The last two days of quotes and responses from SEC coaches, athletic directors, and now university presidents and the president of the NCAA Mark Emmert, have made one thing crystal clear, they either do not fully understand the issue of oversigning or they are using the hard cap of 25 as a red herring to divert the average fan's attention away from the real number that counts, 85.
University of South Carolina President, Harris Pastides said today that he hopes that whatever the SEC does that the NCAA will force the rest of the country to follow along. First off, his comments indicate that the competitive advantage aspect of the oversigning issue is much more important than the ethical treatment of players. Secondly, Harris Patides obivously knows nothing about how the Big 10 Conference handles oversigning, because if he did he would realize that they have been 50+ years ahead of the curve on this issue.
"We'd love the SEC to play a lead role in doing the right thing," Pastides said. "We would hope the NCAA would adopt whatever we would do. That's where our ADs and coaches are. They don't want us to be so far out in front that we're the only league that clamps down on that."
NCAA President Mark Emmert, who met with SEC presidents and chancellors today, said it's possible the league's position on oversigning could become national legislation.
"It's certainly an issue that's more important to the SEC right now than other conferences," Emmert said. "So if they come out with a good position, it may well be one that could become a national standard."
"We certainly know that our football advocates would prefer there's a so-called level playing field," Pastides said. "I think the challenge is do we go first and hope (the nation) will follow? And what if we go first and they don't follow? Do we go back to 28? Nobody sees that happening."
The lead role??? Are you kidding. The Big 10 Conference banned the practice of oversigning in 1956 and only relaxed its rules slightly in 2002 to allow for 3 over a school's limit with tons of transparency. The SEC is not taking the lead role here folks, they are playing catch up ball.
The key element that is lost on so many involved in this topic is that you have to address this at the 85 total limit, not the annual 25 limit. If a Big 10 school has 16 roster openings to get to 85 on national signing day then they can sign up to 19 new recruits, provided there is proper documentation and approval from the conference office. That's it, they can go three over the limit of 85.
If the NCAA tried to force a hard cap at 25, a school with 16 openings could still sign 9 over the 85 limit by signing a class of 25. How does that address or even curb oversigning? It doesn't.
Setting a hard cap that remains static every year is not the answer, and it will never be the answer because the number of openings each year fluctuates. Schools are allowed to have 85 scholarship players every year; some years schools will have 16 openings some years schools will have 25. Therefore the limit needs to fluctuate with the amount of legitimate openings at national signing day and it should be based on getting to 85, not 25.
But what about attrition after national signing day? The vast majority of that can be mitigated, as rules tighten on oversigning so will the recruiting practices. Fewer borderline kids will be recruited because the expectation on STUDENT-athletes will be that they have to be prepared for college, remain eligible academically while in college, and not just gifted athletically. A lot of the attrition that we see post national signing day is forced attrition due to oversigning, so all of that will be gone. The rest, coaches will just have to deal with. They can award a 1 year scholarship to a deserving walk-on and fill the slot next year with a new recruit they expect to have for 4-5 years. This is a perfectly workable solution that eliminates the exploitation of players through the oversigning loophole.
When you demand excellence from student-athletes you will get it (just ask schools that are already doing it: ND, NW, PSU, Vandy, etc), but when you have a system that says to the student-athlete that they don't have to be prepared for college when they come in, they don't have to take classwork seriously when they get there and they don't have to keep their nose clean because they can easily be replaced via oversigning, you have a system that goes against everything college athletics is supposed to be about, which is the enrichment of the educational experience through competition in athletics. We didn't make that up by the way, that is supposed to be part of the mission of the NCAA.
As fans and alumni, we should demand more from university presidents, they should demand more from athletic directors, they should demand more from coaches, and coaches should demand more from student-athletes. To do otherwise by exploiting a loophole such as oversigning in order to run through kids in search of the best football talent is what is really hurting kids.