In case you haven't heard, James Jackson, former Ohio State WR, was quoted in an article written by AP writer, Pat Eaton-Robb as saying, "Ohio State had an oversigning issue."
Jackson, a wide receiver, says he was asked to transfer after last season, two years into his college career.
"They had an oversigning issue," Jackson said. "They had to free up a few scholarships, and coach (Jim) Tressel told me I probably wouldn't play and maybe Ohio State wasn't the place for me."
Obviously, that sounds pretty bad if it is true. Even if it isn't true, it is pretty clear that Jackson was unhappy about how things went down at Ohio State. In a nutshell, Jackson thought when he committed and signed with Ohio State that it was a 4-5 year commitment by both parties and, as the AP story illustrates, Jackson was obviously not aware of the "fine print" of the scholarship agreement.
While oversigning seems to have grabbed the headlines, in talking to Rusty Miller who helped Pat Eaton-Robb on the story, it's clear that the intent of the story had nothing to do with oversigning. From Rusty Miller via email:
"Our story dealt with legislation in Connecticut and California dealing with making the fine print on scholarships clearer to both sides. It had absolutely nothing to do with oversigning. We won't be doing another story on this, unless the legislation proceeds or becomes a law. But the oversigning part won't be repeated, since James Jackson won't ever be interviewed again."
"I don't think there's any fire here to go with the smoke. It was just the kid who called it oversigning: Not Tressel, nor Smith nor Ohio State. Jackson probably doesn't even know what oversigning is."
Jackson's HS coach also believes that what happened to Jackson had nothing to do with oversigning:
"I know James wasn't an oversigning, but I do believe it was a roster management deal."
So the million dollar question is, if the story had nothing to do with oversigning why start the story off with an accusation from a former player of oversigning against one of the few schools in the country with a spotless oversigning record? This is all very confusing to be honest, as MGoBlog points out here:
If Tressel said he wasn't going to play and should think about a transfer but Ohio State was willing to sign the scholarship papers if he stuck around, that seems like a reasonable thing to do. The implication in the article is that they wouldn't. But it's never directly stated and it seems that even Jackson said something to the effect that they would have, except then he says they wouldn't. So… great job, Pat Eaton-Robb, you've confused the hell out of everyone.
My guess is that the oversigning quote was too good to pass up. The only problem is that it was inaccurate and took away from what the AP article was really all about.
Ohio State's track record on oversigning has been spotless. There are only 4-5 BCS schools that have signed fewer players since 2002, and when asked if Ohio State oversigned their 2010 recruiting class, Chad Hawley, Associate Commissioner Compliance, at the Big 10 office, said:
"My information is that they did not oversign and never were in an oversigned position."
When Ohio State was asked if they oversigned, this was their response:
"Ohio State did not over-offer or oversign for the 2011 football season. Each year available scholarships are calculated based on the number of slots available through exhaustion of eligibility, graduation, departures to professional teams, student-athletes known to be transferring and known situations where aid will not be renewed by Ohio State for various reasons. Once all these factors are considered, Ohio State then offers National Letters of Intent."
And lastly, the numbers. Since NSD Ohio State has lost three scholarship players: James Jackson, Ejuan Price, and Terrelle Pryor. In addition, 2011 signee Adam Griffin, is listed on the chart, but it is unclear if his scholarship was renewed since he was a walk-on that was given the scholarship that was left over from Seantrel Henderson not signing with Ohio State.
These numbers are from the Ohio State rival site, http://ohiostate.rivals.com/content.asp?SID=917&CID=1176611, not Ohio State.
Big 10 Office and Ohio State were asked for official numbers and it appears that a FOIA request will be required in order to get them, which is very frustrating. Schools across the country, Ohio State included, make it very public as to who they sign every year. Yet when summer roles around and the media starts asking questions about numbers everyone wants to go into a shell and stonewall.
Regardless, should we get the official numbers from Ohio State we will do a follow up on this story.
For the time being, let's take oversigning off the table and talk about the AP article and what really went wrong with James Jackson and Ohio State.
The AP story was supposed to be about the new legislation that just passed in Connecticut and how it might have been beneficial to kids like James Jackson who didn't understand that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts.
It is simply mind-boggling that student-athletes are still not aware that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts. If you believe James Jackson, not only did he not know scholarships had to be renewed every year, he believed that he would be on scholarship for the next 4-5 years, "no matter what" as he puts it.
"My main goal coming out of high school was to get a degree from a Division I program," said Jackson, who now attends Wayne State, a Division II school in Michigan. "If I had known they wouldn't keep me in school for four to five years, no matter what, I would have gone somewhere else.
"I don't necessarily feel used, and maybe coach Tressel was right, maybe Ohio State wasn't right for me," he said. "But this would have helped me out by maybe knowing that before."
Where in the world did he get that idea from? Did Jim Tressel tell him that during recruiting?
According to Jackson's HS football coach, Jim Tressel did just that, as did everyone that recruited James Jackson.
"Not once in any visit to any school was the 1 year renewable stuff brought up.
James had offers and I set in on talks with Michigan, UCLA, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Notre Dame and not a one explained that it is a 1 year renewable scholarship. Instead they talked about anything but that and 4-5 years was said by all of them.
