Based on the comments coming out from SEC coaches, and now Athletic Directors, it is very unlikely that the new legislation on oversigning is going to pass. The only way it passes is if the university presidents make it happen.
Here's te latest from Arkansas' AD Jeff Long.
The overriding theme from all supporters of oversigning is that they are doing it right, others are doing it wrong, there's nothing wrong with it if it's done right, and there is nothing wrong with treating a kid like a piece of meat as long as you tell him upfront that you are going to treat him like a piece of meat.
Most prognosticators have the oversigners willing this battle 8-4.
One thing is certain, if this legislation doesn't pass it will send a clear message to the rest of the college football world. If you want to compete with the best conference in the country you are going to have to get on board with oversigning and start treating your roster like an NFL roster.
It appears the battle lines are taking shape as the SEC meetings draw near. On one side we have the chronic oversigners clamouring to come up with excuses as to why oversigning should remain in tact, reasons such as “It’s a very difficult job to try to manage, to keep two, three deep at every position” (Houtson Nutt), or "oversigning is 'helpful' because so many of the players in the state come from underprivileged backgrounds and may not qualify academically" (Steve Spurrier), or "I don't see it as a bad thing unless you're being dishonest or waiting until the last minute, which eliminates their visit opportunities with other schools" (Bobby Petrino).
Nick Saban added his name to the list of coaches that will fight to keep oversigning alive and well in the SEC on Thursday.
"The innuendo out there is that all these things are being manipulated in a negative way," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "But nobody has ever really brought to the forefront the positives by doing it the right way. People hang onto all the situations that aren't done the right way and act like in every situation that somebody is getting screwed in some sort of way, and that's just not the case."
Shouldn't the situations like Elliott Porter, Chris Garrett, and Steven Wesley be the situations that everyone holds onto, not the positives? Did he even mention any positives other than the competitive advantage aspect? The stories of kids having their scholarship offers pulled the day before signing day by Spurrier and their High School coaches being irate about it, shouldn't that be what we hold on to?
If just one kid gets screwed by oversigning, isn't it enough to seriously crack down on the practice? Think about it in terms of the way the NCAA creates its rules. Often times, an NCAA rule is created not because the area in question is nefarious, such as the rules regarding selling personal memorabilia, but rather because of the potential for abuse. The rules regarding selling personal memorabilia are in place to prevent a booster from buying a jersey from a player for $100K, not because they don't want some kid selling his ring at a fraction of its value. Even if you believe that oversigning only harms a few and only when not done right, shouldn't it be addressed in the same way as the rules regarding selling memorabilia? What's more harmful, a kid getting a few extra bucks or some poor kid losing his scholarship at the last minute because a coach oversigned his class to bring in better talent so that he can keep making his millions of dollars?
Those positives that Saban refers to by the way are the competitive advantage that these coaches gain by exploiting this practice. Nearly every coach that oversigns has stated that it provides them with an advantage.
"In my opinion, it would really affect the quality in our league," Saban said. "You can't know the attrition from signing day until August, which guys who're going to be fifth-year seniors that decide they don't want to come back and play football. Well, you can't count those guys. You're going to have to tell those guys they're going to have to decide in January.
This is where the competitive advantage issue comes into play. By oversigning, coaches can bring in a few extra guys and work them through the spring while at the same time working the 5th year guys that have eligibility remaining, and then after spring training is over coaches can make a decision as to whether or not they want to renew a 5th year guy who may or may not have graduated yet, knowing all along they have an ace in the hole and will end up with the best 85. The coaches want their cake and eat it too.
Why is it that 5th year guys can't make a decision as to whether or not they want to come back in January, but Juniors leaving early for the NFL can? Are Juniors that much more prepared to make a life-altering decision than 5th year seniors?
Furthermore, if the question is whether or not they want to come back, isn't their participation in spring practice an indication that they would like to come back? Just recently Alabama had a 5th year RB Demetrius Goode participate in spring practice, indicating he hadn't given up on football, but then after spring practice decided he wanted to go to UNA instead. Perhaps he wanted playing time, fine. But can't that decision be made in January at the same time Juniors make decisions to go to the NFL?
On the other side of the battle line you have Florida and Georgia who have both been very outspoken about the abuses of oversigning and greyshirting. Mark Richt has been especially outspoken about the abuses taking place:
Georgia coach Mark Richt is in the opposite camp. He said that it was an "awful thing to do" to bring in players to participate in the summer strength program and then ask some to leave or wait until January to sign based on which ones performed the best.
He didn't stop there, either.
"These other coaches have been oversigning, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 number," Richt said earlier this month at a Georgia booster club speaking engagement in Greenville, S.C. "But in doing so, have they done it in an ethical way?
"I'd say the answer is probably not."
It has become extremely clear that the coaches that want to continue oversigning all want you to believe that there is nothing wrong with the practice as long as it is done the right way. Again, there is nothing wrong with selling your jersey for a few bucks, so long as you don't sell it to a booster for $100K, right?
