At the end of the day, that is the fundamental question when discussing oversigning. By virtue of the way the NCAA by-laws are written and the structure of the 85/25 scholarship rules, there is no question that coaches, by NCAA rules, are allowed to sign as many players as they want (in fact the NCAA places no limits on the number of players that can be signed), as long as only 25 new scholarship players are added each year and no more than 85 scholarship players are on the roster at one time. Those that have been following this site already know all of this, as we have talked about it and debated it many times here.
For those just reading this site for the first time, we have taken a look at the restrictions some conferences have added to the signing process to prevent the practice of oversigning and we have looked at some conferences that until just recently have had no such restrictions and that blatantly oversign. There is no question that there are two schools of thought on this topic and that fans are just as passionate about this topic as they are about recruiting rankings and the games played on the field.
We ran across a wonderfully written article on oversigning and whether or not it is ethical at www.athlonsports.com. If you follow this site and this topic then this is a must read article, as it touches on all of the main talking points when it comes to oversigning, including comments from high school coaches upset that their players were victims of oversigning, something that detractors of this site claim doesn't exist. We're not sure when the article was written, but based on the comments from the coaches in the article our best guess is that this was written somewhere around 2003.
Let's take a closer look at the article (warning, this is a long, but very informative read - you might want to get a cup of coffee or something before you dive into this):
Click the link to continue reading >>>
We posted a few polls questions in our sidebar to get a feel where everyone stands on the issue of oversigning. We just added two new poll questions regarding whether or not you think the NCAA should address oversigning. If you see one of them come up when you visit, take a second and answer - we would love to hear what you think.
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This article is a couple years old, back before we really latched on to the topic of oversigning and started keeping up with it, but it speaks to the very heart and soul of this website. Written by a very well-known blogger, Matt Hinton, who used to run the blog Sunday Morning Quarterback, the article is laser focused on Nick Saban's recruiting practices and abuse of the oversigning loophole. Matt now writes for Rivals and can be found here.
We are linking this for a couple of reasons: A.) because Matt put together version 1.0 of the Saban Cup and probably didn't even realize it at the time (see below), B.) to show that we are not the only ones aware of this or who have blogged about it - there are others out there who have figured it out as well and are against it, and C.) because Matt cites a suggestion made by Brian Cook, another well-known blogger who runs MGoBlog and writes for the Sporting Blog, regarding what the NCAA should do to address the oversigning issue.
"Brian's laid out a sensible policy proposal on this front: players don't have the option to break their obligation to schools; make the obligation a two-way street. When a kid signs a letter of intent, the school should be bound to show where his scholarship is coming from under the limit. If it can't, at least within two or three positions, no letter. If they anticipate a veteran also-ran or likely medical liability on the team will be willing to give up his slot, make him sign a waiver saying so before that scholarship goes up for grabs.
Coaches can hide answers from reporters, but they have to be accountable to their own players, no matter who recruited them."
Brian's solution is a little more lenient than our solution, whereas we we suggested that coaches be required to report their recruiting budget by a certain date (prior to signing day) and that becomes the number of letters of intent they can sign (maybe you throw in a petition policy where a coach could be granted x number of extra letters - maybe something like 1 per year - but it has to be absolutely clear that the extra guy signed was signed to cover the loss of another guy in the same recruiting class that didn't make it academically - a coach would not be able to get an extra letter if it meant having to take a scholarship from one of the players he claimed when he announced his budget number).
Therefore, if Saban reports 66 players on scholarship by the deadline date then he gets 19 letters of intent to work with. Gone are the days of signing and placing, gone are the days of oversigning and culling the rosters, and gone are the days of subsidizing academic and athletic attrition. And don't tell us it can't be done because programs all over the country are already doing it, just look at the bottom half of our big board. Furthermore, if you want to play the "academically impoverished" card we don't want to hear that either.
Regardless of the solution, the problem is clear, oversigning is an issue that is yet to be completely dealt with and it needs to be addressed.
