Last weekend, during their broadcast of the Ole Miss Rebels' 25-0 defeat at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, the ESPN cameras focused for a moment on Tyler Siskey, Alabama's associate director for player personnel - whatever that's supposed to mean. Siskey was in the press box along with other Alabama coaches and administrators, watching the game through a set of binoculars.
This all sounds rather trivial and innocuous, and that is probably because it is, but it has not stopped Ole Miss fans from wondering just what exactly Siskey was doing up there, and what role, if any, he plays on the Alabama staff. Some folks have even gone as far as to accuse Siskey and, by proxy, Nick Saban and the entire Alabama program, of rampant cheating or, at the very least, the manipulation of loopholes and a disregard of the sport's unwritten rules of fairness and good coach behavior.
This is because Tyler Siskey, for three years prior to taking his Alabama job, worked for coach Hugh Freeze both at Ole Miss and at Arkansas State. In Oxford, Siskey was the coordinator of recruiting development - another ambiguous title which suggest absolutely nothing about his actual responsibilities - and, before that, he was the wide receivers coach at Arkansas State. Siskey, many allege, was in the box among the Alabama coaches to tip off the Alabama defensive staff as to what it was that our coaches were planning to do on any given play. This would be against NCAA rules which state how many people a program is actually allowed to have coaching during a game.
As a person who has worked with Hugh Freeze for several years, Siskey would naturally have an inclination to understanding his proclivities and preferences, and seeing him peer out over the field at Bryant Denny Stadium among the Crimson Tide's coaches led many to believe that the Alabama staff were utilizing him in some form or fashion to give them an undue leg up on the Rebels.
Unfortunately for message board warriors and college football conspiracy theorists, this is largely a non-issue. Even though so many of us want to believe that, had it not been for Nick Saban's blatant swindling and chicanery, the Rebs could have bettered the #1 ranked Tide, such beliefs aren't rendered true by virtue of their existence. No, this Tyler Siskey "controversy" is not a big deal, and Ole Miss fans are best served just letting it go, and for several reasons.
First, not a single person lobbing any sort of accusation at Siskey has anything more than conjecture to go by. You're free to conclude whatever it is you'd like about his role on the Alabama staff last weekend, but there isn't so much as a shred of evidence that you can offer in proof of your claim. When asked about it, Alabama head coach Nick Saban - I know, consider the source - did say that Siskey was not coaching, and was doing nothing different than he would have for any other game. Even if you doubt the former claim, the latter is pretty strong evidence against the "he was used specifically against Ole Miss" argument, if true.
Second, his presence probably wouldn't have made much of a difference one way or another. Yes, Alabama looked sloppy against Colorado State, their defense struggled against Texas A&M, and their offense was stymied against Virginia Tech. But they are the top team in the country for a reason. They didn't need to do anything dishonest or against the NCAA rules to beat our Ole Miss Rebels. They have great coaches and players as it is. Even Coach Freeze has admitted as much, simply replying with "I don't want to get involved in something like that...they lined up and beat us" when asked if Siskey's presence gave Alabama an edge.
Finally, and this is pretty important considering the Hugh Freeze quote I just dropped on you, Ole Miss is not above doing such a thing. Consider this weekend's Ole Miss vs. Auburn matchup, where two men who were previously the head coaches at Arkansas State will face off for the first time as SEC head coaches. Hugh Freeze, as you know, coached the Red Wolves in 2011; Gus Malzhan was his successor. And like Freeze, Malzhan left after just one season to take a job in the best college football conference in the country.
There's something else they have in common too, and that's that Ryan Alpin was their quarterback while they were leading the Red Wolves. Alpin is now a graduate assistant under Hugh Freeze. Don't delude yourself into thinking that Alpin, and his first-hand knowledge of Gus Malzhan's decision-making process won't be an important part of the Rebel game planning this week.
Folks, this is SEC football. I don't know what Tyler Siskey was doing in that box, but let's say for the sake of the argument that he was doing something shady to help out the Alabama defensive staff. So what? I applaud the Alabama coaches for having a winning mentality, and I think we're all just a bit flattered to think that they felt the need to fudge the rules a bit to beat our Rebs.