Oversigning.com
22Jul/11221

Alabama’s March to 85 Finished?

Updated with new numbers.

Here is what appears to be the final shake down on Alabama's post NSD attrition this year.  Much like last year, Alabama is one of the few teams in the country to lose double-digit players post NSD.  Quick, name another school that has lost 21 scholarships players between NSD and August over the last 2 years.  That's an entire recruiting class.  And 6 of those 21 were medical hardships.  Here is the attrition for Alabama between National Signing Day and the August deadline to get to 85 players for the last two years.  Any way you slice it that is a lot of attrition.  For comparison's sake, Penn State has had 2 players leave their program over the last two years during this period of time.

2011 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Glenn Harbin Defensive Line Decided to play baseball; Link
Demetrius Goode Running Back Transfer to North Alabama; Link
Petey Smith Linebacker Transfer to Holems CC; Link
Brandon Moore Defensive Lineman Transfer to East Mississippi Community College; Link
Corey Grant Running Back Transfer to Auburn; Link
Keiwone Malone Wide Receiver Transfer to Memphis; Link
Robby Green Defensive Back Transfer to California University of Pennsylvania ; Link
Darrington Sentimore Defensive Lineman Transfer to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Link
Arron Douglas Offensive Lineman Died during offseason; RIP, hate having to list him here.
Kerry Murphy Defensive Line Medical Hardship
Kendall Kelly Defensive Back Medical Hardship
Wes Neighbors Defensive Back Medical Hardship


2010 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Terry Grant Running Back Scholarship not renewed
Travis Sikes Wide Receiver Scholarship not renewed
Rod Woodson Safety Scholarship not renewed
Star Jackson Quarterback Transfer, Georgia State Div 1AA.
Deion Belue Defensive Back Academically Ineligible; headed to JUCO
Alfy Hill Linebacker Academically Ineligible; future unknown
Taylor Pharr Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Milton Talbert Linebacker Medical Hardship
Darius McKeller Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Ronnie Carswell Wide Receiver Greyshirt
Wilson Love Defensive End Greyshirt


*Wilson and Love are still with the team, they grayshirted.  They left for 1 year but returned the following.

So does this end the 2011 March to 85?  Right now it looks like 10 scholarship players are gone since NSD with 2 more suspended indefinitely waiting to be "processed."  Regardless, despite Alabama not releasing official scholarships numbers, we are able to piece together a few bits of information that make the numbers a little clearer:

1. The number of players signed this year 22 + 2 grayshirt commitments from last year = 24

2. The number of players that left last year (3 JR to NFL + 8 SR to Graduation + 1 Pre-NSD Transfer) = 12


Click to enlarge; there are 14 guys on the list of players that left last year, 6 of which are listed SQ and there is no record of any of them in the Rivals database as ever being signed.

3. The number of scholarship players that have left since NSD (see above) = 12

When you add the number of players that have left since NSD to the number of players that left last year due to going to the NFL early or exhausting their eligibility you get 24.  That's pretty damn close to exactly the 24 they signed.

Saban did mention that that Alabama was not at a full 85 last year, which we still have a hard time understanding because 2 guys grayshirted because their wasn't enough room.  Regardless, let's say there was still room for 1 or 2 under the 85 limit last year.

There are only two possible explanations for the numbers:

1. Saban did not oversign: because when he signed 24 it took him to 85 (which if you remember on NSD when Saban told the media they signed what they had room for) and the 10 departures since NSD have created 10 openings, which have not been filled by walk-ons, and Alabama will go into the season with 73 scholarship players.

2. Saban did oversign: because with only 12 departing players on NSD and only a couple of open scholarships from last year there is no way he had room for 24 guys and it took X number of the 10 players leaving since NSD in order for him to get back down to 85.  If Saban did oversign, then this is a prime example of how the new "roster management rules" for oversigning in the SEC are ineffective.  Even with signing 24, which is 1 under the 25 enrollment limit, it is very possible that Alabama oversigned -- the only way they didn't is if they played last year with 73 scholarship players, which would mean the 12 under 85 from last year + the departure of 12 to the NFL and graduation would then justify the 24 they signed to get to 85.  Then in which case, with the 12 departures since NSD, Alabama would be at 73 going into this season.  Which in turn raises the question as to why 3 guys are being moved to medical hardship scholarships when there could be football scholarships that are left unused -- don't those guys deserve better for their sacrifice, especially when the room is there?

In summary, we might not have Saban's scholarship numbers, but we feel pretty confident that we have his number down pat by now.  This is the second year that we have been able to forecast the amount of attrition to take place after NSD almost to the exact number.  Last year we nailed it on the number, this year we said 11 and there has been 12 thus far.  Not too shabby considering we don't have his numbers.

The only person that can clear this up is Nick Saban and he has the perfect opportunity to do it tomorrow at SEC Media Days.  All he has to do is come clean on his scholarship numbers.

Filed under: SEC 221 Comments
23Jun/112

The March to 85 Continues – Alabama

Looks like Bama Sports Report is going to take care of the heavy lifting this year with their complete breakdown of scholarship numbers for Alabama.  Just like last year, our numbers are nearly identical to their numbers.  They had Alabama at 96 on NSD (72 returning after seniors and juniors leaving early for the NFL declared and 24 signed including greyshirt rollovers from previous year), putting Alabama 11 over the 85 limit on NSD, which is the same number we have, 11 over.

On NSD, Nick Saban told the media that no one knows what his scholarship numbers are and that Alabama was not at 85 last year (which begs the question, why did he waste scholarships by not giving them to walk-ons to help pay for their last year?).  He also told the media that what he signed "was the number of players we could take" (see the 7:35 mark in this video for his exact words) on NSD implying that Alabama had room for everyone they signed and that any new attrition would open more spots for them to add guys later.  Alabama has officially added no one thus far, as Duron Carter's status is still up in the air and it's unclear if has signed with Alabama at this point, and 6 guys have left the program since NSD.

Interesting side note: Saban does talk for a few minutes about how he wishes certain aspects of the "business" were more like they were when he was in the Big 10 Conference, specifically in regards to recruiting a player that has already verbally committed to another school.  Those comments come immediately after his comments mentioned above and are worth a quick listen. 

Here is what the March to 85 looks like:

2011 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Glenn Harbin Defensive Line Decided to play baseball; Link
Demetrius Goode Running Back Transfer to North Alabama; Link
Petey Smith Linebacker Transfer to Holems CC; Link
Brandon Moore Defensive Lineman Transfer to East Mississippi Community College; Link
Corey Grant Running Back Transfer to Auburn; Link
Keiwone Malone Wide Receiver Transfer to Memphis; Link
Robby Green Defensive Back Transfer to California University of Pennsylvania ; Link
Darrington Sentimore Defensive Lineman Transfer to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Link
Arron Douglas Offensive Lineman Died during offseason; RIP, hate having to list him here.
Kerry Murphy Defensive Line Medical Hardship
Kendall Kelly Defensive Back Medical Hardship
Wes Neighbors Defensive Back Medical Hardship

 
Back to the oversigning.  If Saban is telling the truth and he signed "the number of players we could take" then he should have been at 85 on NSD.  Since that time, 6 guys have left their scholarships with 4 more rumored to follow.  Meaning, either Alabama is going to go into the season with 74-75 guys on scholarship or Nick Saban wasn't being completely honest when he said they signed the number of players they could take, and the attrition since NSD has enabled him to get down to 85. 

If Saban was telling the truth and he truly signed what they had room for, then Saban should be announcing 10-11 (or some number) walk-on players getting 1 year scholarships to take the place of all the guys that left and all of the scholarships that have opened up since NSD, and if he doesn't, those of you who scream about creating opportunities and maximizing scholarships should be screaming at Saban for letting those scholarships go to waste for a year. 

Pro-oversigning fans argue that oversigning enables all 85 scholarships to be used.  In a few weeks we are going to find out if all 85 are being used at Alabama or if all the attrition since signing day was required in order to get down to 85.

If the attrition since signing day has created scholarship openings and those scholarships are not given to walk-ons for 1 year until they can be given to new recruits next year, then Saban's argument about maximizing scholarships and creating opportunities through oversigning goes out the window.   You can't say in one breath that you believe in creating opportunities while in another breath let x number of scholarships go unused.   Either the attrition is going to get Alabama back down to 85 or the attrition is going to create openings for walk-ons, one or the other.   We'll see what happens.

Filed under: SEC 2 Comments
12Jun/11255

Paul Johnson with a Simple Solution

Paul Johnson pretty much calls BS on oversigning and the attrition that occurs after the fact. 

“We just don’t do it,” Johnson told the Journal-Constitution. “It makes it hard sometimes to hit your target number but it is what it is. I don’t see how you can do that to kids, weed out guys for whatever reasons. No matter what anybody says, if you’re oversigning, some of that has to happen on occasion.”

That last sentence is pretty damning coming from a coach.  When asked whether or not teams who practice oversigning gain a competitive advantage, Johnson replied:

"Sure they do,” he told the newspaper. “It’s just like you take 25 kids every year and then cut the ones you don’t want.

“You do the math. You have 85 scholarships. If you’re signing 28 every year for four years, instead of 85, you have 112. It doesn’t add up. So something is happening to those guys along the way. It just doesn’t add up. You’re losing them left or right academically or for whatever reasons.”

Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football/story/2011-05-29/paul-johnson-georgia-tech-coach-says-oversigning-creates-advantages#ixzz1P7dnrfcO

Continue reading...

Filed under: ACC, SEC Continue reading
4Jun/1120

The Day After The Day

Before we get started, we highly recommend that you consider using Twitter to follow this topic, it is the best place to go to get links to articles on oversigning as they come out.  It is really amazing how information flows through Twitter.  We'll try to retweet as many articles as possible so they will show up in the sidebar here so those of you not on twitter can read them.  On to the good stuff...

Now that the dust is settling on the SEC's new "roster management" legislation, the general consensus appears to be that the media is not buy what the SEC is selling.  As we mentioned yesterday, this was strictly a PR move by the conference to try and appease the media while at the same time not get on board with REAL legislation that completely eradicates the exploitation and abuse that takes place in oversigning.  Was it better than nothing, sure, but let's be honest, could they really do nothing?