We found a Sports Illustrated article from 1996 with some interesting comments from Gerry DiNardo. We can only imagine what a sobering experience it was when he came to Indiana and had to start recruiting by a different set of rules after spending 5 years at LSU.
If you remember, he was the coach that led the charge in 2000 to get the Big 10 to approve a rules change to allow Big 10 schools to sign an additional 3 players over the 25 per recruiting season limit, provided the coach could prove that he had room for 3 in his previous class.
"There are 28 new Tigers, although some of them will not qualify academically (which will keep LSU within the NCAA one-year maximum of 25 new scholarships) and many will never contribute. 'It's a fact that only about a third of the guys you sign will end up starting, because if you get it going, you sign someone the following year that's better,' DiNardo said. 'There will be injuries, transfers, failures. There always are.'"
DiNardo is right about the fact that once a coach get going and has some success he should be able to start landing better talent, and eventually these coaches are faced with a dilemma, sign as many of these better players as legally possible under the 25/85 rule and by exploiting the oversigning loophole of cutting guys between signing day and august or simply take what your roster budget will allow.
DiNardo was at Indiana for three years and those were the 3 highest years in terms of recruits. Despite signing a larger number of players, DiNardo was never able to put it together. Indiana never won more than 3 games in a single year during his time and he was fired.
We find this extremely interesting. One of the main things oversigning enables is for a coach to completely gut an existing roster and get his guys in faster; most of the time this is when you will see the most abuse of oversigning. There have been several coaches who have coached other places (Ron Zook, DiNardo, Saban, Rodriguez, etc) that were all somewhat successful (ranging from NC caliber success to mediocre success) in other conferences (which obviously have different recruiting rules), yet failed to get it done in the Big 10. Meanwhile, coaches that have had longer tenures in the Big 10 such as Lloyd Carr, Jim Tressel, and Joe Paterno, and all who were accustom to the Big 10 recruiting rules, have won National Championships and were (in Carr's case) or continue to be very successful (in Tressel and Paterno's case). Our point here is that most new head coaches coming into the Big 10 are going to struggle if they have to come in and wade through 3-4 years of recruiting to get their guys in, instead of gutting the roster in 2-3 years by oversigning. This is not to diminish the actual coaching these guys do - some coaches are much better recruiters than they are coaches - but there is definitely something to all of this.
Here is a look at his numbers while at Indiana (2003, 2004, and 2005); kind of interesting that Indiana's numbers leveled out some after he left.
Indiana Recruiting Numbers 2002 - 2010
The article is actually a great read. Check it out.
We need some help tracking down the number of kids signed in each class from 1995 - 2000. We have a project we are working on and we really need solid numbers from those years for Michigan State, not the number of players enrolled (unless that is all you have) but the number of players signed. If any of you has that information or can point us in the right direction we would greatly appreciated it.
Maybe legalizes was a strong word, it's more like they made a slight rule change back in 2002, but stick with us, this gets pretty interesting. We have already covered the history of oversigning in the conference that has the worst problem with it, the SEC. Now we are starting to dig around and look at the history of oversigning in other conferences.
Recently, we found an article on Penn State's Collegian website from back in 2002, which we found extremely interesting.
"According to Scott Chipman, Big Ten associate director of communications, the Big Ten has passed a ruling to allow teams to "oversign" on national signing day. Starting next season, teams will be able to sign more players to scholarship than were lost the previous season to graduation, which they are not currently allowed to do. Chipman said that the rule has been passed, but is still in the legislative process. The Big Ten released no further comment, and Chipman would not explain the workings of the legislative process."
"The cause was championed by Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo, who is in his first year at the helm for the Hoosiers. DiNardo spent four years as the head coach at Vanderbilt and five in the same position at Louisiana State, where he was able to oversign players. DiNardo and his staff introduced the legislation, and DiNardo lobbied faculty representatives."
