I think we can all agree to one degree or another that oversigning is a major issue. It took some time for some of you to come around, but with all of the news coming out around the country, especially from sources far more credentialed and reliable than us, it's pretty clear to see that this issue must be dealt with.
Note: we removed the link to Doyle's article on oversigning and replaced it with a much better one from Andy Staples.
So let's hear some solutions. We have spent enough time arguing back and for as to whether or not it is a problem, that debate is over, time for solutions.
Post your solution in the comments section and we'll discuss there.
Update: Our Solution
There are several areas surrounding the signing process that have an affect on oversigning, such as, determining academic eligibility, a student-athlete's desire to transfer, greyshirting, and injuries.
There is already a working model in place for dealing with all of these areas and doing so without oversigning players. The Big 10 Conference has been at the forefront of this issue for decades and it has worked with great success with regards to preventing oversigning.
Our solution would be to take the Big 10 Conference model and tweak it slightly and have it apply to all BCS conferences. The overall theme in our proposal is to turn the LOI into a more meaningful agreement - for intents and purposes, the LOI might as well be considered a scholarship agreement, not just a one-way agreement that binds the recruit to the school but not the school to the recruit.
1. Determining the annual recruiting budget. The NCAA provides a baseline 25 scholarships per year rule, but as we know 25 x 4 = 100 and 100 > 85 (plus with the redshirt rule there could be some 5th year guys on scholarship). Therefore, a standing 25 rule across the board does not work and needs to be adjusted annually on a team by team basis. But how do you do this? The most accurate way of determining how many openings a school has for new scholarship players is to take the previous year's scholarship roster and then remove graduating seniors, 5th year players that have exhausted their eligibility, and juniors that declare for the NFL draft or (new) any student-athlete that declares to transfer by the January 15th deadline.
This method of determining the number of available openings is in line with the NCAA mission of preserving the amateur status of student-athletes and ensuring that their educational experience is paramount. Don't worry, we'll address the 1-year renewable scholarship stuff and the transfers in a minute.
The Big 10 uses a method very similar to this (they don't have the transfer rule, we added that here as part of our proposal) and it provides their coaches with the exact number of openings they have room for on National Signing Day with is the first Tuesday in February.
2. Limit schools to only accept the number signed letters of intent that they have scholarship room for. In keeping with our theme, limiting the number of LsOI that can be accepted makes coaches work harder to ensure that every LOI they accept is in essence a scholarship. If it is determined that a school has 17 scholarship openings and they can only sign 17 players to LsOI, coaches will work harder to make sure that all 17 are good to go.
So using the established budget (above #1) schools are only allowed to accept that number of signed letters of intent.
Again, the Big 1o has been doing this for decades.
3. Handling student-athletes that want to transfer. This is another tough topic to regulate. The current system allows student-athletes to transfer pretty much whenever they want, provided they get a release from the school they are at and provided they are willing to sit out a year. In many, many cases this is a very one-sided arrangement and players are often shafted by having to sit out, which is why many of them transfer out of Division 1A to avoid having to sit out.
We purpose that student-athletes be allow to declare their transfer intentions by the same deadline Juniors have to declare for the NFL, January 15th. If they declare to transfer by the 15th they can avoid having to sit out 1 year.
This isn't the perfect solution, not sure there is one, but here is what it does. A.) Gives the student-athletes an opportunity to transfer without penalty, B.) Protects schools from being caught off-guard with off season transfers (don't worry we'll address student-athletes transferring after the 15th deadline) and not having scholarships to replace them with, C.) Completely eliminates students transferring because the roster is oversigned and they are buried deeper than they would be on roster that is not oversigned.
For student-athletes that want to transfer after the January 15th deadline, they can still do so, but they have to sit out a year. In order to make it equitable for the schools, they will be able to replace the transferred student with a new recruit, but only after the transferred recruit is enrolled into the new school. This means that the school cannot accept a signed letter of intent from a recruit binding him to the school until the previous player has finished transferring. This eliminates a school from having a new recruit bound to a letter of intent before the opening is really available, which is what is happening now. This also gives schools an option to replace the player in the current year if they so choose, provided they stay under 25 overall.
This overall plan for handling transfers gives student-athletes an out, protects schools from not being able to replace transferred students, and eliminates the scenarios we see where coaches have oversigned their roster and players start to transfer because they had a "mutual agreement" with the coach that it was in their best interest to transfer.
4. Handling academic eligibility. This is one of the main reasons why we see coaches oversign. The problem here is that often time when a player doesn't qualify academically they usually don't make it back. Two years ago Huston Nutt signed 12 players he knew wouldn't qualify academically and two years later did any of those players actually make it back to Ole Miss? Maybe a couple, but the rest were simply a pawn in the recruiting game where Nutt was trying to generate a buzz at his new school by signing 37 recruits. Total bullshit.
So here is how we solve the problem. In keeping with our overall theme of making the LOI a more binding agreement, if a player is signed and doesn't make it then he is given the option to be sent off to prep school for 1 year and the school has to eat the scholarship while he is there.
This makes it a true partnership, gives the school an opportunity to take a slight risk without putting the kid at risk, and it eliminates oversigning to hedge bets against academic ineligibility.
5. Handling the non-renewal of the 1-year scholarship. We're not going to say that we think they should go back to the 4-year scholarship agreements because we do think there are definitely situations where a player should be denied renewal of his scholarship, but we are going to say that non-renewal should only happen when a student-athlete doesn't meet the academic requirements, violates a campus law or criminal law in public, or violates clear cut, written team rules. As for the team rules there needs to be complete transparency and player cannot be removed without written explanation of the rules violation and the NCAA should hold an exit interview for each player removed for violation of team rules to ensure that players are not being run off by a school through the combination of a coach not renewing his scholarship and the financial aid department agreeing with the coaches ruling simply because they don't want to disagree with him.
6. Scholarship shortfalls. In order to ensure that all 85 scholarships are used, coaches will have the option to give out 1 year scholarship rewards to any 4th or 5th year walk-on players who have proven themselves worthy of a scholarship reward for excellence in the classroom and in the community.
Outside of a few small tweaks, this is by in large the system the Big 10 conference has been using for sometime and it has proven to eliminate oversigning. We added a few things here and there but the overall theme is to make the LOI a TWO-WAY binding agreement and restrict coaches to accepting only what they have room for on National Signing Day. This completely closes the oversigning loophole that is being exploited and resulting in kids like Elliott Porter getting screwed over before he even gets started on his college education.