It is being reported that former Rice Football player, Joseph Agnew, through the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, is suing the NCAA regarding its prohibition on multi-year scholarships.
The suit was filed in California on behalf of former Rice football player Joseph Agnew. It claims that Agnew lost his scholarship after he underwent shoulder and ankle surgeries prior to his junior year in 2008. Rice changed coaching staffs after Agnew's freshman season, when he played in all 13 of the school's games. He appealed and had his scholarship reinstated for his junior year, but he did not play football.
Agnew's suit asks to represent other former players whose scholarships were not renewed.
The suit claims that the prohibition of multi-year scholarships, along with limits on the number of scholarships each school can give out, drives up the cost of an education for student athletes. It claims a violation of federal antitrust laws.
There has been a lot of argument on this site regarding the renewal of athletic scholarships. Some feel as though the coaches have every right to pull a scholarship and not renew solely on the grounds of poor performance on the field--most of those people are also in favor of oversigning. Others, meanwhile, perfer that the student-athlete get a 4 year scholarship agreement and as long as the student-athlete meets certain, clearly explained criteria, he is able to remain on the scholarship for the duration.
Many have argued that athletic scholarships should be handled like academic scholarships, but there are several flaws in that argument.
1. Academic scholarships typical spell out the requirements in plain English and the recipient knows exactly what he/she has to do in order to continue to receive financial aid. These requirements are typically the same for all persons receiving the same scholarship, and typically the requirements are based on maintaining a certain baseline GPA, course-load, etc. Athletic scholarships on the other hand, specifically the renewal of these scholarships, are very subjective. Furthermore, we have seen that some athletic scholarships have not been renewed because of the limitation on the number that can be given out and the coaches desire to bring in someone he thinks is more talented.
2. The person determining (typically the head coach) who gets a scholarship or who gets renewed has a tremendous amount riding on the decision and vested interest in the renewal process. In comparison, there is no one issuing academic scholarships with their multi-million dollar career hanging in the balance. Coaches have a vested interest in the decision in the renewal process, something that doesn't exist on the academic side.
Regardless, Agnew's lawyers are claiming that the NCAA is violating anti-trust laws by limiting the number of scholarships, which in turn they claim drives up the cost of a 4 year education for student-athletes.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association alleging the NCAA has conspired with colleges and universities to impose artificial limits on sports scholarships, actions the suit claims violate federal antitrust laws.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a student-athlete who lost his scholarship after a series of injuries and a coaching change, alleges the NCAA and its member institutions forbid member schools from offering multi-year scholarships and illegally limit the number of scholarships in large part to maintain the profitability of the institutions’ sports programs, a violation of the Sherman Act’s antitrust laws.
The NCAA, whose member institutions number nearly every major college or university in the country, sets limits on the number of scholarships those institutions can grant, and prohibits schools from granting multi-year scholarships. The suit claims these limitations drive up the cost of a four-year education for student-athletes.
The prohibition on multi-year scholarships leaves student-athletes who lose their scholarships through injury or coaching fiat with two difficult options: paying tuition out of pocket or finding another college or university that will give them a scholarship, or abandon their education, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit seeks to represent anyone who, while enrolled at an NCAA member institution, received an athletics-based scholarship for at least one year and had their scholarship reduced or not renewed, forcing them to pay tuition at a college, university or other institution of higher learning. If you have information you believe is important to the case, please contact Hagens Berman at 206-623-7292 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few months back, oversigning.com was approached by Tim Hyland at about.com to do a question and answer session on the topic of oversigning and about the creation of this website. This interview was prior to the Wall Street Journal's piece on Alabama's players admitting they felt a little bitter about being pressured into taking medical hardship scholarships to free up roster space for oversigned recruiting classes. Had that story broke prior to our interview session with Tim Hyland, it probably would have been included in one of the answers.
Be that as it may, here is the link to the interview.