"There's no way in most universities that you can manage your roster to be at 85 scholarships if you're not permitted to oversign and allow for no attrition," he said. "I don't know any program that has no attrition from the first Wednesday in February until the day freshman report. I think that creates a competitive disadvantage for the Big Ten as a whole in interconference play."
The article delves further into the topic and we'll get into that after the jump.
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After the jump there is a copy of our master table for the recruiting numbers from 2002 to 2010. We have inserted a column to record the Fulmer Cup Points associated with each school. For those of you who are not familiar with the Fulmer Cup, it was created by the brain-trust at EDSBS, Orson Swindle. Wiki!!!
Now that we have that out of the way, disclaimer time:
First, before anyone gets upset or questions our credibility for using the Fulmer Cup data, we know exactly what it is and we know that it is not a complete police blotter for every single school in the BCS. No such thing exists. It is however, fairly accurate for arriving at somewhat plausible generalizations. For example, if a certain schools has high Fulmer Cup points, you could take the time and track down the police records and validate that there has been a fairly high level of crime associated with that school during the period in question.
So the generalization goes as follows: higher points = higher criminal activity; lower points = lower criminal activity.
Second, the awarding of points in the Fulmer Cup is done in such a way to determine which schools have the highest amount of criminal activity, not which school commits the worst crime. If you want to know exactly how it works, go here.
Third, Fulmer Cup points are only awarded to players on the roster who commit crimes during the off season. This is very important for two reasons: 1.) this is usually when you see all of the attrition we talk about on this site, 2.) there could be crimes that happen during the season that would attribute to a school's profile of having a lot of criminal activity on the football team, but because it happened in the off season it didn't count. Therefore, teams with 0 points might have had a problem during the season that is not reflected here. Remember, the Fulmer Cup only tracks criminal activity during the off season. That said, we will still work under the assumption that the Fulmer Cup points are a fairly accurate depiction of a school's profile. If you disagree and have proof of a school with TONS of criminal activity during the regular season, send it in and we'll post it.
The first thing we notice in looking at the numbers is that in the middle of our table there is no rhyme or reason to anything. For example, Arizona State and Washington State, they both signed the EXACT same number of players during the 2002 - 2010 period, they are both in the same conference, and yet Washington State has 27 Fulmer Cup points and Arizona State has 0. At first glance, you could look at that and draw the conclusion that there is absolutely no connection between oversigning and off season crime by the football players.
However, when you look at the top 10 teams and the bottom 10 teams the picture becomes very clear. The top 10 schools combined for a total of 188 Fulmer Cup points, while the bottom 10 teams combined for 80 points, 38 of which came from one school Penn State. Take out Penn State, the statistical anomaly, and you are looking at 188 points to 42 points. Now we are getting somewhere. And it makes sense.
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They all have something in common, well actually several things in common. For starters, all three schools were, at one time, members of the SEC. In fact, not only were they members, they were all charter members of the SEC when the conference was created in 1932.
Sewanee (The University of the South) left in 1940.
Georgia Tech left in 1964.
Tulane left in 1966.
Note: (In a previous post, we documented one of the main reasons why Georgia Tech left the SEC - basically they were unhappy with the gross oversigning of recruits. Our reason for that post was to serve notice that oversigning is not a myth and not something we made up out of thin air. Oversigning is real, and its historical roots are located in the heart of the southeastern conference.)
Back to the similarities: All three schools also have very high academic standards (US New and World Report Rankings):
Sewanee - 36th
Georgia Tech - 38th
Tulane - 50th
Click the link to continue reading >>>
The fascinating history between Georgia Tech and the SEC is pretty well documented, but perhaps a lot of college football fans, especially those outside of the southern states or those under the age of 40, have forgotten the whole story behind GT and the SEC. Georgia Tech was a founding member of the SEC and remained in the conference for 69 years until differences between Georgia Tech and the SEC could not be resolved.