When you make a commitment to an athlete or any individual you owe them your commitment. To deliberately say we are making a 4-5 year commitment to you and come back and say "well, he just not fitting in" it isn't right. He never failed a drug test, put himself in academic trouble, missed workouts, just apparently did not fit in. It is a practice to assume that these athletes know that it is a 1 year renewable and they don't."
This is where it gets ugly. Jackson's HS coach is right, if schools are selling a 4-5 year commitment, then they should honor it, period. The NCAA really needs to step in right here and do something about this. The state legislation is a move in the right direction, but it is not enough. There are way too many kids that don't understand that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts.
The NCAA should create a certification program that requires recruits to be certified by the NCAA for recruitment. The certification would consist of the recruit passing a standardized exam certifying that the recruit has an understanding of the recruiting process and is prepared to handle the challenge of evaluating scholarship offers. At the bare minimum, it would at least make sure that every kid recruited would know that scholarships are only good for one year. They are already doing this for the academic side of the process with the clearinghouse for academics, why not incorporate a certification process through a standardize exam and bylaws that state that schools cannot contact a recruit that is not NCAA certified for recruitment? Seems like a worthwhile use of all the money they are making.
So did Ohio State refuse to honor the commitment they sold James Jackson? That is the burning question. It's pretty clear that he was not the victim of a massive numbers crunch and just another kid run off in order to make the numbers work. There is something more to the story. This was a good kid who kept his nose clean, and who by all accounts did what he was supposed to do inside the classroom and out.
Most likely Jackson was either not good enough to see any playing time or he truly wasn't fitting in with the team, but according to Ohio State's policy those are not valid reasons for non-renewals. As the AP article states, Ohio State and Gene Smith deny forcing Jackson to transfer:
"Our policy is as James Jackson stated: As long as a student-athlete maintains his/her academic standing, behaves appropriately, and handles his/her responsibilities, he or she will retain their scholarship."
The confusing part about the AP article is that it appears there is a missing quote because Smith's statement mentions that Jackson states Ohio State's policy, but the AP article doesn't give the context in which Jackson would have mentioned Ohio State's policy.
I asked Jackson to clarify this and he declined to comment:
"I don't want to do anymore interviews on this matter or in the near future. I just want to focus on my task at hand and to continue being the best person, student and athlete I can be. I'm sorry but I just do not want to speak on this issue."
I also asked Jackson's coach to clarify whether or not Jackson was given the option to continue on scholarship or if he was told that he would not be renewed, his response:
"My understanding is they told him he would not fit in and he should transfer. He was not invited to spring ball and taking off all communication. Now that I think of it, to my understanding they told him he had until June 30th otherwise he would no longer have a scholarship. I believe he was given no
And that is the end of the road. Neither Ohio State nor Jackson will comment further on the story. At the end of the day, James Jackson is no longer at Ohio State and he thought when he was recruited and committed to Ohio State that he would be there until he graduated, if not longer. He never says on record that Ohio State absolutely would not renew his scholarship, but his HS coach believes that to be the case, and meanwhile, Ohio State is denying the claim stating their policy is basically to renew kids that are doing the right things. It's pretty much a stalemate. Ohio State has a pretty good record of player relations, especially avoiding oversigning and giving scholarships to walk-ons that will never see the field, but Jackson's coach is pretty adamant that Jackson was cut.
My personal belief is that unless something happened to Jackson when his position coach, Darrel Hazell left for the Kent State job and he simply didn't respond well to the new position coach, there simply isn't a logical reason for him to not be at Ohio State right now other than what the coaching staff told him.
By NCAA rules and by Big 10 Conference rules, Ohio State did nothing wrong. It is completely within the rules for a school to decide to not renew a scholarship based on athletic performance and ability, and according to the Big 1o Conference Office, Ohio State did not oversign so there was no reason to push someone out because of numbers.
James Jackson was told two things by the coaching staff:
1. He probably wouldn't play.
2. Maybe Ohio State is not the right place for him.
What those two things most likely meant were:
1. You're not good enough to play.
2. You don't fit in with the guys on the team.
The question is whether or not it is right for a school to not renew someone based on those two factors. The first one is obvious, no school should ever not renew a kid simply because he didn't live up to expectations or he is not good enough to play. He was good enough when Ohio State recruited him and enticed him with talk of 4-5 year scholarships and they should honor that, period. To not do so is flat wrong. The second one is a little more tricky. If a guy doesn't fit in it could be a problem, both for the him and for the team, but "not fitting in" is a very vague term, and it is probably used for this very reason.
If James Jackson wanted to stay at Ohio State he should have been allowed to stay, period. As his HS coach said:
When you make a commitment to an athlete or any individual you owe them your commitment.
That commitment was broken between Ohio State and James Jackson, and while we can't track down the exact reason why the fact remains that Jackson is no longer at Ohio State and that is a shame. The whole story is a shame. At best it's a story of a kid getting a shot to make a mark at Ohio State and things simply didn't work out so he was forced to move on and at worst it's a story about a kid being chewed up and spit out by the college football machine. Neither are appealing.