Our biggest criticism is that if the SEC wants to move to national legislation on oversigning, why didn't they invite their colleagues to the table for discussion before creating what they want as the national legislation?  Why is the SEC pushing so hard for THEIR rules to be national rules?  The answer is simple, this was never about being ethical or doing the right thing, this is about competitive advantages, something coaches made very clear in their 12-0 vote to not change the rules and something SEC fans have been accusing Big 10 fans of whining about ever since this topic came up.  For SEC fans, the only reason this is even an issue is because Big 10 fans think they are at a competitive disadvantage.  Irconically, when forced to do something about oversigning, it was the SEC that showed its hand and revealed that oversigning is about a competitive advantage and if they have to give it up then the rest of the country MUST follow suit.  For months and months we heard that there is no competitive advantage in oversigning, that myth has been busted.

Could you imagine if the roles were reversed and it was the Big 10 doing what the SEC is doing? 

What if the Big 10 announced that they were going to go back to their pre-2002 rules were there was absolutely ZERO oversigning and they EXPECTED the NCAA to make it a national rule?  The outrage would destroy the sport.  Just to make sure we have this right, the conference that was the worst abuser of the unethical practice of oversigning declares that it is doing something about it and, by God, the rest of the country is going to follow along.  The funny part is that the new rules they are touting are not as restrictive as the B1G rules when you consider that if a school has 16 openings the new SEC rule still allows for 25 signees; that's oversigning by 9.  The B1G rule would only allow that school to sign 19, which is only 3 over.  If you are a self-respecting college football fan you should be insulted, especially if you are an SEC fan that really cares about the conference and the sport.

But here's the good news, and it really is good for sport of college football and all of college athletics.  The door is now open.  There is a very real chance that we will get everyone to sit down at the table and draft real meaningful rules on oversigning that addresses the problem at its root, the number 85, and yet still provides competitive equality with regards to the number of players each school is signing each year.

The NCAA has an obligation to create national rules on oversigning that make it clear that hoarding players and playing games with the numbers to gain a competitive advantage through highly unethical behavior has no place in the sport they regulate, that every recruit and current player IN EVERY CONFERENCE will be protected from forced attrition, and that every conference competing for BCS bowl spots and the money that comes with it will be on equal footing when it comes to the number of players they can recruit and sign. 

Quick Links:

Sports Blog, Get the Picture, which has been following this topic for a long time, has a nice post up on the days events and points out that Chris Low sees the shortcomings of the new legislation.  Highly recommended reading.

http://blutarsky.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/the-oversigning-is-dead-long-live-the-oversigning/

For a much stronger take, from a Northwestern perspective, check out Lake the Post's latest piece on the new SEC legislation.

Math. Basic math.  Per NCAA rules a team is limited to having 85 scholarship players on its roster. The biggest bullshit is the PR spin term they’re using – “roster management”.  If you follow the backchannel talk on this type of stuff you’ll know this is a direct response to the heat the conference is getting for oversigning.  Yet, somehow they’re using the scholarship cap per season as some sort of veiled attempt to be ethical. 

Finally, we stand up loud and proud for our friends at Oversigning.com who make my obsession with Northwestern football look like a mainstream action. The entire site is dedicated, passionately, to this issue.  Yesterday was the equivalent of NU going to the Rose Bowl in terms of frequency of posts and “OMG” moments.  I can’t do the blog justice as there are so many damn good points on the SEC reaction including the absolutely insane totalitarian Nick Saban stance...

http://www.laketheposts.com/index.php/2011/06/tressel-gate-zero-impact-on-sec/

The ShreveportTimes.com has a piece up on the SEC coaches losing to the SEC presidents.  Interesting comments from Les Miles and LSU AD, Joe Alleva.  Our advice to them is that oversigning college football recruits is not how you solve the problem of poor elementary and secondary education systems, in fact, by oversigning you are enabling those systems, to the degree that they play a role in preparing a kid for a scholarship in college football, to continue to fail kids instead of forcing them to improve. 

"I think there are academic risks in the SEC recruiting pool," Miles said. "And I think at times you take some of those risks with the idea that you'll have a plan B for him. Then you'll be able to direct him comfortably and delay enrollment. I think that those things are certainly healthy.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, a former Duke athletic director, has noticed the difference in recruiting in the Deep South as opposed to recruiting the state of North Carolina at Duke, where academic risks are usually not taken.

“You’ve got to understand, the elementary education and secondary education in the state of Louisiana is not the best in the world,” said Alleva, who wanted the limit to remain 28. “So we have kids coming out, and we don’t know if they are going to qualify or not. We don’t know if they’re going to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse and be eligible.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20110604/SPORTS0202/110603024/SEC-coaches-suffer-oversigning-loss-presidents?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

Filed under: NCAA 20 Comments
3Jun/1175

Myth: Removing Oversigning Removes Educational Opportunities

Nick Saban and other SEC coaches, as well as SEC fans, want you to believe that by removing their ability to oversign you are going to eliminate educational opportunities for recruits.  Hogwash.  What they are afraid of is having to tell a kid they want that they don't have room and then have that kid go to a rival school that does have room.

Removing oversigning doesn't eliminate educational opportunities, it realocates those opportunities in a way that prevents student-athletes that are already receiving the opportunity from losing it.  The real problem SEC coaches and fans have is the reallocation of those opportunities.  In order to believe that removing oversigning removes educational opportunities, you have to believe that if a recruit is unable to go to the school on the top of his list because they don't have room for him that he will not go to college at all and will have no other offers or opportunities at other schools.  Myth.

If a school has 27 openings, but can only sign 25 it will leave two scholarships that coaches will have to give to deserving 4th or 5th year walk-on players for one year until the next recruiting class comes around and they can sign a new recruit with the intention of keeping him for the next 4-5 years.

For some reason, fans seem to think that all walk-on players are rich and don't need a scholarship, and that they are just being used as tackling dummies for the fun of it.  Not true.  There are walk-on players that are every bit as needy as scholarship recruits; the only difference between the two groups is talent and in some cases there are walk-on players that are actually better than some that are on scholarship.

Scholarships will not be wasted, period.  In fact, some coaches say that the greatest joy they get is from being able to award a scholarship to a deserving 4th or 5th year senior as a reward for all their hard work, dedication, and doing things right in the classroom and off the field.

Filed under: Rants, SEC Continue reading
2Jun/115

Best Oversigning Video Ever

We can't seem to get the video player to embed in our page here so here's a direct link to the video on Brook's site. 

http://www.sportsbybrooks.com/saban-sausage-factory-facing-expiration-date-29698

There are several key elements in the video.  The money shot comes at 1:35 mark when Saban tells Ian Rapoport the numbers are none of his business and no one needs to know and the fans don't ask.  My how times have changed.  Why didn't Saban defend his oversigning practice as good for kids at this point? 

Another key element in the video is Mark Richt's comments about oversigning where he claims that other coaches are not being ethical when they oversign.

Filed under: SEC 5 Comments
2Jun/1175

What We Learned Today

Today was, by far, the busiest day for oversigning news since national signing day.  As you already know, the SEC coaches met today in Destin, Florida and briefly discussed how to divert the attention away from oversigning by having Steve Spurrier announce that he and a few other coaches think they should pay 70 players on each team $300 per game.  Didn't see that coming did you?  We didn't either, but nicely played by the old ball coach.

“They can give it to their parents for travel, lodging, meals. Maybe they could take their girlfriend out Sunday night or Saturday night and so forth,” Spurrier said. “A bunch of our coaches felt so strongly about it that we’d be willing to pay. Seventy guys, 300 bucks a game. That’s only $21,000 bucks a game.

“I doubt it will get passed. But as coaches, we make all the money, as do universities and television, and we need to give more to our players. That was just something we need to get out there.”

http://www.ajc.com/sports/sec-meetings-notebook-964500.html?cxtype=rss_news_128746

It's statements like that from Spurrier that remind us that coaches should stick to the X's and O's of football and leave the rest to school administrators, conference commissioners, and the NCAA.

Back to what we learned today. 

Yes, the SEC coaches did meet today, and yes, they did discuss the topic of oversigning and conducted a vote on the proposal drawn up by the SEC athletic directors and approved by the conference commissioner, Mike Slive.

12-0

Typically that indicates an undefeated regular season and a trip to the SEC championship game for the right to win the next National Championship, on this day, however, it meant that all 12 SEC coaches are against the new legislation that would attempt to curb oversigning and address the other roster management areas that have become a concern. 

Not that we expected them to vote in favor of the new legislation, but for those of us who are against oversigning and want to see it removed from college athletics there is still hope.  The coaches are not going to be the ones giving the final vote, and for good reason because if that were the case Houston Nutt would vote to set the signing limit at 80, Spurrier would vote to pay players out of his own pocket, and Saban would vote to have the bump rule reinstated.  We have no idea what Les Miles would vote for because it is impossible to figure out what goes on under the hat.  

Instead, the university presidents will get the final vote on Friday and that will be the one that counts.  If we had to guess, the coaches already know which way this is going to go and they are just making sure all of their fans know that they did not vote to have restrictions placed on their recruiting habits.  Kind of sets up nicely down the road should the new legislation pass and have the affect that Saban thinks it will have on the conference:

"In my opinion," Saban told ESPN.com, "it (cutting signee numbers) would really affect the quality in our league."

http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20110601/SPORTS/106010303

Mark Richt

For all of the tough talk on oversigning that Mark Richt has been giving lately and all of the praise he has received for said tough talk, when he voted in favor of the status quo today it could only mean one of two things:

1. He already knows the outcome (that the presidents are going to vote in favor of it) and he doesn't want to piss the rest of the other coaches off by being the one guy who voted in favor of the new legislation, or...

2. He has been talking out of both sides of his mouth in order to project a certain image.

Either way, Richt missed a golden opportunity to be regarded as the second coming of Bobby Dodd and we are moving him out of the list of people against oversigning.  It would have been perfectly acceptable for Richt to say that the same thing Muschamp said today, but instead Richt went back on his previous stance by saying he's okay with oversigning as long as everyone knows what's going on up front.  We have always had a lot of respect for Mark Richt on this site for his previous stance on oversigning -- it would have been nice for him to take a stand, publicly, in front of his peers.