More on GT's relationship with the SEC:
More on Georgia Tech's history as a football program:
We felt in order for this site to have any credibility we needed to go back in time and establish an understanding of oversigning and its historical meaning; we needed to find its roots. Thus far, all roads lead to the southeastern portion of the country - but don't worry, we're not done looking. So before you jump to any conclusions regarding this site, we ask that you take a moment to realize that we do our homework on this topic, we're not just making things up as we go along.
And for those of you who think that oversigning is just some new made up term for something that just started since the 85 scholarship limit, you would be wrong. Oversigning is an issue that is as old as the SEC conference and played a major role in Georgia Tech's decision in 1963 to withdraw from the conference.
"Another issue of concern for Dodd was Alabama's and other SEC schools' over-recruitment of players. Universities would recruit more players than they had roster space for. During the summer practice sessions, the teams in question would cut the players well after signing day thus preventing the cut players from finding new colleges to play for. Dodd appealed the SEC administration to punish the "tryout camps" of his fellow SEC members but the SEC did not. Finally, Dodd withdrew Georgia Tech from the SEC in 1963. Tech would remain an independent like Notre Dame and Penn State (at the time) during the final four years of Dodd's coaching tenure."
We're considering a new annual award to the coach who runs off the fewest number of players to make room for new recruits, a sort of anti-Saban Cup award; we'll call it The Dodd Cup award. On a serious note, Georgia Tech fans should feel honored and proud to have a man like Dodd as a part of their rich history. We're big GT & Bobby Dodd fans here at oversigning.com. Bobby Dodd & GT were fighting the war on oversigning way before we were in diapers.
Many will say that GT left the SEC because of the riff(s) between GT head coach Bobby Dodd and Alabama head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, but in the book "Dodd's Luck," Bobby Dodd claims it was the 140 rule. See this excerpt below:
"Bobby Dodd insisted there was no other reason he left the SEC, other than the 140 Rule. The 140 Rule stated a college program could only have 140 football and basketball players on scholarship at any one time. The teams were allowed to sign up to 45 players a year, but could not exceed the 140 Rule.
Dodd would not allow any of the football players choosing Tech to be dismissed from Tech, because they were not good players. Dodd said, “it is not the recruits fault for not making the squad, it was the coaches fault for misjudging their talents”. If a recruit came to Tech, he would stay on a football scholarship until he graduated.
Dodd would sign about 30-32 players a year to meet the guidelines, but the other schools in the SEC were offering 45 scholarships a year. Those players, not good enough to fall under the 140 Rule, had their scholarships withdrawn and sent packing before the end of each year. Dodd insisted, the recruiting of athletes by this method amounted to nothing more than a tryout for a scholarship.
Dodd thought it unfair and would not withdraw scholarships from his players. He wanted the SEC to limit the amount of scholarships to about 32 per year. This would keep the other schools from offering 45 scholarships, picking the best, and sending the rest packing.
A vote was to be taken by the presidents of the colleges on the issue, and Dodd made it clear, Tech would have to leave the SEC unless the rule was changed. Dodd said he would live with 10, 20, 30, 40, or even 50 recruits per year as long as he did not have to chase any of his players off.
The presidents were split six for Dodd’s position and six against. Bear had promised Dodd he would get his president to vote for Dodd’s position, which would have changed the rule.
When the meeting was held, Bryant did not show up and the Alabama president voted against Dodd’s position and the 140 Rule was upheld. Tech’s president immediately walked to the podium and announced Tech was withdrawing from the SEC. Bryant never told Dodd why he reneged on his promise."
History goes on to show that Bryant and the Alabama football program went on to have one of the greatest runs in college football history. From 1963 until Bryant's retirement Alabama won192 games, with 11 ten win season, 12 SEC championships, and 5 National Championships. It would have been interesting to see how things would have panned out had the SEC voted in favor of reform on oversigning and GT stayed in the SEC. Alabama and GT never played again and probably never will didn't play again until 1978 and only played 6 times (1978-1984).