At the end of the day it all comes back to the competitive advantage aspect of the argument and the pressure on these coaches to win. These coaches are under more pressure to win than anywhere else in the country, so of course they want you to believe their practice of oversigning is okay as long as it's done right, they can't afford to live without it based on the pressure to win.
Houston Nutt is already starting to feel the affects of the 28 rule, named in his honor, and he knows if further rules are passed that he could be in serious jeopardy of losing his multi-million dollar job, so of course he's fighting for the right to continue to exploit the spirit of the signing process and the loopholes inherent to the NCAA's 25/85 rule.
Quick Note Regarding the Medical Hardship Aspect of the new Legislation:
The new legislation that is on the table includes a proposal to address the issue of medical hardships and how those are being used to game the system and fudge the scholarship numbers. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Nick Saban's medical hardship numbers are way above the norm, and then when former players were asked about those medical hardships and whether or not they felt pressured to take them the players revealed that they were pressured and that they thought the medical hardship was loophole used to bring in better players.
Three Alabama players who've taken these exemptions say they believe the team uses the practice as a way to clear spots for better players by cutting players it no longer wants. These players said they believe Mr. Saban and his staff pressure some players to take these scholarships even though their injuries aren't serious enough to warrant keeping them off the field.
"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."
That is THREE former players coming out and saying they believed the team used the medical hardships to clear roster space for better players, one of which says he's still bitter about it calling it a business and a loophole.
Here is what Nick Saban had to say about it.
Saban is also quick to defend the charge that he pressures players into taking medical redshirts or dismisses players who aren't contributing on the field in order to open up more scholarship room each year.
"First of all, I've never gotten rid of a player who didn't create his own circumstances for why he had to leave the program, whether it was academic, whether it was behavior, whether it was drug-related, whatever," Saban said. "Really, I've always given guys more rope than they deserve, and I think the innuendo out there is that I'm just picking and choosing which guys to run off, and people bring it up that I've medical-ed more people. Well, yeah, I medical them so they can stay in school and graduate, where other people just get rid of them. I don't make those decisions, either. The doctors make them, and we have great doctors."
In one breath Saban says, "I medical them so they can stay in school," and in the next breath he says, "I don't make those decisions, either. The doctors make them, and we have great doctors." Which one is it? Who is making the final decision to issue the medical hardship? Hard to believe everything is on the up and up when you have 3 players claiming they were wrongly pressured to take those medical hardships to clear roster space and another player calling it a loophole.
The new proposal on the table includes a measure for medical hardship monitoring, but is it enough?
Giving the SEC league office more oversight concerning those players placed on medical scholarship. In other words, the league would be involved in reviewing outcomes. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.
The new legislation would require 3 people to sign off on the medical waiver, does anyone in their right mind believe that a trainer or an athletic director are going to go against the decision of a doctor? And if what we read above from Saban is true, it appears that he has great influence on whether or not a medical is issued to a player. The details are still unclear, but you have to believe the athletic director would only be signing off on whether or not to grant the medical hardship or to just not renew the player -- if coaches are allowed to continue oversigning and continue to be in a numbers crunch, is there an athletic director out there that is going to refuse to sign off on a medical hardship and have his school face NCAA violations for going over the 85 limit?
Unless there are more details regarding the medical hardship oversight, what we have on the table doesn't appear to be anything other than window dressing in reaction to the WSJ piece on Alabama's medical hardships.
We have a couple of suggestions: 1. many of these medical hardships are the result of a numbers crunch because of oversigning, eliminate the oversigning and you would see a drastic decline in the number of medical hardships issued by schools that oversign, 2. have the NCAA conduct an exit interview with the kids placed on medical hardship so that guys like the 3 Alabama players who told the WSJ that they thought they were being pushed out to make room for better players can tell the NCAA and have the NCAA conduct an investigation.
Details of the new SEC legislation proposed by Mike Slive are starting to come out. The Athens Banner-Herald has obtained a copy of the new legislation aimed to curb some of the abuses that have been rampant in the SEC over the last several years. Actually, these abuses have been taking place as far back as Bobby Dodd's time in the 1960's when GT was a member of the SEC before leaving the conference because the conference refused to address the roster management issues and oversigning. Here is what has been made available to the public:
- Limiting the size of a football signing class in each academic year to 25, down from the current level of 28. The 25 limit would cover those who sign from Dec. 1 to August 1.
- Making football signees who attend summer school on athletic aid before the fall semester count against a school's scholarship numbers for that next academic year.
- Giving the SEC office more oversight in medical scholarship exemptions to review and determine outcome for cases. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.
- Keeping early enrollees from signing an SEC financial aid agreement until they are enrolled and attend class at the school. Currently, recruits can begin to sign a financial aid agreement after their junior year of high school, which keeps other SEC schools from recruiting them.http://staugustine.com/sports/2011-05-24/oversigning-secs-football-priority
This is definitely a comprehensive package covering more areas than just oversigning, but the proposed legislation that addresses oversigning is still lacking and does not address the root of the oversigning issue. The current SEC rules allow for 28 recruits to be signed between February and May 31st; the new rule is 25 between December 1 and August 1. Neither of them address the 85 limit, which is the core issue.