"We don’t over-sign," Muschamp said. "That’s a policy we have at the university. We’ve been successful, so it’s not an issue for us."

http://www.alligatorarmy.com/2011/6/1/2200334/will-muschamp-at-sec-spring-meetings-day-1

We'll be moving Muschamp to the "against oversigning" list. 

Nick Saban

This should probably go in a separate post, but we'll put it here to help curb the outrage from Alabama fans.  Saban raised some very interesting points today with his remarks to the media after the meeting where he blamed them for the increased scrutiny saying:

"You all are creating a bad problem for everybody," Saban told reporters. "You're going to mess up kids' opportunities by doing what you're doing. You think you're helping 'em but you're really hurting 'em. It took one case where somebody didn't get the right opportunity. You need to take the other 100 cases where somebody got an opportunity."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/06/sec_football_coaches_favor_kee.html

So let's get this right, by the media analyzing what is going on with oversigning and documenting the stories of guys like Elliott Porter, Steven Wesley, and Chris Garrett, just to name 3, and how those kids were completely screwed by oversigning, it is now responsible for creating a problem for EVERYONE.  Really?

The general consensus of the media is that oversigning has to go, both for reasons of ethical treatment of players and competitive equality.  Georgia's AD and Florida's President both support this position and have done so publicly, so it's not just the media.

Essentially what Saban is saying is that to not oversign is harmful to kids -- those are his words.  That should be taken as a direct shot at the Big 10 Conference and its coaches -- in Saban's view they are hurting kids and robbing them by not oversigning. 

Ironically, Saban coached in the Big 10 for several years and there is no record of Saban lobbying to put an end to the injustice and harm that not oversigning was doing to kids while he was in the Big 10.   And based on how strongly he feels about this injustice, it's odd that he hasn't started a campaign to rid the rest of college football of the injustice of not oversigning kids.  Surely if he feels this strongly about it he would call out coaches around the country for not oversigning, "look guys, you are ruining lives by not doing this -- you can't do this to the kids, it's not right!!!!"

That's what he is selling -- are you buying?  We're not.

Oversigning was probably never even on Saban's radar until he landed at LSU and found out what a powerful tool it is for roster management.   Gerry DiNardo didn't realize what a constraint the B1G rules were until he came to Indiana from LSU -- he was the one that lobbied to have the rules relaxed in 2002 so that he could oversign by 3, not Saban.

Regardless, Saban wants everyone to believe this is a problem created by the media; he's dead wrong, this has been an issue for decades, the media is just finally bringing it to the forefront.

SEC University Presidents

It all comes down to the university presidents.  In 1964 the SEC university presidents were faced with the exact same dilemma, yes we've been down this road before, oversigning is not something that just starting being an issue here recently, and they voted in favor of not changing the rules for oversigning.  The numbers were slightly different back then, but the general principles were the same.  Coaches were signing way more guys than they had room for and then kicking the ones they didn't want to the curb. 

The SEC presidents at the time were torn over the issue with the vote being split down the middle. 

A vote was to be taken by the presidents of the colleges on the issue, and Dodd made it clear, Tech would have to leave the SEC unless the rule was changed. Dodd said he would live with 10, 20, 30, 40, or even 50 recruits per year as long as he did not have to chase any of his players off.

The presidents were split six for Dodd’s position and six against. Bear had promised Dodd he would get his president to vote for Dodd’s position, which would have changed the rule.

When the meeting was held, Bryant did not show up and the Alabama president voted against Dodd’s position and the 140 Rule was upheld. Tech’s president immediately walked to the podium and announced Tech was withdrawing from the SEC. Bryant never told Dodd why he reneged on his promise."

http://oversigning.com/testing/index.php/2010/02/14/why-did-georgia-tech-leave-the-sec/

The SEC Presidents have an opportunity to send a message and right the wrongs that have taken place since that decision in 1964.  Oversigning is not an issue that Nick Saban created, it's a systemic problem that is as old as the conference and has resulted in countless kids like Elliott Porter and Chris Garrett getting screwed out of their scholarships to make way for new, better players. 

On Friday we'll find out who really is in control of the SEC, the coaches or the Presidents.  For the sake of college football let's hope it's the Presidents and they vote to push through the new legislation.

Filed under: SEC 75 Comments
29May/1155

Arkansas AD Jeff Long Joins Nutt, Saban in Fight to Keep Oversigning

Based on the comments coming out from SEC coaches, and now Athletic Directors, it is very unlikely that the new legislation on oversigning is going to pass. The only way it passes is if the university presidents make it happen.

Here's te latest from Arkansas' AD Jeff Long.

http://tinyurl.com/3rjklws

The overriding theme from all supporters of oversigning is that they are doing it right, others are doing it wrong, there's nothing wrong with it if it's done right, and there is nothing wrong with treating a kid like a piece of meat as long as you tell him upfront that you are going to treat him like a piece of meat.

Most prognosticators have the oversigners willing this battle 8-4.

One thing is certain, if this legislation doesn't pass it will send a clear message to the rest of the college football world. If you want to compete with the best conference in the country you are going to have to get on board with oversigning and start treating your roster like an NFL roster.

Filed under: SEC 55 Comments
27May/1192

Nick Saban Joins Houston Nutt in the Fight to Keep Oversigning

It appears the battle lines are taking shape as the SEC meetings draw near.  On one side we have the chronic oversigners clamouring to come up with excuses as to why oversigning should remain in tact, reasons such as “It’s a very difficult job to try to manage, to keep two, three deep at every position” (Houtson Nutt), or  "oversigning is 'helpful' because so many of the players in the state come from underprivileged backgrounds and may not qualify academically" (Steve Spurrier), or  "I don't see it as a bad thing unless you're being dishonest or waiting until the last minute, which eliminates their visit opportunities with other schools" (Bobby Petrino).

Nick Saban added his name to the list of coaches that will fight to keep oversigning alive and well in the SEC on Thursday.

"The innuendo out there is that all these things are being manipulated in a negative way," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "But nobody has ever really brought to the forefront the positives by doing it the right way. People hang onto all the situations that aren't done the right way and act like in every situation that somebody is getting screwed in some sort of way, and that's just not the case."

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=6593311

Shouldn't the situations like Elliott Porter, Chris Garrett, and Steven Wesley be the situations that everyone holds onto, not the positives?  Did he even mention any positives other than the competitive advantage aspect?  The stories of kids having their scholarship offers pulled the day before signing day by Spurrier and their High School coaches being irate about it, shouldn't that be what we hold on to? 

If just one kid gets screwed by oversigning, isn't it enough to seriously crack down on the practice?  Think about it in terms of the way the NCAA creates its rules.  Often times, an NCAA rule is created not because the area in question is nefarious, such as the rules regarding selling personal memorabilia, but rather because of the potential for abuse.  The rules regarding selling personal memorabilia are in place to prevent a booster from buying a jersey from a player for $100K, not because they don't want some kid selling his ring at a fraction of its value.  Even if you believe that oversigning only harms a few and only when not done right, shouldn't it be addressed in the same way as the rules regarding selling memorabilia?  What's more harmful, a kid getting a few extra bucks or some poor kid losing his scholarship at the last minute because a coach oversigned his class to bring in better talent so that he can keep making his millions of dollars?

Those positives that Saban refers to by the way are the competitive advantage that these coaches gain by exploiting this practice.  Nearly every coach that oversigns has stated that it provides them with an advantage.

"In my opinion, it would really affect the quality in our league," Saban said. "You can't know the attrition from signing day until August, which guys who're going to be fifth-year seniors that decide they don't want to come back and play football. Well, you can't count those guys. You're going to have to tell those guys they're going to have to decide in January.

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=6593311

This is where the competitive advantage issue comes into play.  By oversigning, coaches can bring in a few extra guys and work them through the spring while at the same time working the 5th year guys that have eligibility remaining, and then after spring training is over coaches can make a decision as to whether or not they want to renew a 5th year guy who may or may not have graduated yet, knowing all along they have an ace in the hole and will end up with the best 85.  The coaches want their cake and eat it too. 

Why is it that 5th year guys can't make a decision as to whether or not they want to come back in January, but Juniors leaving early for the NFL can?  Are Juniors that much more prepared to make a life-altering decision than 5th year seniors?

Furthermore, if the question is whether or not they want to come back, isn't their participation in spring practice an indication that they would like to come back?  Just recently Alabama had a 5th year RB Demetrius Goode participate in spring practice, indicating he hadn't given up on football, but then after spring practice decided he wanted to go to UNA instead.  Perhaps he wanted playing time, fine.  But can't that decision be made in January at the same time Juniors make decisions to go to the NFL? 

On the other side of the battle line you have Florida and Georgia who have both been very outspoken about the abuses of oversigning and greyshirting.  Mark Richt has been especially outspoken about the abuses taking place:

Georgia coach Mark Richt is in the opposite camp. He said that it was an "awful thing to do" to bring in players to participate in the summer strength program and then ask some to leave or wait until January to sign based on which ones performed the best.

He didn't stop there, either.

"These other coaches have been oversigning, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 number," Richt said earlier this month at a Georgia booster club speaking engagement in Greenville, S.C. "But in doing so, have they done it in an ethical way?

"I'd say the answer is probably not."

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=6593311

It has become extremely clear that the coaches that want to continue oversigning all want  you to believe that there is nothing wrong with the practice as long as it is done the right way.  Again, there is nothing wrong with selling your jersey for a few bucks, so long as you don't sell it to a booster for $100K, right?

At the end of the day it all comes back to the competitive advantage aspect of the argument and the pressure on these coaches to win.  These coaches are under more pressure to win than anywhere else in the country, so of course they want  you to believe their practice of oversigning is okay as long as it's done right, they can't afford to live without it based on the pressure to win.

Houston Nutt is already starting to feel the affects of the 28 rule, named in his honor, and he knows if further rules are passed that he could be in serious jeopardy of losing his multi-million dollar job, so of course he's fighting for the right to continue to exploit the spirit of the signing process and the loopholes inherent to the NCAA's 25/85 rule.

Quick Note Regarding the Medical Hardship Aspect of the new Legislation:

The new legislation that is on the table includes a proposal to address the issue of medical hardships and how those are being used to game the system and fudge the scholarship numbers.  As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Nick Saban's medical hardship numbers are way above the norm, and then when former players were asked about those medical hardships and whether or not they felt pressured to take them the players revealed that they were pressured and that they thought the medical hardship was loophole used to bring in better players.