Dodd also indicated that the stiffer academic requirements played a role in Georgia Tech's departure from the SEC.
"I just could not compete with those damn state universities. And Auburn is just as easily a state university. They could take these same boys we couldn't take, who wanted to come and play for me. And it just broke me down. I couldn't beat'em. You can just outcoach'em some of the time, brother. Better football players will beat you."
Link to a condensed version of Dodd's book: http://www.stingtalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-4395.html
It's hard to believe that 47 years after Georgia Tech left the SEC because of oversigning and discarding players that it is still an issue and the SEC still leads the country in the number of players signed.
Of course now the rule is 85/25, back then the rule was 140/45. Does anyone else get the feeling that no matter what the numbers are they will always be pushed to the limit in the SEC? We're just shocked that Vanderbilt (which has normal recruiting numbers) hasn't pulled a GT and withdrawn from the conference. When you think about it, is there another school in the country that is more out of place in their conference than Vanderbilt?
This article, How to Keep Football Stars in College, written in 1941 by William Bradford Huie and published in Colliers Weekly Magazine, is a historical gem and an absolute must read for anyone who shares our interest in college football recruiting, specifically the signing and discarding of recruits.
Before his career as a writer for Colliers and the Birmingham News, Huie worked as a tutor for his Alma Mater, the University of Alabama, and had some sort of involvement in the football program although not clearly defined, which was probably not uncommon at the time. After he left the University, Huie continued to be involved with the football program, kind of like an old-school booster if you will; like a 1930's version of Logan Young, the infamous booster associated with the Albert Means recruiting violations that placed Alabama on probation. That's pretty much where the similarities end with Huie and Young. Having never heard of Huie before, we decided to do a little bit of reading on him. Turns out he's kind of a big deal in Hartselle, Alabama where they named a library after him. Also turns out that he is a very accomplished writer, something we are not and never will be.
What does William Bradford Huie have to do with this site?
William Huie's story speaks to the very reason this site exists - the human element in college football recruiting. We're not here because we think there is a huge competitive advantage given to programs that oversign, nor are we here because we're outraged by the uneven playing field in college football. We are here to tell the human story behind what happens to the players that are chewed up and spit out by the coaches and programs that allow it to go on.
If you don't read the whole article by Huie, we implore you to just read the last two sections: "Boys are Only Human" and "Why Football's Lost a Fan." Here are just a few excerpts:
"Three thousand hopeful young men have entered the University of Alabama to play football during the fifteen years I have been close to that machine. Fifteen hundred fell out by the end of the first semester. All of these initial casualties had played football in high school and had learned little else. When the athletic department dropped them, what could they do? Even if their parents could afford to send them to classes, they were not prepared. They had come to college prepared only to play football. Had football not robbed them of their opportunities in high school some of them might have worked out successful college careers."
"Some weeks ago, with Collier's cameraman Hans Groenhoff, I examined the records of a hundred or more products of the Alabama machine. We traveled many miles and interviewed boys all the way from the Tennessee Valley to the Black Belt fans in southern Alabama. Many of them were coaching and "teaching" in small-town high schools-manufacturing new prospects for the Tide-at salaries of $900 to $1,350 a year. The rest ranged from complete unemployment with "no prospect of work" up to Big John Miller, All-Southern guard in 1931, who, as premier snuff salesman in four TVA counties, seemed to be faring best of all."
"Jimmie Moss was playing with his two children the night we called at his four-room farmhouse in Morgan County. Jimmie and I were kids together. In elementary school he was smart enough. But in high school he learned he was a star tackle. He went to Alabama the year I did, on a football scholarship. I remember the day he left the university. It was three months after he had entered. His knee had been wrenched the first week out and he had had no chance to make himself seen among those scores of striving freshmen. His scholarship had soon played out. He was a picture of dejection. He was heading back to the small town we came from, and there'd be no band to meet him."
