One of the topics that comes up when talking about oversigning is the competitive edge that is gained by schools that abuse the signing process and accept more signed letters of intent on national signing day than they have room for under the 85 limit mandated by the NCAA. As we have mentioned a million times, they can do this because the NCAA, until just recently, did not limit the number of players that can be signed each year. They have since set the cap to 28 per year, but that is still an issue and nothing more than window dressing, but we'll get into that at another time.
The idea regarding the competitive advantage is that oversigning affords teams the ability to look at a larger pool of players and keep the best 85. Typically speaking, the teams that sign the most players are also the teams that have the highest number of medical hardships, transfers, and number of players just cut from their scholarships.
Mark Ingram and Marcel Dareus were verbal commitments 29 and 30 in Alabama's 2008 recruiting class. Let that sink in for a second - 29 and 30. Dareus was a 3 star product out of the state of Alabama that was not highly recruited because of questions regarding his ability to qualify academically and Ingram was a 4 star out of Michigan who was being recruited by Michigan State and Iowa, but he too was a somewhat under the radar recruit. It's not to say these guys were nobodies, but for all intents and purposes, neither of these guys were in the mold of Julio Jones, a 5 star in state recruit that everyone in the country wanted but who was a dead lock to go to Alabama and just waited until signing day to sign with Alabama.
These two guys really give us the best example of the competitive edge oversigning provides.
In the recruiting years leading up to Alabama's 2008 class of 32, Alabama signed 29, 32, 23, and 25 players. That is 109 players signed, plus the 32 in 2008 and that is 141 players signed in a 5 year span. Granted, Alabama was coming off of scholarship reductions from being placed on probation for paying a high school coach to steer a player to Alabama, but 141 players in 5 years is astronomically high.
For reference, here are the 5 year numbers for a few other schools.
Notre Dame: 16, 15, 28, 18, 23 = 100
Ohio State: 24, 18, 20, 15, 20 = 97
Texas 20, 15, 25, 24, 20 = 104
Those are just a few -- do you see the pattern?
This leads us to wonder, had oversigning been banned from college football entirely, would Mark Ingram and Marcel Dareus be at Alabama right now? Were their scholarship spots made available by 2 of the 12 medical hardship cases that freed up football scholarships at Alabama and enabled Nick Saban to stay under 85 each year? In Ingram's case it is possible that he might have ended up at Alabama regardless because of his father's connection to Nick Saban, but according to reports and in looking at when Ingram verbally committed, it wasn't until really late in the recruiting period and Saban had already landed more verbal commitments than he had room for under the 85 limit. If Saban were to land Ingram under rules that didn't allow oversigning, then Ingram would have had to commit much earlier in the process and someone else wouldn't be allowed to sign - given that Julio Jones didn't sign until signing day, you have to imagine that Saban would hold a spot for him. Instead, Saban was able to take LOI from Ingram and Dareus, despite being over, and still accepted Jones'. He got them all and NO ONE ever raised a flag that there wasn't room for them all.
When we talk about the competitive advantage gained by oversigning, this is exactly what we are talking about.
Ironically, Mark Ingram was recruited by Michigan State (and Iowa), who at the time was carrying Arthur Ray Jr. on a football scholarship despite his medical condition -- who knows, had oversigning been banned, Mark Ingram and Arthur Ray could have been on the same team, instead, it's possible that kid at Alabama was pushed towards a medical hardship or into a transfer in order to make room for him.
Michigan State and Iowa both had room for Ingram and had he signed there, no one from those teams would have to be pushed out of the football program in order to make room, but instead, Ingram went to Alabama, a place that really didn't have room for him at the time, a place where 11 kids that year vacated their football scholarships, some transferred, some took medical hardships, some were arrested, some didn't make the grades, and some opted for the MLB.
Many people revere Alabama's backfield with Ingram and Richardson as the best in the country hands down -- some people ask, "who has a better backfield?" The real question is, "who else was allowed to sign 141 players in a 5 year period from 2004-2008?"