Three Alabama players who've taken these exemptions say they believe the team uses the practice as a way to clear spots for better players by cutting players it no longer wants. These players said they believe Mr. Saban and his staff pressure some players to take these scholarships even though their injuries aren't serious enough to warrant keeping them off the field.

"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703384204575509901468451306.html

That is THREE former players coming out and saying they believed the team used the medical hardships to clear roster space for better players, one of which says he's still bitter about it calling it a business and a loophole.

Here is what Nick Saban had to say about it.

Saban is also quick to defend the charge that he pressures players into taking medical redshirts or dismisses players who aren't contributing on the field in order to open up more scholarship room each year.

"First of all, I've never gotten rid of a player who didn't create his own circumstances for why he had to leave the program, whether it was academic, whether it was behavior, whether it was drug-related, whatever," Saban said. "Really, I've always given guys more rope than they deserve, and I think the innuendo out there is that I'm just picking and choosing which guys to run off, and people bring it up that I've medical-ed more people. Well, yeah, I medical them so they can stay in school and graduate, where other people just get rid of them. I don't make those decisions, either. The doctors make them, and we have great doctors."

In one breath Saban says, "I medical them so they can stay in school," and in the next breath he says, "I don't make those decisions, either.  The doctors make them, and we have great doctors."  Which one is it?  Who is making the final decision to issue the medical hardship?  Hard to believe everything is on the up and up when you have 3 players claiming they were wrongly pressured to take those medical hardships to clear roster space and another player calling it a loophole.

The new proposal on the table includes a measure for medical hardship monitoring, but is it enough?

Giving the SEC league office more oversight concerning those players placed on medical scholarship. In other words, the league would be involved in reviewing outcomes. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.

http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/23199/proposed-sec-oversigning-legislation

The new legislation would require 3 people to sign off on the medical waiver, does anyone in their right mind believe that a trainer or an athletic director are going to go against the decision of a doctor?  And if what we read above from Saban is true, it appears that he has great influence on whether or not a medical is issued to a player.  The details are still unclear, but you have to believe the athletic director would only be signing off on whether or not to grant the medical hardship or to just not renew the player -- if coaches are allowed to continue oversigning and continue to be in a numbers crunch, is there an athletic director out there that is going to refuse to sign off on a medical hardship and have his school face NCAA violations for going over the 85 limit?

Unless there are more details regarding the medical hardship oversight, what we have on the table doesn't appear to be anything other than window dressing in reaction to the WSJ piece on Alabama's medical hardships. 

We have a couple of suggestions: 1. many of these medical hardships are the result of a numbers crunch because of oversigning, eliminate the oversigning and you would see a drastic decline in the number of medical hardships issued by schools that oversign, 2. have the NCAA conduct an exit interview with the kids placed on medical hardship so that guys like the 3 Alabama players who told the WSJ that they thought they were being pushed out to make room for better players can tell the NCAA and have the NCAA conduct an investigation.

Filed under: SEC 92 Comments
18May/1176

Quick Links — Oversigning News Abounds!

After a short sabbatical, it appears the topic of oversigning is rising back to the top of the list of things people are talking about in the world of college football.  Perhaps it's because college football talk in general is starting to crank back up again and you almost can't talk about college football without saying the word oversigning in the next breath.  It is by far, one of the most polarizing topics in college athletics in a long, long time. 

Here is a list of quick links from around the Internet lately:

Jerry Hinnen on Mike Slive's push to legislate oversigning and other methods of roster management:
http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/24156338/29397600

Sports by Brooks discovers what we wrote about 1 year and half ago regarding Nick Saban and his reaction to being asked about oversigning, complete with video mashup of Saban and Richt's comments:
http://www.sportsbybrooks.com/saban-sausage-factory-facing-expiration-date-29698

Matt Hinton (Dr. Saturday) drills Arkansas for their recent roster cuts as they get down to 85: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/Oversigning-Arkansas-cuts-to-the-chase-on-cutti?urn=ncaaf-wp1658 

"To get there, the Razorbacks have had to shed more than 40 percent of the 83 players who signed as part of Petrino's first three recruiting classes from 2008-10. Of that number, only five (juco signees in the 2009 class whose eligibility expired after last season) left as a result of "natural" attrition, meaning a full third of Petrino's signees have either failed to qualify, flunked out, been placed on medical hardship, been kicked off for legitimate rules violations, quit or — as we saw last week — been effectively cut from the roster."

Ben Kercheval at NBCSports with more on Slive's proposal to address oversigning:
http://collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/05/18/sec-commish-slive-prepares-oversigning-legislation/

"Nevertheless, the act of oversigning and grayshirting recruits has become a very polarizing issue in both the SEC and college football (but mainly the SEC) and Slive is now apparently determined to settle the matter once and for all.

Initial details are sketchy, but Slive has reportedly finished writing conference legislation that, at least in some way, would affect the the practice of oversigning. Whether the package supports oversigning, regulates it or abolishes it, though, Slive wouldn’t say."

Those are just a few of the many links to oversigning articles that have made the rounds lately.  The hottest topic in our opinion is that Mike Slive has prepared legislation regarding oversigning and various roster management practices such as grayshirting, early enrollment, etc.  The details have not been released yet, but it will be interesting to see the details of the proposed legislation and how all of the SEC presidents vote.

The coming weeks are going to get very interesting around here.

Filed under: Quick Links 76 Comments
20Apr/1136

Florida, Muschamp Will Not Grayshirt or Sign and Place

Things are starting to heat back up a little on the oversigning topic.  The last few weeks have been slow, but with the conference meetings coming soon, as well as the forced attrition to clear roster space via medical hardships, grayshirts, and coerced transfers to lower tier programs, we will start to see a lot more news on the oversigning front.

Will Muschamp got things going today during a teleconference with all 12 SEC head coaches when he had this to say when asked about oversigning and grayshirting:

Muschamp also addressed the oversigning and grayshirting of athletes that has become a recent subject of concern in some areas.

"I think there is some gray area involved with all of it," he said."Now, you're able to sign players back (previous year) as long as you're under your 85 (scholarship) total. So does that count against the 28 you signed in February? Right now it doesn't.

"Again, at Florida, we don't grayshirt. That's not something that we do; it's not a policy of ours. We don't place students; that's not a policy of ours. That's not something that I'm going to cross that bridge on right now because it's not something that we do or is part of what we're going to do."

http://www.gatorsports.com/article/20110420/ARTICLES/110429960/1136/GATORS01?Title=SEC-call-Muschamp-says-he-s-looking-for-leaders

Wonder what Huston Nutt, Les Miles, and Nick Saban had so say to that during the conference call?  Kudos to Muschamp for going public with their policy on signing and placing and grayshirting, and Kudos to Florida for making it a policy (not sure if that is an actual written policy or not) not to exploit these two loopholes in the system.

Filed under: SEC 36 Comments
3Apr/1120

Alabama Adds #25 to Class – Where is the Room?

Alabama had 12 scholarship players leave the team (8 to graduation, 3 juniors to the NFL, and 1 transfer prior to signing day) last year; Alabama also signed 23 new players (22 on signing day and now Duron Carter) and had 2 players greyshirt last year that now count towards this class; this puts them at 25 new players this year.  On NSD, Nick Saban told the media that they signed what they could, implying they had room for 22 + 2 GS, and that they could add another player later because there were candidates for medical hardships or redshirt guys that have graduated that could be replaced.  To date there have been no announcements regarding any departures, but there have been plenty of names floated around as possible candidates.

As we mentioned a month ago, the numbers just don't jive.  If you have 12 scholarship players leave but add 25 new scholarship players, the only way you have room for them all is if you finished the previous season with 72 scholarship players.   72 - 12=60, 60 + 25=85.

Does anyone believe that Alabama had only 72 scholarship players last year?  If that was the case, then why the 2 greyshirts last year because there wasn't room -- if you are at 72 scholarship players why in the world would you greyshirt 2?  The only viable reason would be the 25 limit, but Alabama had a handful of guys last year that enrolled early and counted toward the previous year, so there should have been room.  Furthermore, Alabama had a bunch of attrition last year -- we examined their roster prior to signing day and projected the number of guys they needed to lose in order to get to 85 and that was the exact number of guys they lost during the spring and summer -- so if they weren't making roster cuts to get to 85 there should have been room for the two that greyshirted last year.

We are being a little coy here, we know they didn't have 72 guys on scholarship to end the season last year.  The reality is that they are over right now, and the medical hardship, transfers and non-renewals should start to emerge soon.  

With spring practice in full swing, shouldn't anyone that is injured to the point that they can no longer participate already be on medical hardship?  Maybe there are guys that are not participating in practice right now, not sure.

All of these questions could be answered if Alabama didn't withhold their scholarship numbers information from the media, something no school should be doing.  Cecil Hurt with the Tuscaloosa News is working on this and has filed Freedom of Information requests in an effort to get scholarship numbers from the University, which is bizarre when you consider Alabama is one of the few programs around the country that runs a web cam on national signing day so that everyone can see the signed letters of intent as they come in; each time one comes in the school posts the name of the player on the fax machine so everyone can see it.  Why would you go out of your way to broadcast that information yet withhold scholarship numbers from the media when asked for them?

@TheMarchTo85 I promise we are using every FOI avenue available.

We have asked Cecil Hurt to simply ask Saban if they have room for everyone right now and from this point forward if anyone leaves will it result in Alabama starting the season under the 85 limit.  Those are questions that A.) should be asked, and B.) Saban should be able to answer.  To his credit, Hurt acknowledged our request and stated that he would follow up with Saban this week and ask questions.

