabama, and his 4-star wideout Terrace Marshall has already visited Alabama twice, per Hank South of 247Sports. Meanwhile, preventing Saban from stepping foot on his campus—do you really think the nation’s best recruiter, a man who stacks 5-star recruits on his roster like the bumper-to-bumper game-day traffic on the I-20 outside Tuscaloosa, is losing sleep over this?—keeps a program with many ties (and a ton of respect/clout) in the coaching fraternity from potentially helping players get scholarships.
“What [Feaster did was] counterproductive to everything a high school coach should do for his players,” one SEC coach told Bleacher Report. “He’s hurting them, and for what? Because he wants to throw a tantrum over something that happened four years ago?”
It is here where we reintroduce Harris and Feaster’s “ethical” issues with Saban that were the foundation of the ban. Feaster told Off the Bench that Saban offered a scholarship to Harris on the phone, but when Harris later arrived in Tuscaloosa for a camp before his senior high school season, he was told the scholarship offer “wasn’t an option.”
In the same interview, Feaster said two Alabama assistant coaches made it clear that when Alabama “offers” a quarterback, it simply means it’s a chance to compete at its camp. The Tide, like most Power Five programs, use summer camps to evaluate talent.
“All it was,” Feaster told Off the Bench, “was them angling him to come to camp and competing against other guys.”
And what in the world is wrong with that?
We’re not handing out participation trophies here. We’re not standing in a circle and holding hands and singing kumbaya around the poor quarterback who got his feelings hurt.
Like it or not, this is big business. If you want to play at Alabama—or any other school that uses camps to evaluate talent—suck it up and compete. The reward—a college scholarship and a chance to take the next step toward playing in the NFL—is too important to ignore.
Alabama took one quarterback in the class of 2014, extending an offer to David Cornwell of Norman, Oklahoma, who committed to the Tide on June 14, 2013. Harris committed to LSU a month later.
Now they both have one thing in common: Cornwell transferred from Alabama to Nevada in January; Harris is actively looking for his next college home.
“I’ve been amazed at how much attention this has gotten,” Feaster said. “You mean to tell me other coaches don’t do this?”
Maybe they do. Then again, maybe they know better than to poke the bear.
All recruiting information courtesy Scout.com unless otherwise noted.
Read more Alabama Crimson Tide Football news on BleacherReport.com