This is nothing more than more window dressing, unfortunately. Slive and the SEC are still hung up on the annual signing numbers and the 25 limit for an incoming class. The root of the oversigning problem is the 85 limit, not the 25 annual limit. What good is a limit set at 25 when a school only has 16 scholarship spaces available??? It is worthless at stopping oversigning.
The current Big 10 rules are based on the 85 scholarship limit first, then the 25 annual limit. If a Big 10 school has 16 scholarships available, they can accept up to 19 signed letters of intent, but there's a catch. The school has to petition the Big 10 office for permission to accept those 3 extra signed letters of intent and they have to explain why they are going over. But there's more, before they petition to accept the oversigned letter of intent, they have to petition for permission to issue a written offer that is over the 85 limit. That's right, the Big 10 office controls the number of offers the school can issue and just like the number of signed letters of intent a school can accept, Big 10 schools are only allowed to offer 3 more scholarships than they have room for under the 85 limit. So despite the NCAA allowing a school to sign and bring in 25 new players each year, if a Big 10 school has room for 16 new recruits the most they will be allowed is 19 by the Big 10 office and the three extra have to be documents.
If you think those rules are tough, prior to 2002 there was no waiver to go over the 85 limit. That changed when in 2002, Gerry DiNardo, having spent time coaching at LSU and realizing the advantage of oversigning, was hired at Indiana where he inherited a repeated roster and started lobbying for the oversigning waiver. DiNardo got his wish and the oversigning waiver was accepted into the Big 10 rules, but he was later fired from Indiana after a few years and never being able to turn the program around.
The net result of the Big 10 measures on oversigning is that there is very little oversigning in the Big 10. Associate Commissioner, Chad Hawley, says that despite the option to oversign by 3 that very seldom do schools petition for the oversigning waiver. In fact, according to Hawley, only 1 Big 10 school oversigned this year.
The bottom line is that this appears to be just more window dressing -- Slive is reducing the number from 28 to 25, but he is increasing the window from Dec 1. to August 1. His legislation, at the end of the day, does not address the root of the problem, going over the 85 limit, and any legislation that does not address the potential for a coach to sign 8-10 guys over the 85 limit is severely lacking. Scholarship and roster numbers fluctuate every year, some years a school will have room for 25 other years they will have room for 16, the rules on signing players need to work in accordance with that fluctuation.
We'll have more on the rest later.
Houston Nutt is, whether he likes it or not, one of the reasons oversigning has received the attention it has over the last two years. Why? Simple, you can't blatantly rape the spirit of the NLOI process and then laugh about it to the media.
“There is no rule that says we can’t sign 80! All I know is we have to have 25, we got to have 25 come ready August”
Those were Houston Nutt's exact words, words that lead to the Houston Nutt rule that limits SEC schools to only signing 28 players between the months of February and June. Words that Houston Nutt would probably take back if he could. When asked if he would sign 37 players again, Nutt told Ole Miss reporter, Kyle Veazey, he probably wouldn't:
"And as for that 37, he thinks it unfairly characterizes him in a bad light. He knew going in that many of those players would go to junior college, but he felt that if he signed them initially that it might give them incentive to improve at juco — and give the Rebels an inside track two years later should they be eligible. But even after saying all of that, he said he wouldn’t have signed 37 if he had it do over again (and the new rule wasn’t in place)."
According to Veazey, Nutt plans to fight for keeping oversigning in the SEC, along with the morally reprehensible practice of grayshirting, as Florida's President Bernie Machen would describe it.
Nutt thinks those who criticize him on grounds of oversigning just don’t get the difficulty involved in the number juggling in a college roster. “It’s a very difficult job to try to manage, to keep two, three deep at every position,” Nutt said. He says he hasn’t ‘run off’ players just to meet his numbers, isn’t dishonest and said that he doesn’t ‘non-renew’ a scholarship player unless he’s involved in disciplinary issues. But he says if a player comes to him and says his goal is to start and Nutt doesn’t see it, he might suggest that it’s not a bad idea if he goes somewhere else. When I told him critics counter that by saying coaches should be accountable for their talent evaluations, he said this: “Until you’ve done it, until you’ve actually done it, it’s one of the most difficult things, ever.”
Houston Nutt's defense for oversigning is that it's tough to evaluate talent, brilliant! But isn't that what he is being paid millions of dollars to do? Veazey also mentions that he will have more on Nutt's defense of oversigning later in the week, but at this point, it's pretty clear that Nutt plans to dig in and fight this thing out until the bitter end. Perhaps he has no choice, perhaps oversigning is the only thing that is enabling him to field a team. Despite all those large numbers: 31, 37,26, and 28 in the last four years, Ole Miss is on track to have way less than 85 scholarship players next year. That is a lot of recruiting misses...maybe it is as hard as he makes it sound.
Pat Fitzgerald would probably disagree with his ultra small classes of 18-20 players each year with virtually no attrition, excellent graduation rates, and conference best APR ranking.
Needless to say, things are going to get very interesting in the coming weeks as the SEC deliberates over the oversigning issue. One thing is for sure, Houston Nutt fully intends to fight to keep oversigning alive and well in the SEC.