Filed under: SEC 20 Comments
1Apr/1117

Braves and Birds on Oversigning

Over a year ago, the blog Braves and Birds was one of the very first blogs to write about our site, to which we responded.  What a difference a year makes.  Michael, who writes the blog, was an early anti-oversigning.com blogger who didn't believe that the abuses we claimed were taking place existed:

Paging Bob Ley: In Scenario Two, Saban either tells a player directly that he needs to transfer or implies it with something along the lines of "we're going to make your life very difficult." If that's the case, then the Oversigning.com authors are absolutely right that Saban and other coaches like him in the SEC are deriving a competitive advantage from bringing in large classes and then cutting players who don't pan out. I don't see any evidence of that occurrence, but maybe some media outlet will do some reporting on players in the Alabama Diaspora. I can't imagine that it would be very hard to get a former player to say bad things about Saban and his staff is they are indeed cutting people. I don't see any media outlet in the State of Alabama taking up the cause, but ESPN? Yahoo!? Sports Illustrated? If the story is there, they would be foolish not to take it. Media attention to cutting players should be one of the two checks on oversigning. The other is negative recruiting from rivals. If Alabama really is intentionally cutting ten players per year, then that would be an awfully effective recruiting tool for Urban Meyer or Mark Richt.

http://bravesandbirds.blogspot.com/2010/02/essay-on-oversigning.html

At that time Michael was right, as no major media outlet had covered the oversigning topic.  This site changed all of that and since that time every major sports media outlet has covered the topic, including ESPN's OTL coverage of LSU cutting players and the Wall Street Journal's coverage of Alabama pushing medical hardships to free up roster space on an oversigned roster.  In addition, Florida and Georgia officials have been extremely outspoken about oversigning calling it morally reprehensible.

Michael recently wrote a short piece on oversigning and it appears that he, like many, many others, has changed his mind about oversigning:

There is an analogy to be made between efforts to end oversigning and the efforts to end Jim Crow laws. In both instances, a minority of entities were engaged in an exploitative practice to further their own self-interest. (Note the states where oversigning takes place and see if there is something of a correlation with the states that engaged in massive resistance to Brown v. Board.) The practice went on for a period of time until attention from the national media turned the minority of entities into outliers subject to intensifying criticism. Without the ability to filibuster NCAA legislation, I suspect that the schools that engage in oversigning will meet a similar fate.

http://bravesandbirds.blogspot.com/2011/01/one-thought-on-oversigning.html

What a difference a year makes.  Thanks again to all of our readers for spreading the word.

Filed under: Quick Links 17 Comments
7Mar/11139

Florida State Has No Plan

Or at least that is what it sounds like here:

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_college_fsu/2011/02/florida-state-doesn’t-plan-to-greyshirt-any-incoming-recruits.html

No one said the fight would be easy. We'll have more on this later when our head is finished exploding and we figure out how to blame this on Nick Saban. One thing is for sure, they named that damn blog right "The Chopping Block."

27Feb/11100

Quick Thoughts on Medical Hardship Scholarships

Nick Saban's abuse of the medical hardship scholarship, which has been documented by the WSJ in a piece called Alabama's Unhappy Castoffs, has caused a lot of controversy.  The number of players placed on medical hardships in addition with comments such as these from a former player tends to raise a collective eye brow and point it in Nick Saban and Alabama's direction.   

"It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."

"I wasn't playing significant minutes, but I was personally upset because I did anything coach asked, I was a team player, I had a 4.0 average," said Mr. Kirschman, who played in two career games, both in 2008, and is now working full time as a robot programmer at Mercedes.

Mr. Kirschman said the school offered in the summer of 2009 to pay for his graduate degree in business—an offer he accepted—and that he still gets some of the same perks as players. "I still get game tickets, which is nice," he says.

Mr. Kirschman said the decision to take the medical scholarship was ultimately his, and that he decided to do it to open up a scholarship for the good of the team. But he said he felt he was pressured. "It was pushed," he said. "It was instigated for several players."

Others who took these scholarships say they believe the school is violating the spirit of the rule. Mr. Kirschman, the linebacker, said he injured his back in April 2008 but continued practicing with the team through the spring of 2009. That May, he was approached by coaches and trainers and asked to take a medical scholarship.

How can anyone read those comments and not think that there is something wrong with the current system for determining a medical disqualification?  If a student-athlete is injured enough to warrant a disqualification why should there ever be the need to get them to agree to it?  Furthermore, why should they be asked to take a medical hardship by coaches and trainers?  Shouldn't a doctor be the one to make the final determination and disqualify the student-athlete?  Instead, we have a WSJ report where a student-athlete says he felt pressured into the disqualification and that others who took these scholarships, but wouldn't go on record with their names, believed the school was violating the spirit of the rule.  Forget that it's Alabama -- this could be any school in the country and it would still be a serious problem.  This is a problem of college football becoming more and more like the NFL than it is about one particular school abusing the rules.

The NCAA by-laws state that the player must be unable to PARTICIPATE ever again; it says nothing about being able to compete at a certain performance level.  How do you define participation?  Guys that are walk-ons that never see the field participate, guys that are on a medical redshirt, which is different than a medical hardship in that medical redshirt players are only sitting out for a year and plan to return, are able to participate.  So how was Mr. Kirschman, who was PRACTICING with the team unable to participate according to the NCAA by-laws below?

15.5.1.3 Counter Who Becomes Injured or Ill.  A counter who becomes injured or ill to the point that he or she apparently never again will be able to participate in intercollegiate athletics shall not be considered a counter beginning with the academic year following the incapacitating injury or illness.

15.5.1.3.1 Incapacitating Injury or Illness. If an incapacitating injury or illness occurs prior to a prospective student-athlete’s or a student-athlete’s participation in athletically related activities and
results in the student-athlete’s inability to compete ever again, the student-athlete shall not be counted within the institution’s maximum financial aid award limitations for the current, as well as later academic years.

We believe he was able to participate but was pushed into a medical hardship in order to free up scholarship space, which in our opinion is unethical, skirts the NCAA by-laws for medical disqualification, and looks very much like something that would happen on an NFL team, not in college athletics.

In a recent article regarding how Nick Saban runs the Alabama football program, Greg McElroy is quoted as saying that the program is run like a professional organization.  The type of professional organization that he is referring to is most certainly an NFL franchise.

"At Alabama we're all professionals except we're not being paid," McElroy said. "The fact remains we live in a professional organization. Coach (Nick) Saban runs a professional organization. He expects you to be punctual in the way you arrive in meetings. He expects you to come and not wear a hat to meetings. He expects your hair to be a certain length. There's rules and regulations within the organization that are run like a professional franchise."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/nfl_scouting_combine_greg_mcel_1.html

In the NFL teams are limited to 53 players, but they are also allowed to utilize an injured reserve roster.  In order to free up a spot on the 53 man roster, NFL teams are allowed to move injured players to the reserve roster and replace the player with someone from free-agency or from the draft.  The player on IR is not allowed to practice or play with the team until the end of the season, at which time the coaching staff can reevaluate the roster and the health of the players on IR and make roster changes as needed.  College football doesn't have free-agency (yet) and it is generally accepted that when a student-athlete commits to a school the intention is to be there for 4 years and get an education while playing football.  In addition, there are transfer rules in place that require a student-athlete to sit out a year after transferring, so it is really difficult on a player to change schools in the middle of his career -- this is completely unlike the NFL.

What we think we are seeing with the abuse of the medical hardship scholarship and the large number of players that are being pushed into it is that some coaches who run their college football programs like a professional NFL team are using the medical hardship scholarship as an injured reserve loophole. 

This raises a lot of questions.  Let's take Alabama and Nick Saban's name off of this and just talk about the issue -- this is not a hit piece on Alabama or Nick Saban and this topic can be discussed without focusing in on the particulars of the Alabama case in the WSJ.  Here are some general questions for discussion.

1. How do we reform the Medical Hardship Scholarship process and ensure that kids are not being pushed into taking one because a coach is oversigned and needs to make space in the roster?

2. If a student-athlete is given an inducement to take a medical hardship scholarship, such as season tickets in Mr. Kirschman's case, is it a violation of either the written NCAA by-laws or the spirit of the by-laws?  You can't give a kid season tickets to commit to come to a school on a football scholarship, why should you be able to give him season tickets to leave, or any inducement for that matter?

3. How do you feel about coaches trying to make college football more like the NFL?

4. At what point does college football become so much like the NFL that players have to start being paid?  It appears in some places they are already dealing with annual roster cuts, being placed on an IR list, and essentially drafted and placed in farm systems...all we need is a player's union, free agency, and to have the players quit going to classes and we'll have a mini NFL.   

We ask these questions because we see the direction all of this is heading with the oversigning, roster cuts, medical hardships, pay-for-play, etc., and if you love college football like we do all of this is headed in the wrong direction.

Filed under: SEC 100 Comments
17Feb/119

Jon Solomon and Kevin Scarbinsky Talk Oversigning

Jon and Kevin both work for The Birmingham News and both have recently written some very good articles on the topic of oversigning (and yes, the al.com site search for the word "oversigning" nets 18,000+ links on the al.com website -- wow).  Scarbinsky, more so than Solomon, has incurred the wrath of Alabama fans for his comments regarding Nick Saban, so much so that subscribers have threatened to boycott The Birmingham News.  We personally commend both Jon Solomon and Kevin Scarbinsky for covering oversigning they way they have, which has been both thorough and professional.   And kudos to the Birmingham News for standing behind them. 

The writing is on the wall.  The abuse of this loophole has been uncovered for all to see and the only people defending its practice are the coaches that are exploiting it and the fans of those coaches.  Most objective, rational-minded folks see this for what it is and are against it.  

Kevin and Jon touch on all of the aspects of oversigning in this podcast.  Jump to the 10:15 minute mark to hear the beginning of their comments on oversigning.

Podcast Chat with Jon Solomon and Kevin Scarbinsky

Great work guys!!!

Filed under: Quick Links 9 Comments
13Feb/1169

Competitive Advantage and Ethics, Two Sides of Oversigning

The topic of oversigning is somewhat complicated, the numbers are hard to track, especially when a school redacts them from public documents, the terms used in the recruit game are hard to understand (greyshirt, redshirt, count forward, count back, medical hardships, medical redshirts, etc), and the NCAA bylaws combined with the NLI process can make the whole world of recruiting hard to truly understand.  Most fans simply follow rivals.com and the other recruiting sites to see where their team is ranked and give very little thought to how rosters are managed and whether or not coaches are abusing the oversigning loophole or any other loophole.

This site has been the epicenter of the oversigning debate since it was launched roughly a year ago.  Since being discovered by Stewart Mandel in May of 2010, its popularity and traffic has grown to the tune of 200,000+ unique readers and 6.6 million page visits.