If we had to summarize the interview and give a bulleted list of the points we were trying to make it would look something like this:
- Nick Saban's comments about the fans not needing to know about his recruiting numbers or how he plans to get down to the 85 limit is what really sparked our interest in this entire topic. This article is what started it all.
- SEC by far signs the most players and abuses the oversigning loophole the most. When you see one team from one conference sign 15, 20, 17, and 19, and then another team from another conference sign 32, 23, 25, and 32, something is wrong with the system. To be clear, this is an SEC issue with the exception of a few other programs throughout the entire country.
- The purpose of this site is to raise awareness to the topic of oversigning and hopefully help get it removed from college football.
- Oversigning is not a rules violation, which is part of the problem. It is a by-product of the NCAA's 25/85 scholarship limits and their recruiting by-laws. Oversigning is a loophole that is being exploited.
- Oversigning creates a competitive advantage by allowing coaches access to a larger pool of players, hedge against academic and medical attrition, and ensure that they maximize the full 85 scholarships by forcing out lesser players to transfer to lesser schools or pressure kids into taking medical hardship scholarships to free up roster space, much of which we saw at alarming rates this preseason.
- It is our opinion that no coach should have to "get down" to 85 scholarships after national signing day. They should sign what they have room for and encourage who they have to stay and get better (unless the kid is a criminal or not making the grades) by coaching them up and making men out of them instead of just throwing them off on another coach - after all they thought enough of them when they signed them. Coaches are paid millions of dollars to evaluate talent, why should we give them an out if they miss on a guy? Why should we allow them to get rid of student-athlete simply because they don't pan out to be as good as a coach thought they would be? If a coach has a shortfall due to unexpected attrition, then he can give those scholarships to deserving walk-on players in their 4th or 5 th year as a reward for all their hard work.
- Lastly, we hope the NCAA takes a long hard look at the oversigning issue and revamps some of their recruiting by-laws to include a lot more transparency in roster management. The LOI should be a two way binding agreement. Perhaps scholarships need to go back to being 4 year deals instead of one. Each school should only be able to sign what they have room for on National Signing Day. There needs to be an exit interview for all players transferring and especially all players placed on medical hardship scholarship in order to determine if they felt like they were wrongly pushed in that direction. We will know when this problem has been solved when we see teams like Alabama and LSU, who both have very, very small senior classes on scholarship and are only losing roughly 8-12 scholarship guys next year, sign classes in the 8-12 range - as it stands right now they are both on track to sign 20+, and you can rest assured that we will see all kinds of crazy stories next spring between signing day and August when both teams shove guys off in order to make room for the new load of recruits.
Thanks again to Tim Hyland for his interest in the topic of oversigning and for reaching out and giving us the opportunity to answer some questions. If you haven't visited his blog, we encourage you to - Tim does a great job covering college football.
We stumbled across a nice little article over at DawgsOline.com on Georgia's scholarship situation and how it compares to a school like Alabama that oversigns.
The discussion of oversigning and grayshirting and all of the tricks used to get to the magic number of 85 scholarship players isn’t new. It shouldn’t be easy to forget that these are young men with educations and futures at stake, but we do. Even the console game with the NCAA’s name on it demands that you outright “cut” players. I’d much rather my program undersign than oversign and have to yank or defer a scholarship, but there is definitely a tradeoff and a cost for not playing the game.
The advantage isn’t just the two or three players signed over the limit by another program. Remember that Georgia has at most now 80 players who were considered scholarship-quality when they signed, and the 87 or 88 at the other school all merited an offer. So the difference is more like seven or eight players versus a program that oversigned by a couple. Eight players from an 85-man roster is just under 10% of the team. It’s a third of a recruiting class for any given year.
Of course Mark Richt didn’t know that he’d be five scholarships under the limit. Owens and Banks had battled injuries for a while, but you can’t anticipate a medical disqualification. You can’t foresee the backup QB’s spring break indiscretions. It does seem to be a given though that there is some amount of attrition each year. Every coach has to play inventory manager and balance the 85 scholarship limit against his best guess at attrition. It’s clear though that some are more aggressive at chasing that limit, and it’s not hard to be cynical about how some of the “attrition” eventually comes about.
