Now that the SEC has acknowledged that A.) they have a problem with oversigning and it needs to be addressed, and B.) they want to see national signing rules implemented so that they don't lose a competitive advantage to schools that currently have less restrictive rules (such as the B12), let's discuss a new set of national rules. What is the best solution for a new set of national rules that address the three main components of scholarship signing legislation, in order of importance:
1. Student-Athlete welfare. Prohibiting exploitation of the student-athlete. This needs to protect student-athletes both at the front-end (guys being recruited and signed) and at the back-end (guys already on the roster from being pushed out).
2. Utilization of scholarship opportunities. Ensures that educational opportunities are maximized and not wasted. Giving someone a scholarship who could care less about the education they are receiving is not maximizing scholarship opportunities, it is wasting them. The hard fact of the matter is that only a very, very small percentage (roughly 3%) of college football players will ever realize a career in the NFL. The scholarships that are given out to kids who only care about football, yet never make it to a meaningful career in the NFL are a complete waste of the scholarship opportunity. It would be like giving someone a scholarship to become a chemical engineer yet they never become a chemical engineer, what's the point? There is no debate on that. Giving scholarships to kids that can play at the college level, but are just as interested, if not more, in the education they are receiving and life after football is how you maximize a scholarship opportunity. Not on someone majoring in eligibility in hopes of striking it rich in the NFL. Tto be frank, that is wasting a scholarship opportunity and gaming the system by the student-athlete.
3. Competitive equality amongst conferences. Regulating the number of players that can be signed so that all conferences are signing the same number of recruits. There is currently a massive gap between what the SEC signs and what other conferences sign, especially the Big 10.
The current NCAA national rule ("The 28 Rule") is completely ineffective. The SEC's proposal of a new "soft cap" of 25 per year is also ineffective, primarily because it still does not prevent a school with 16 openings from signing 25 and going over by 9. If student-athlete welfare is the number 1 priority then this loophole must be closed, period. There is no need in allowing it to happen at all because it opens the door for abuse.
Summary of proposal:
1. Set January 15th as the deadline for coaches to report their recruiting budget. Have players leaving for the NFL, transfers, and non-renewals by the coaching staff all declared on January 15th. Make the number of openings public and approved by a national clearinghouse (see 2).
2. Create a clearinghouse for transfers and non-renewals that provides due process to the student-athlete to ensure that the student athlete was not pushed into the decision to transfer and provide the student-athlete a review hearing for non-renewals. There is plenty of room for reform in this area, such as eliminating lack of living up to perceived recruiting potential as a cause for termination or changing the sit out rules. Have a national panel establish the guidelines for non-renewal and have them in writing so that the SA knows exactly what can cause him to lose his scholarship. Terminating a scholarship without cause should be eliminated.
3. Eliminate a hard cap on annual signing numbers. On National Signing Day, whatever room the school is cleared to have via the clearinghouse, by way of declaring early departures to the NFL, transfers, and non-renewals by January 15th, is the room they get to fill with new recruits. This number would be based on 85 as the max number of current scholarship players and signed letters of intent. If that number is 29 and the openings come based on natural matriculation and attrition that is cleared through a national clearinghouse, then so be it, the school can sign 29 in order to get to 85. If necessary, you could put a hard cap of 35 on the annual limit if you felt you just had to have one as a safety net, but we believe a school should be able to sign whatever they naturally have room for so long as they stay under the 85 limit at all times and so long as the number of recruits they can sign is cleared through a national clearinghouse.
4. Eliminate back counting. Every year each school should have a full 85 man roster of scholarship players and there should be no need to try and squeeze guys in by back counting and getting them to enroll early.
5. Limit and standardize greyshirting. Allow a maximum of 2 greyshirt signees per year. Standardize the greyshirt offer and have it as a separate offer with specific terms in writing that the SA understands and agrees to in writing in February. This will eliminate last minute greyshirts after a kid has been on campus in the summer working out with the team. Those only come because of oversigning and space issues. Greyshirts should be for injured players or guys that need a year to develop or grow and are willing to wait until the next year when there is space under the 85 limit. Those offers should be guaranteed spots in the next class and factor into the budget number created on January 15th.
6. Maximize scholarship opportunities by giving any shortfall to walk-on players. By giving coaches the ability to sign as many players as they have room for under the 85 limit gives them ample opportunity to fill every roster spot and at no time would they have to tell a kid, "we'd love to have you, we have room under the 85 limit, but we can only take 25 a year." It's on the coaches to make the most of those opportunities. Any remaining openings that occur out of the ordinary, say a kid gets arrested in late July and his spot can't be filled through recruiting, coaches can give those scholarships to worthy walk-on players who would truly maximize the educational opportunity they would be receiving. Those guys are headed on to life after football and a free year of education as a send off after 4-5 years of dedication is the perfect use of a scholarship some knucklehead lost because he was arrested.
You could drill into each one of these points and tweak things here and there, but at the end of the day, you have to base the number of kids you can sign on the number of openings under the 85 roster limit. You have to eliminate the possibility of a school singing 25 guys when they only have 16 openings under the 85 limit. This leads to the opportunity for abuse and exploitation by forcing kids into bogus medical hardships, late greyshirts, and transfers to FCS, Juco, or CC. You also have to make sure the school can fill all of its scholarship spots under the 85 limit so that they don't have to turn kids away because they don't have room under the 25 limit. Lastly, you have to make sure the attrition is cleared through a clearinghouse process which includes an opportunity for a review hearing and an exit interview so that the kids that feel they are being pushed out have somewhere to turn before they just accept transferring down to Juco, etc.