This is why I love the Internet. I must confess, I was not aware of oversigning.com until receiving this e-mail. (I've since seen it referenced numerous places.) Hats off to the authors. They've done a tremendous job of shedding light on a largely under-covered topic through meticulous research and easy-to-digest data. They seem most concerned with the overlooked human consequence of this practice: coaches quietly cutting loose underperforming or injury-riddled veterans to make room for a new crop of recruits. Currently, the site is closely monitoring Alabama, which, as of the most recent post, still had 91 scholarship players on its projected 2010 roster, in its "March to 85."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/stewart_mandel/05/26/best-conference/1.html#ixzz1DrZKoh9s

 Since that time, the topic of oversigning has been one of the more talked about topics in college football outside of conference realignment and the Cam Newton story.  As National Signing Day drew near, the oversigning drumbeat got louder and louder and the attention escalated to the point where coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, and university presidents were all weighing in on the topic.   The Paul Finebaum Show, a syndicated sports talk show based in Birmingham, Alabama and broadcast on Sirius and XM radio, talks about it almost daily, and in the last couple of weeks there have been days when the topic dominated the entire 4 hour show. 

Needless to say the topic is viral, as it should be.  It's a topic that is years and years overdue for the spotlight.

For those of you who are new to oversigning, there is plenty of material on the topic readily available all over the Internet.

In the past year of following and writing about this topic, we have found that there are two main components to the oversigning debate: competitive advantage and ethics.

Competitive Advantage:

Where most people get lost in this argument is in that they think that the team that oversigns the most is automatically the better team.  Often times people will say, Huston Nutt is the most notorious oversigner in the country - he signed 37 in one class, if it was such and advantage why doesn't he win the National Championship every year?  Well, it's not that simple.  You have to look at when the attrition takes place in order to determine if a coach is upgrading his roster by signing more guys than he has room for, having those guys qualify and enroll, and then having upperclassmen or guys already on the roster pushed out via transfers, medical hardships or simply not renewing their scholarship, OR, if a coach is signing a bunch of guys that won't qualify and have to go to JUCO which ultimately has no tangible bearing on the roster in the short term, a practice commonly known as signing and placing.  Nick Saban and Les Miles would be the former, Huston Nutt would be the latter, and that is perhaps why we see a difference in the results on the field, not to mention Saban and Miles are simply better coaches, much better.

There is absolutely no question that oversigning creates a competitive advantage against schools that are prohibited from the practice or elect on their own, as does Georgia in the SEC, to not exploit the loophole.

Oversigning provides coaches with the opportunity to hedge their bets against attrition, gives them leverage in the recruiting process by not being as restricted in terms of the number of players they can pursue, and gives coaches a mulligan should they miss on a recruit.   We wrote a post a while back comparing the numbers for National Championship Coaches

National Championship Coaches 2002 - 2010

Coaches Conf. 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total Average
Saban (03/09) SEC 26 28 26 0 0 25 32 27 29 193 27.50
Miles (07) SEC 28 31 19 13 26 26 26 24 27 220 24.44
Meyer (06/08) SEC 22 19 25 18 27 27 22 17 27 204 22.66
Brown (05) BIG12 28 18 20 15 25 24 20 20 22 192 21.33
Carroll (04) PAC10 22 28 19 19 27 18 19 18 20 190 21.11
Tressel (02) BIG10 24 16 24 18 20 15 20 25 18 180 20.00

The first thing that jumps off the screen is that despite being out of college football for 2 years (2005 & 2006), Nick Saban still signed 193 recruits, which is second only to Les Miles his successor at LSU when Saban left in 2005.  Saban also has the highest average recruits per year at 27.50.   In 7 years, Nick Saban has never signed less than 25 recruits in a single year.

Let's compare that to the same set of years (2002-2004 & 2007-2010) for the coach with the lowest numbers, Jim Tressel.  Tressel signed 142 players in the same years that Saban signed 193 recruits.  That is a difference of 51 players over the same period of time, 7 years.  That is mind boggling to say the least.

Note: we would add Gene Chizik to the table above, but he only has two recruiting classes as a head coach: 2010: 32 and 2011: 24. 

Ken Gordon at The Columbus Dispatch asked former Head Coach of LSU, Gerry DiNardo, about the competitive advantage of oversigning:

"At LSU, I could do whatever I wanted," said DiNardo, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network. "The athletic director trusted me. If I signed 30, he knew I would be at 25 when I had to be. There was always a way to manage to numbers."

Then in 2002, when DiNardo was hired by Indiana, he was in for a shock. The Big Ten had the most restrictive rules against oversigning of all the major conferences.

The NCAA allows 85 scholarship players. DiNardo found that he could sign only the number of players that would bring him to 85. Not only that - he could offer only 20 scholarships.

What that meant was that if any of the 20 players he offered went elsewhere, he was short of 85 that season.

"The Big Ten puts itself at a competitive disadvantage," DiNardo said. "You would never be at 85. When I got to Indiana, the numbers were awful. We had 50-some players on scholarships. My only chance to catch up was to oversign."

Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said, "It's like in bowling, if your opponent gets three balls instead of two."

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2011/02/13/rules-on-oversigning-put-big-ten-at-a-disadvantage.html?sid=101

The analogies are endless, but the point remains, having the freedom to play fast and loose with the numbers when competing against schools that play conservative and tight with the numbers creates a competitive advantage.   Jim Tressel, being the senator that he is, took the high road when questioned about it:

This doesn't bother Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, though. The way he looks at it, the majority of his games are against Big Ten schools working under the same rules.

"I don't think (oversigning) is a crisis-type thing," he said. "I don't see it happening in our league that much. Sometimes in a bowl game we compete against another conference, but I've never thought we had an unfair bowl matchup because of that."

But he did make it very clear where he stands on the issue:

Tressel said his staff tries to keep the lines of communication open, so he usually has a good idea who might transfer. But in general, Tressel is in philosophical lock-step with the Big Ten. Where others consider it a competitive disadvantage, he looks at it from the perspective of making sure he treats recruits fairly.

And that means ensuring he doesn't have to sweat out a summer like DiNardo did.

"We're probably conservative in more ways than just play-calling," Tressel said, referring to offering relatively few scholarships. "We've ended up under 85, because we don't want to overcommit.

"To me, the worst nightmare would be if you have got to tell someone, 'We can't fit you.' You're talking about a young kid's life."

Ethics

The direction of the ethical side of the oversigning debate became pretty apparent to the general public when University of Florida President, Bernie Machen, called the actions of other SEC members morally "reprehensible," "disgusting," and "nefarious."  Those are STRONG words from an SEC President aimed directly at other SEC member institutions who are notorious for oversiging.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/football/ncaa/01/31/bernard.machen.letter/index.html

When it comes to the ethics side of oversigning you have to look at several areas: 

1. Honesty in recruiting.
2. The spirit of the NCAA rules vs. The Written Bylaws.
3. College football being "Big Business" instead of Tax-Exempt Institutions of Higher Learning.

With the increased attention on recruiting rankings, college football's second season has become more competitive than ever, especially in the SEC where the recruiting battles are just as hard fought and nasty as the actually games on the field.  Greg Doyle recently wrote about this very topic. 

Honesty in recruiting:
How honest are coaches being with recruits?  Are they telling them upfront that they plan to oversign the roster and that there might not be space for them?  Why are we seeing guys who commit and then on signing day are surprised with greyshirt offers, or even worse after signing day and after they have moved onto campus?  Is it unethical for a coach not to prepare for roster management and ensure that there is never a need to push someone out?  After all, most coaches make more than the smartest, most-credentialed professors on campus, surely they should be able to manage their roster in such a way that doesn't force them to push a greyshirt on an unsuspecting kid or push out an upperclassmen. 

Recently, Nick Saban alluded to a possible ethics issue with recruiting in the SEC when he compared how coaches in the SEC react to a verbal commitment to how coaches in the Big 10 reacted to verbal commitments when he was in the Big 10.  Paraphrasing, he said that in the SEC when a guy commits verbally he becomes a target for other schools, but during his time in the Big 10 when a guy commits verbally he was off limits unless the recruit approached another Big 10 school, in which case the coach that was approached would contact the coach the player was originally committed to and discuss the matter.  If coaches in the SEC are not handling verbal commitments ethically, according to Saban, which he admitted he was just as guilty of because of the competitive nature of recruiting in the SEC, are they handling roster management ethically with regards to the oversigning? 

Just today, Sports by Brooks published an article called: Player's Parents Outrage Illuminates Nutt's Deceit, in which he claims any credibility that Houston Nutt had left in recruiting has been driven off of a cliff.

http://www.sportsbybrooks.com/players-parents-outrage-illuminates-nutts-deceit-29491

The Spirit of NCAA Rules:
Obviously, there is a loophole in the recruiting bylaws with regards to the number of players that can be enrolled each year and the total number of players allowed on scholarship each year.  25 new players can enroll and no more than 85 can be on scholarship at one time; 25*4=100 plus any redshirt seniors obviously doesn't even come close to the 85 limit.  However, the NCAA used those numbers to provide a little bit of cushion and probably had no idea that some coaches were going to use that cushion as a way to manage their roster like a professional football team.  The Spirit of the NCAA bylaws for recruiting is that if you have 17 openings for new scholarship players then you should sign and enroll 17 new players, not 25 and push 8 guys out the door. 

The NCAA bylaws are enormous and they grow every year.  Much of that growth is in response to coaches abusing the spirit of the existing rules, such as the Huston Nutt "28 rule" because of his abuse of the signing process and the Nick Saban "bump rule" because of his abuse of bumping into recruits while visiting their coaches. 

In the Big 10 Conference, there is not a problem with oversigning.  Although schools are allowed to send out 3 extra NLI than they have room for under the 85 limit, most coaches avoid doing it at all costs.  Why??  Because they like competing at a competitive disadvantage?  Probably not.  They probably avoid it because they all know oversigning is a dirty little trick that is played with numbers in order to gain an advantage and it comes with the price tag of messing with the lives of young people.  The Big 10 Conference has embraced the spirit of the signing process by developing a culture devoid of oversigning.  It didn't happen overnight--the rules on oversigning have been on the books in the Big 10 Conference since 1954.

