The Big Ten has no issue with oversigning because it banned the practice in 1956. The conference actually loosened its rule in 2002 to allow schools to oversign by three players, but even that rule is drastically different from the NCAA rule now in effect. According to Big Ten associate commissioner Chad Hawley, schools are allowed three over the 85-man limit, not the annual 25-man limit. If, for example, Michigan ends a season with 20 open scholarship spots, then Michigan may sign 23 players. No more.
If a Big Ten program chooses to oversign, Hawley said, it then must document exactly how it came under the 85-scholarship limit. That way, coaches are less likely to cut a player who has done nothing wrong other than fail to live up to his recruiting hype. "If you've oversigned, you're going to have to report back to the conference," Hawley said. "Come the fall, you're going to have to explain how you came into compliance."
Back in March of 2010, we wrote that there was a rule change in 2002 that allowed Big 10 schools to accept 3 LOI over the 25 limit, provided they had room to back count the players to the previous year and provided they proper documentation to the conference office regarding the 3 extra recruits. What we failed to comprehend was that the 3 over the limit applied to the 85 limit, not the 25 limit. To confirm this and get further clarification, we contacted associate commissioner, Chad Hawley for further explanation, to which he provided the following:
The Big Ten exception in football is that an institution may oversign by 3. Our rule isn't based on the NCAA limit of 25 initial counters, it's based on the number of scholarships available. Using your example, if an institution has 65 countable scholarships returning, the institution could sign up to 23.
When we approved limited oversigning in 2002, part of the deal was that institutions that did oversign would need to provide "sunshine" to allow for peer review. This reporting includes identifying the individuals who received the offers that created the oversigned situation. In addition, institutions that actually oversign would need to provide a person-by-person accounting for how the institution comes into compliance with the NCAA limit of 85; this includes reporting on not only the new signees, but also the status of each student-athlete who received countable aid in the previous academic year.
Over the years, a few institutions have used the exception to oversign, but what we've seen is that the majority do not use the exception.
That last line is the most crucial. Despite having an exception available to oversign by 3, the majority do not use the exception. One could argue that the reason the exception is not being used is because of the transparency in the process and any foul play, such as bogus medical hardships or forced transfers, would find its way to the light. Regardless, the exception is there provided there is a legitimate situation that would justify its use.
Football is the only sport in which the exemption is allowed.
Why can't the SEC adopt these rules? Is it the portion of the rules regarding transparency and peer reviews that have kept the SEC from adopting the Big 10 rules or is it the fact that it provides a clear cut advantage that they do not want to lose? What the Big 10 is saying with their rules is that they are willing to give a little bit of wiggle room but everything is transparent and monitored (and the net result has been minimal use of the exception to sign 3 extra). Those are the things that will end oversigning, transparency and monitoring, not increasing the scholarship limit or changing the agreement from 1 year to 4 years. It's time to have every SEC school open the books and operate with transparency. When a school like Alabama or LSU has an ultra small senior class (8-11 seniors) yet has 21+ verbal commitments and looking to add more, the conference office and the rest of their peers should be all over it demanding an explanation and demanding transparency; instead the SEC gives its members the green light to run a muck of the spirit of the rules. Shame on them and shame on the University Presidents that allow it to continue despite the strong outcry for change in the national media. Schools don't have to wait on the NCAA to change the rules; they can make a moral decision to start doing the right thing immediately and have their Athletic Directors instruct their coaches not to oversign, period, starting immediately - there is no rule that says they have to oversign!!
Simply put, if LSU or Alabama were in the Big 10 they would be allowed to accept around 13-15 signed LOI and they would have to explain, in detail, the 3 over they limit they would be and there had better not be any bogus medical hardships that push kids off the football team or yanking of scholarships like Les Miles did to Chris Garrett. What kind of affect would that have on their highly rated recruiting classes right now? Sure makes you wonder. Alabama and LSU are both sitting at 21 verbal committments and both will land more on national signing day.
Look no further than Penn State who, with similar numbers as Alabama and LSU in terms of departing seniors, only has 15 verbal commitments. Wonder what they would be ranked if they had 21 verbals and were looking to be in on the nation's top players still left on the board on national signing day.