With the SEC meetings in June on the horizon and the topic of oversigning at or near the topic of the agenda, perhaps Mike Slive and the Athletic Directors of the SEC should use the oversigning time machine and rewind the clock back to the SEC meetings of 1964. That was the year Georgia Tech took a stand against the practice of oversigning and eventually left the conference because it would not change its recruiting rules to prevent the abuses taking place relative to signing more players than there was room for, which subsequently led to players being run off the team and out of school.
It is absolutely amazing that 47 years later this is one of the hottest topics going into the conference meetings and still an issue in the SEC. Granted, Georgia and Florida are not threatening to leave the SEC if Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Auburn don't stop oversigning, but it is clear that the battle lines have been drawn and just like in 1964 the conference remains strongly divided on the practice of oversigning.
The Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine recently wrote a wonderful article on the 1964 SEC meetings with a blow for blow account of what happened and why GT really left the SEC -- oversigning. Here is just a snippet of the article; we highly recommend you read the rest of the article.
Over the years, many have debated the reason for Tech’s departure from the SEC. Some will argue that Tech athletics had begun to slip and were no longer able to compete with the other conference teams. Others will point to a running feud with the University of Alabama as the cause. Still others will suggest that Tech wanted to be an independent all along, hoping to become the Notre Dame of the South. Tech was losing a lot of revenue generated from TV and bowl rights because of conference sharing rules. As an independent, Tech would be able to keep all the money it earned.
The true reason was over something called the 140 Rule — and Bobby Dodd’s determination to have it changed.
The SEC 140 Rule placed yearly caps on football and basketball scholarships at 45 and limited the total number of scholarships each school could offer to 140. Even with the normal attrition expected from academic dropouts and other issues, simple math shows that if a school recruited its full allotment of players each year it would be over the 140 maximum.
Instead of recruiting a smaller number of athletes each year to manage the 140 maximum, many SEC schools would simply cut the scholarships of players who had not performed to expectations. Atlanta’s afternoon newspaper, The Atlanta Journal, reported “Dodd’s chief complaint with the 140 has been the alleged practice of some schools ‘running off’ recruiting mistakes to make room for new signees.”
We have long believed that the practice of oversigning is tolerated in certain areas because of a cultural mindset that believes it's okay to treat student-athletes as pawns or pieces of meat. This is the same mindset that believes in winning at all costs because bragging rights are more important than ethics. It should be noted, both from a historical perspective regarding GT's decision to leave the SEC in 1964 because of the oversigning issue and from a contemporary perspective from the recent comments from Florida's President and Georgia's Athletic Director condemning the practice of oversigning that this is not a North vs. South issue. This is an issue about ethics in recruiting and the sides are Right and Wrong, not North and South. The Big 10 Conference put its rules in place in 1954 to deal with oversigning, 10 years prior to GT leaving the SEC, and there is no record of the Big 10 having an influence on that decision in 1964. Likewise, very little is being said publicly by Big 10 officials on this topic. Chad Hawley has provided comments and a few coaches have answered questions on the topic or provided commentary, but by and large the Big 10 Conference is not pushing its rules onto the SEC. Instead, the SEC is right back where it was 47 years ago, heavily divided along the battle lines of oversigning, and this time it is Georgia instead of Georgia Tech that is taking a stand with Florida at its side.
Correction: The SEC Presidents and Athletic Directors meet in early June, not July as previously stated above.