College Football as Big Business:
Often times, supporters of oversigning will point to the 1 year renewable scholarship and infer that college football has become big business and schools need to manage their rosters like NFL teams.   That argument falls on deaf ears because despite the growth of college football these are still institutions of higher learning, governed by an organization with a mission statement that states athletics only exist to enrich the educational experience and that the educational experience is paramount, and they enjoy a tax-exempt status that the NFL does not enjoy.  Somewhere along the line, there is a disconnect between the spirit of the NCAA's mission statement and what certain schools are doing in blatantly managing their rosters like an NFL team.  How ethical is it for a coach or school to hide behind the tax-exempt status of an institution of higher learning while attempting to run a NFL style team with roster cuts and an injured reserved list; at least in the NFL guys on the IR have half a shot at making it back.

Filed under: Big 10, Coaching, SEC 69 Comments
12Feb/1184

The Worst Article Ever Written on Oversigning

We have read a lot of articles on oversigning and listened to a lot of people talk about the topic over the last year.  The vast majority of people writing or talking about this topic don't fully understand it and the complexities involved.  Some are too emotionally charged to think clearly long enough to fully understand what oversigning is and who is guilty of abusing the practice.  Others are in clear denial that it is an issue, such as the blog Bama Sports Report. 

http://www.bamasportsreport.com/2011-articles/february/oversigning-from-alabamas-perspective.html 

Nick Saban is everybody's favorite oversigning whipping boy. It's a role he's no doubt accustomed to - he's been the internet's number two villian (just behind Hitler) since he told reporters he wasn't leaving the Dolphins for Alabama. But here's the thing. There's really nothing to see here. No one has done anything wrong. Let's take a closer look at the rules and what Alabama has done.

Saban and Alabama have broken no rules. No one has even alleged that they have. The process is pretty clear. You put 85 (or fewer) student athletes on scholarship each year, and no more than 25 can be added in a year. You submit those lists to the NCAA and everyone goes on about their way.

Translated: no rules have been broken, there is nothing here to see, and you can put 85 on scholarship each year with no more than 25 being added each year.  Wow.  Really?  Let's continue.

Last year, the SEC changed the rules to allow member institutions to only bring in 28 student athletes per class. This was mostly in response to the class of 33 Houston Nutt inked at Ole Miss a few years earlier. Big Ten fans are up in arms because the Big Ten only allows member institutions to sign the exact number that they have available. 

Why does the Big Ten do this? Moral superiority? Past abuses? The warm fuzzy feeling of getting steamrolled in big bowls? I don't know. But the SEC (and many other conferences) have chosen not to follow their lead. That it disadvantages the Big Ten is a Big Ten problem.

Ugh.  The Huston Nutt Rule was in response to his class of 37, not 33.   The new SEC rule doesn't allow member institutions to bring 28 student-athletes per class, it limits SIGNING to 28 from February to May 31st.  It in no way addresses the real issue of keeping schools from being faced with having to get rid of players because all of their new recruits that signed a LOI qualified and to enroll them all would put them over the 85 limit.  The rule change was meaningless.

Big 10 fans are not the only ones "up in arms."  The University of Florida President, Bernie Machen, was a little bent on the topic, calling it and greyshirting morally reprehensible, Mark Richt has spoken out on the topic, and there is a Twitter account called Oversigning that is operated by a Georgia Bulldog fan who is absolutely furious about oversigning and has been relentless in pestering the national media.  And as a result, the entire national media has picked up on the topic and the court of public opinion has ruled that oversigning is a slime-ball tactic that needs to go.  The issue of oversigning is not a Big 10 problem it is a SEC problem, check that, it's a problem of schools that are abusing it, some SEC schools don't (Georgia, Florida, Vandy traditionally speaking) and some schools outside of the SEC do (Miami, Florida State, Troy) although not to the tune of the SEC schools that do, and even more of a problem for schools who are abusing it and then refusing to release their scholarship numbers to the general public. 

Let's continue...

Sadly, it's a fact that public schools in Alabama and Mississippi are occasionally lacking. See our national rankings in most test scores, etc. So, more frequently than in richer, more industrialized states, kids in the south fail to qualify. It's not a fact that those in the Big Ten don't know; it's frequently used as a convenient insult. But when it hurts their argument, it is ignored.

More industrialized states?  Really?  The bottom line on this BS is that there are plenty of kids that can qualify in the south; they might not run a 4.3 40 or have freakish talent, but with all of the population shifts there are plenty of good, quality kids that can get it done on the field and in the classroom.  Coaches just need to get better at finding them and better at coaching them up.  The reason we see so many guys not getting in is because coaches go after so many kids that they know won't qualify --  they do this for a couple of reasons: to keep competitors away from them and in hopes of signing and placing them in the JUCO farm system. 

And here's the bottom line. Since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, two student athletes have left the program without a "soft landing" - meaning fre school. Those two kids are Jimmy Johns and Jeremy Elder. They were both arrested for felonies.

Every other kid has received at least some sort of tacit nod to other programs. You can bet if Saban were poor-mouthing departures, less of them would be receiving free rides elsewhere. Either way, these are year to year scholarships. Something that isn't news to anyone. There's no obligation to renew the scholarship.

Soft landing.  Really?  Going from a 4-5 star recruit at one of the premier schools on track to get a quality degree from a great school to a spot on a FCS roster and degree from a lesser school is a soft landing, provided he even makes it that far...sounds more like a shattered dream.  To be fair this isn't all on the oversigning coaches; bogus recruiting services that attempt to rank these kids are just as guilty of contributing to the rise and fall of some of these student-athletes.

It appears that The Drake Group and the National College Players Association disagree with the Bama Sports Report in the assertion that everyone knows that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts.  Both groups were in Hartford, Connecticut testifying at a legislative hearing.

Sack, who called the proposed bill the "Connecticut Student-Athletes' Right to Know Act," said he was attending the hearing as president-elect of The Drake Group. According to the organization's website, it has a national network of college faculty that lobbies for proposals that ensure a quality education for college athletes.

While NCAA rules state that athletic aid cannot be reduced or cancelled during the one-year period of the award because of athletic ability or injury, Sack said, "the rules are murky when it comes to conditions for the renewal and non-renewal of the scholarships in the subsequent year."

"Some universities renew scholarships for four years as long as athletes continue playing and adhere to team rules," said Sack. "Others cancel scholarships for poor athletic performance or for injury."

Sack, who called the proposed bill the "Connecticut Student-Athletes' Right to Know Act," said he was attending the hearing as president-elect of The Drake Group. According to the organization's website, it has a national network of college faculty that lobbies for proposals that ensure a quality education for college athletes.

Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and president of the National College Players Association — a California nonprofit made up of more than 14,000 Division 1 student athletes — also testified at the hearing and went one step further. He said the majority of high school recruits decide which college to attend based on "false information given to them by athletic recruiters."

Most recruits and their parents have no idea, Huma said, that colleges can "leave them with sports-related medical expenses, take away their scholarship for any reason, leave them with tens of thousands of dollars in educational-related expenses, and hold their eligibility and scholarship opportunities hostage when they try to transfer schools."

http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-college-sport-scholarships-0209-20110208,0,6085518.story

And for the grand finale...

I was on the debate team in college. It paid my way. I was well aware that if I didn't do what I needed to do, there'd be no scholarship next year. Whether that was a certain amount of research or practice or keeping my grades up, I knew that there were expectations. I knew if I failed to meet those, I'd have to pay my own way. Why is a football scholarship any different?

My final thought is really this. Oversigning is legal. No matter the scenario, kids are getting free college tuition (barring felony arrests). Oversigning does, unequivocally, give a competitive advantage.

If it's legal, and no kids are harmed in the process, then the guy who's getting paid upwards of $4 million dollars a year to win football games ought to be doing it. If he's not, he's not doing everything he can - within the rules - to win football games. And that's not acceptable. That's the cold, hard, unfeeling truth here.

Debate team.  Really?  Regardless, the comparison of a football scholarship to an academic scholarship is completely laughable.  Wonder if the coach of the debate team was being paid millions of dollars based on the performance of the writer of this article.   Wonder if the debate coach faced the same level of pressure to win as Saban or Miles do?  Wonder if the debate team coach was only allowed to give out X number of debate scholarships?  What if a new debate coach comes in and he wants to clear the roster?  If a debater wanted to go to another school to debate would he have to sit out a year?  Wonder if the writer of the article signed of LOI that bound him to the school in a one-way agreement?  And lastly, how many times does a debater put his life at risk debating so that the schools, coaches, and TV networks can make millions?

That last paragraph about sums it up: to not oversign is unacceptable in this guy's eyes.  Pretty sad state of affairs.  Saban has had 12 kids placed on medical hardship scholarship, a scholarship reserved for players that are so severely injured they can no longer play football.  If Alabama were a tax-paying, private sector business, OSHA would be camped out at the corporate headquarters asking why their employees were being injured at such a higher rate than other similar businesses.  Guess this guy would give them the finger too.

Filed under: SEC 84 Comments
6Feb/11285

Alabama’s Numbers

During his national signing day press conference, Nick Saban implied that no one outside of him knows Alabama's scholarship numbers.  He also seemed rather irritated at all of the talk about "oversigning" while reading the notes he prepared regarding the controversial topic.  Judging by the national response to his comments, his message fell on deaf ears

We started writing this last night but this morning Kevin Scarbinsky put out the following article which dovetails nicely with what we have prepared. 

According to Saban, those of us on the outside of the Alabama program can't criticize him for oversigning because we don't know the exact number of players he has on scholarship from year to year.Funny thing about that. Why don't we know? Alabama won't tell us, even though we ask every year.

Birmingham News colleague Jon Solomon requests a copy of the annual NCAA revenue and expense report from every Division I athletics department in the state. One of the categories on that report is number of student-athletes on scholarship in each varsity sport.

Every Division I public school in this state provides us a copy of those reports. Only Alabama blacks out the scholarship numbers for every sport.

We know from the latest form that Alabama reported spending $3,041,356 on football scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year. We don't know how many players Alabama reported having on scholarship that year.

The News has asked Alabama several times to explain why it withholds information we believe is a public record. The heart of the explanation, from university spokesperson Deborah Lane: "Federal privacy laws prevent the University from providing the media with personally identifiable information related to its students."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/scarbinsky_alabamas_dont-tell.html

If there are federal privacy laws that prevent them from saying who is on scholarship, then why does Alabama have a fax machine cam that displays the names of the recruits signing a national letter of intent to accept a GIA for a football scholarship?  Further, no one is asking for NAMES, they are simply asking for NUMBERS.  This is severely weakening his position that everything is on the up and up.  No one else is hiding their numbers, why is Alabama?