Again, I’d rather be a little under the limit rather than over because of the human element. It’s all business, but that’s not what coaches say when they’re in the living room. But we can’t ignore that under the current rules coming up five short of the limit isn’t all that great of a situation either. It’s a great story for the deserving walk-ons who see their effort recognized, but 80 scholarship players is borderline probation.
The cost for not playing the game (oversigning) that they are referring to is Georgia's 1-4 record vs. Alabama 5-0 record.
Kudos to Georgia and Mark Richt for standing tall and refusing to abuse the oversigning loophole, despite having to compete in a conference where oversigning is the order of the day. And Kudos to DawgsOline for being on the right side of the fence here!
DawgsOline takes a rather conservative approach to the numbers by only comparing Georgia's situation to a school that oversigns by a couple; the results are much different when you compare them to a school like Alabama that is oversigning roughly 10 a year, as is LSU, Ole Miss, etc.
So not everyone in the SEC is willing to wallow in the slop with Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Huston Nutt, the three amigos of oversigning.
Here is a decent column written by Gary Laney, sportswriter for The Advocate, and although the overall tone of the column is one that excuses the actions of the coaches, Laney does admit oversigning is an issue in the SEC.
He basically acknowledges that oversigning creates a competitive edge and that it's a problem specifically in the SEC, but he says don't blame the coaches in the SEC, blame the NCAA rules.
Increased costs come with increased expectations and increased pressure to win.
If Miles doesn’t oversign, Nick Saban will (and he does) and LSU will lose some competitive edge in the process. You can’t let that happen, not when 9-4 doesn’t do the trick.
That’s not an ethical defense of oversigning, nor is it a defense of how LSU handles oversigned players. The point is when you look at the context in which it happened — high pressure to win and rules that allow it — you should only be surprised if it doesn’t happen..
So I guess we should be surprised that it doesn't happen in the rest of the country? Or should we not be surprised that it is happening in the SEC?
He's right about it being an advantage, and we are seeing it on the field with Alabama over the last few year and we saw it at LSU and other places, but not all the blame should go to the NCAA. The athletic directors, university presidents, and the mighty Mike Slive are just as much to blame as anyone at the NCAA office -- this is happening under their watch and they could stop it completely. That won't happen though. This is a problem that dates back to the 1960's with the SEC and it would take extreme pressure for them to address it on their own without being forced by the NCAA.
As it has been mentioned here before, this (oversigning) was the reason behind Georgia Tech leaving the SEC.
From the book Dodd's Luck written in part by former Geogria Tech head coach Bobby Dodd...
Bobby Dodd insisted there was no other reason he left the SEC, other than the 140 Rule. The 140 Rule stated a college program could only have 140 football and basketball players on scholarship at any one time. The teams were allowed to sign up to 45 players a year, but could not exceed the 140 Rule.
Dodd would not allow any of the football players choosing Tech to be dismissed from Tech, because they were not good players. Dodd said, “it is not the recruits fault for not making the squad, it was the coaches fault for misjudging their talents”. If a recruit came to Tech, he would stay on a football scholarship until he graduated.
Dodd would sign about 30-32 players a year to meet the guidelines, but the other schools in the SEC were offering 45 scholarships a year. Those players, not good enough to fall under the 140 Rule, had their scholarships withdrawn and sent packing before the end of each year. Dodd insisted, the recruiting of athletes by this method amounted to nothing more than a tryout for a scholarship.
Dodd thought it unfair and would not withdraw scholarships from his players. He wanted the SEC to limit the amount of scholarships to about 32 per year. This would keep the other schools from offering 45 scholarships, picking the best, and sending the rest packing.
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.
Perhaps we need a modern day Bobby Dodd to step in and put his foot down. Mark Richt would be our choice given that he does not oversign players -- maybe Urban Meyer has enough pull to get it done, he doesn't oversign any where near the level of Saban and Miles.