In an earlier post, we pointed out that there appears to be a trend in the state of Alabama with regards to the number of recruits signed. There is no denying the numbers, they are off the charts. Auburn leads all teams in the BCS conferences in the number of LOI's signed (253) since 2002 (this excludes the service academies as they are exempt from limitations). And only three programs outside of the SEC have signed more players than Alabama at 235: Troy University (248) located in the state of Alabama, and two teams from the Big 12, Iowa State (243) and Kansas State (238) [Update: further investigation on Kansas State and Iowa State have revealed that they rely heavily on JUCO players and since JUCO players only have 2 years of eligibility when they arrive it explains why their numbers were high - this is not the case with the Alabama schools].
We hinted that there might be something "cultural" behind these high numbers. And, as if someone from above was listening, a link to Huie's article was delivered to us like stork delivering a newborn to our doorstep. At first we couldn't believe it, surely this article is fake, surely its a fictional tale made up by a rival. There's no way any of this is true...no way.
"As a hobby it's been exciting. We fellows in the alumni association have had a lot of fun. We've drunk a lot of good corn whisky and told a lot of swell stories. Our haven't-missed-a-game records have been as precious as our politics. And, yes, you've guessed it. We're guilty of all the sins in the book. We've recruited players from all points of the compass. We can quote you current on-the-hoof prices for tackles or tailbacks. We've helped build a feeder organization that's bigger than the New York Yankee farm system, and we've fought our big-time competitors on a nation-wide front."
For some reason, this sounds eerily familiar, just to a much lesser degree than back in Huie's day.
"The Red Shirts composed the "suspension" squad. They were the fifty or more prospects who had already served their time on the freshman squad but had not yet been chosen for the varsity. You see, under the five-year eligibility rule in the Southeastern Conference a boy can play a year on the freshman squad, a year on some intermediate squad, and still play out his full three-year varsity career. Thus in the spring the coaches look over the varsity and see what is needed to fill the holes resulting from what the sports writers politely call "graduation." They look over the Red Shirts first since they are older and better developed. Then they pick up a few from the freshman squad. Next they consign the rest of the freshmen to the Red Shirt pool to grow and develop another year. The chaff portion of the Red Shirt squad is then fired off the pay roll, and the brain trust promptly allows them to flunk and fall out of school. This fate will already have caught up with more than a hundred freshmen before the end of the first semester."
In the 1980's, James Brooks, former Auburn running back admitted that he couldn't read after attending Auburn University for 4 years. Reading between the lines you can see that the same thing was going on at Alabama back in Huie's day.
"I remember in particular one great hero who was an All-America guard. He had been on the campus for seven years, and we had labored and dragged him through everything but elementary English. I would sit and read to him and point out and define the various parts of speech. "Here, Spike," I would say, "is a noun. And here is a verb.
He would nod his head, and I would read on. After six lines I would point back to the two words and ask him what they were. He would give me a blank stare, and the session would be ended.
I got Spike his pass in English, however, and the night he marched up and received his degree his professor and I sat in Tuscaloosa's most respectable bar and drank a toast to the great American system of public education."
We're kidding of course when we say that there is no way this article is real. Of course it is real. We actually took the time to track down scanned images of the original article just to make sure...
We're not naive enough to think that this kind of stuff didn't go on back in those days, and we don't believe for a second that it only happened in the state of Alabama. The stork just hasn't delivered anything to us about other programs yet...hint, hint.
It is important to know that at the time of Huie's article, Alabama was the largest public university in the south and most likely a strong influence on the rest of the public universities in the south.
Regardless, after reading the entire article, you get a little better idea of just how things used to be and how far things have come. Huie, if still alive today, would fall out of his chair laughing at this website. We could see him saying something like, "you mean to tell me that people are worried about a few recruits here and there...heck, what Saban pushes through the system in 4 years is less than we did in a month back in the old days." He would be right. But the BCS didn't exist back in those days, the Internet didn't exist back in those days, and college football was not a billion dollar industry. Times change, but sometimes old habits or mentalities carry on in the face of change.