We tracked Alabama's scholarship numbers last year and shortly after National Signing Day last year we determined that Alabama was projected to be 10 recruits over the 85 cap and would need to shed 10 student-athletes in order to come into compliance before the August 1st deadline.  To ensure the general public that we were not being biased and that we were not pulling numbers out of thin air, we provided a link to an Alabama sports blog that provided the most detailed roster break down available anywhere on the Internet - surely the guys that cover Alabama like a blanket 24/7/365 knew what was going on with the roster, right?  Well, in light of the recent comments from Saban and Jon Solomon's request for the exact numbers...who knows. 

There are people that follow college football all day and all night, they know every name on their team's roster, what high school they went to, who they are dating, their favorite color, what position they play, where they are on the depth chart, and so and so forth.  With recruiting being such a hot topic, everyone wants to know how many openings they have for the up coming class.  We're willing to concede that perhaps the general public is off by one or two, but in order for what Nick Saban is telling us to be true everyone, including the most dedicated Alabama fans that watch the roster numbers, has to be off by double digits.  That's hard to believe unless there is a secret scholarship society at Alabama that no one knows about.

Over the next 6 months we followed Alabama's football program and tracked the attrition in an effort to see if they would lose exactly 10 student-athletes by the deadline.  We dubbed this effort the March to 85.  The following list is the attrition that took place on Alabama's roster after national signing day and before the August deadline.

2010 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Terry Grant Running Back Scholarship not renewed
Travis Sikes Wide Receiver Scholarship not renewed
Rod Woodson Safety Scholarship not renewed
Star Jackson Quarterback Transfer, Georgia State Div 1AA.
Deion Belue Defensive Back Academically Ineligible; headed to JUCO
Alfy Hill Linebacker Academically Ineligible; future unknown
Taylor Pharr Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Milton Talbert Linebacker Medical Hardship
Darius McKeller Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Ronnie Carswell Wide Receiver Greyshirt
Wilson Love Defensive End Greyshirt


On the day before deadline, Saban announced that 1 student-athlete would be transferring and 2 new recruits would be accepting a greyshirt.

With that announcement, Alabama was magically at the 85 number, or so everyone thought, including all of the Alabama media that follow the numbers.  Shortly after that announcement, the NCAA would rule that Alfy Hill would be academically ineligible (which was total BS on the NCAA's part with regards to how they handled that poor kid - he had already taken classes at Alabama but was ruled ineligible after the fact).  

Read more on Alabama getting down to 85 on the last day here: http://oversigning.com/testing/index.php/2010/08/04/saban-gets-down-to-85-on-the-last-day/

The two players taking the grayshirts on the last day appeared to be indication that there wasn't room for them in the current class. In his press conference this year, Saban had this to say about grayshirting:

"We have never, ever grayshirted a guy here who when he decided to come here didn't know ... that he was going to be a grayshirt whenever he committed," Saban said.

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/saban_defends_practices_of_ove.html

Read that very carefully.  If a recruit knows he is going to be a grayshirt when he commits, then why it is not announced on National Signing Day that he will be taking a grayshirt and enrolling in the following January?  We are not doubting that Saban is telling guys that a grayshirt is possible, that much has been reported already, but his comments above in conjunction with the announcement of two players accepting a grayshirt on July 31st last year sure makes it look like he was oversigned and was waiting until the last minute to see how it was going to play out before using his ace in the hole, the grayshirt.  Perhaps those grayshirts were not cast in stone on the front end, instead, perhaps they are a safety valve for the back end should everyone qualify or roster management dictate that someone has to go in order to stay under the 85 cap.

What we are seeing from some schools in the SEC is a mad scramble to wrangle in as many players as possible in order to try and keep them away from other schools, a recruiting tactic as old as the SEC itself, and the grayshirt process has turned into a safety valve for getting back down to 85 if necessary.  This is what Bernie Machen was referring to as morally reprehensible and what Mark Richt was referring to when he said that schools are offering scholarships like candy.

"One of the hardest things for us to do is to evaluate and nail down who you’re going to go after, especially in our own state. A lot of the out of state teams will just come in and just offer like mad. They’ll come in and just offer like candy. Quite frankly I’m not going to name names of schools, but a lot of them will do that just to get in the fight and if the kid commits too soon and they’re not sure they want, they’ll just tell them that’s not a committable offer. Whatever the heck that means?"

Saban comments on this at the 4:15 mark in this video, where he says that recruiting is largely a numbers game and that if they want to get 30 guys they have to put 90 guys on the board.  We're not going to comment on that because Tony Gerdeman has already said all there is to say about that kind of an approach. 

Now back to the numbers.

Saban implied that this year's class of 21 (now 22) new recruits and 2 grayshirt players that carry over from last year was all they were allowed to take.  Further implying that they are currently full and that the 24 new additions now bring them to the 85 limit.  He went on to say that there might be wiggle room to get 1 more guy.

Saban said Alabama has signed the number of players that it could.

"We could add one or so to that, if the opportunity presents itself in the future," he said, presumably referring to defensive end Jadaveon Clowney, the nation's No. 1 prospect from Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe High School), and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio of Hyattsville, Md. (DeMatha Catholic High School).

"We have some people who could not finish the season who will probably not be able to continue to play that can be replaced, and we have several (redshirted) players who can graduate and may not come back for the fifth year."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/saban_defends_practices_of_ove.html

In breaking that down, he is saying that right now they are at 85 and the only way there would be room for future additions would be for future attrition.  This means two things:

1. We shouldn't see any attrition this year to free up space and get down to 85, and if we do see attrition and no new recruits are added, Alabama will operate below the 85 limit by the number of players that "create their own situation for leaving."

2. If Alabama truly had room for 24 scholarship additions, where the hell did they come from?  They had 14 seniors listed on their roster, 6 of which were listed as SQ for scout team.  They had 3 Juniors leave for the NFL draft and they had 1 player announce he was going to transfer prior to signing day, BJ Scott.  That is 12 scholarship players (8 seniors + 3 juniors to the NFL + 1 transfer).  Saban said they were not at 85 total last year, so were they 12 under the 85?  And if so, why the grayshirt announcements on the last day before the deadline.

The math just doesn't add up and it's not even close.  Compare this to Northwestern's roster situation and look at the difference in how everything is handled.

Pat Fitzgerald: "We have 85 scholarships, we had 17 to give, and we’re at 85 right now." 

Nick Saban: "It's none of your business. Aiight? And don't give me this stuff about the fans need to know, because they don't need to know."

The SEC and the NCAA need to create transparency in the numbers and how they are managed.  As we have said all along, schools should have to report their number of openings immediately after the January 15th deadline for Juniors to declare for the draft and they should be restricted to those numbers - if there is not an opening then there shouldn't be a scholarship offer unless it is a grayshirt situation that is documented and cleared with the conference office.  Schools should be limited in the number of LOI they can send out/accept in accordance with their openings under the 85 rule, not the 25 or 28 rule, and if there needs to be an exception for up to three extra, fine, but everyone wants transparency.  Fans want it, parents and recruits need it, the coaches need it and there is no reason the numbers shouldn't be made available.  In fact, the only reason to not make them available is because you have something to hide.  The Big 10 has had this transparency since 1954, it's time for the SEC to do the same.

Filed under: SEC 285 Comments
6Feb/1115

BCS Conference Signings

We are still working on the cup standings and we are working on a piece about Saban's comments regarding his numbers.  We are having a hard time believing that with the addition of 24 new players (22 recruits that signed this year + 2 grayshirts from last year) that Alabama is exactly at 85 right now, which is what he implied by saying what they signed is what they had room for right now. 

Saban said Alabama has signed the number of players that it could.

"We could add one or so to that, if the opportunity presents itself in the future," he said...

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/saban_defends_practices_of_ove.html

A cursory check of the roster shows 14 seniors, 6 of which were on the scout team, 3 juniors leaving for the NFL, and 1 transfer prior to signing day.  That is a departure of 12 scholarship players.  In order for Alabama to be full right now, they had to have been under the 85 cap by 12 last year.  If they were under the cap of 85 by 12 then why did two players grayshirt on the last day before the deadline last year?  It just doesn't add up.  We're going to break it all down in a separate post.

In the meantime, here is a break down of the class signings for all BCS conferences.  No surprises here.  The conference with all those teams ranked in the top 15 in recruiting had the most players signed by a landslide.  Again, where would all those teams rank if they were restricted to only taking what they have room for like everyone else?

2011 Recruiting Numbers - Players Signed - Big 10, SEC, ACC, Pac12

B1G Signed   SEC Signed   ACC Signed   Pac12 Signed
Illinois 27   South Carolina 30   Florida St 29   USC 29
Iowa 23   Arkansas 30   Clemson 29   Wash St. 25
Ohio State 23   Tennessee 27   Virginia 26   Oregon St. 24
Minnesota 22   Mississippi 27   UNC 25   Washington 23
Indiana 21   Georgia 25   BC 23   Oregon 23
Michigan State 21   Auburn 24   GT 22   Cal 22
Wisconsin 20   Kentucky 24   VT 21   Arizona 21
Michigan 20   LSU 22   NC State 20   Colorado 19
Nebraska 19   Miss State 22   Duke 20   Utah 19
Northwestern 17   Alabama 22   Maryland 20   Stanford 19
Penn State 16   Vanderbilt 21   Miami 16   UCLA 16
Purdue 15   Florida 18   Wake 14   ASU 13
Total 244   Total 292   Total 265   Total 253
Average 20   Average 24   Average 22   Average 21


2011 Recruiting Numbers - Players Signed - B12 & Big East

Big 12 Signed Big East Signed
Ok State 27   Syracuse 26
Texas Tech 27   Cincinnati 24
Kansas 26   Rutgers 24
Kansas State 25   West Virginia 22
Iowa State 22   USF 21
Texas A&M 22   Pitt 20
Texas 22   Louisville 19
Baylor 19   UConn 16
Missouri 17      
Oklahoma 17      
         
         
Total 224   Total 172
Average 22   Average 21.5