Ramogi Huma reached out to us a while back when he found our site, and since that time we have been communicating back and forth on the topic of oversigning. Just recently, Mr. Huma provided testimony in a legislative hearing in the state of Connecticut that included the proposal of Committee Bill No. 5415, AN ACT REQUIRING FULL DISCLOSURE TO PROSPECTIVE ATHLETES BEING RECRUITED TO INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION. From the NCPA website press release:
"In 1973, the NCAA made athletic scholarships renewable on a year-to-year basis," Sack said. "Four-year scholarships are a thing of the past."
The result, Sack said, is that high school students and their families often are unaware when and how a college can rescind a scholarship.
While NCAA rules state that athletic aid cannot be reduced or cancelled during the one-year period of the award because of athletic ability or injury, Sack said, "the rules are murky when it comes to conditions for the renewal and non-renewal of the scholarships in the subsequent year."
"Some universities renew scholarships for four years as long as athletes continue playing and adhere to team rules," said Sack. "Others cancel scholarships for poor athletic performance or for injury."
The Bill also included an Article specific to oversigning:
(F) The policy of the institution of higher education regarding whether or not such institution may choose to sign more recruited student athletes than it has available athletic scholarships and the consequences to the athletic scholarship opportunities of recruited and current student athletes in such situations.
Upon receiving word from Mr. Huma that they included provisions for creating transparency relative to oversigning (c&p from his email):
"Your work bringing the oversigning issue to national discussion was crucial in addressing oversigning in the Connecticut legislation."
We asked Mr. Huma if he would answer a few questions and allow us to share his response with our readers. Keep in mind, while reading the Q&A session, Mr. Huma is the President of a non-profit organization with over 14,000 student-athlete members. Therefore, he is hearing from players and parents what very few of us hear in the national media. His comments are very telling in our opinion.
How long has oversigning been on your radar and when did it become a topic of concern?
"I bumped into oversigning.com last spring while doing research to support a bill that the NCPA sponsored in California, and the practice of oversigning immediately became a topic of concern."
The recent legislative proposal included an article that addresses oversigning and is calling for universities to disclose whether or not they engage in oversigning and what the consequences are for the student-athlete given that the institution engages in that practice. Obviously, the goal here is to help educate parents and players by forcing the universities to post their policy on oversigning on their athletic website. From your perspective, how aware of oversigning are parents and recruits?
"Parents and recruits have no idea that oversigning takes place. The only ones that eventually become aware are those that find out the hard way, which usually means that their school is forcing them to gray shirt or is not renewing their scholarship."
Many fans that support oversigning have a hard time believing that the practice really harms kids, we have tried change the way people think in that regard on the oversigning.com site, but yet there are still some that are not convinced. What would you say to those people?
"Typically when schools oversign, an incoming player is gray shirted or a player already on the roster loses a scholarship. I have personally fielded numerous calls from both categories of players from all sports who are informed that their scholarship will not be available upon arrival or will not be renewed. All have been devastated by not only the loss of their means to earn a degree, but the deep sense of betrayal by their coach/college. For the incoming players, many of them have to try to pay their own way through school without any guarantee that they will ever receive a scholarship. Many of these families have not prepared for such expenses since the schools had promised a scholarship. In addition, other previously interested schools lose interest because their rosters are already full.
For current players that lose their scholarship to make room for an incoming recruit, those fortunate enough to transfer to another school often suffer academically because many of their credits are not accepted by the new school, they have to change their major, and have to sit out a year before competition. Others drop out of school. Most of these players had been promised 4 years as long as they kept their grades up and abided by team rules. Players are not aware that a school can revoke a scholarship for any reason. Most of the players I've spoken to have been in good academic standing, have participated fully in mandatory and 'voluntary' workouts, and have not broken a team rule. Make no mistake, the young student-athletes and parents I have spoken are completely devastated. That's the first time I've heard the argument that players whose scholarships are taken away or are forced to grey shirt are not harmed. I hope its the last time. We should be focusing on ways to solve this problem not spending our energy debating whether or not a knife wound really hurts."
Outside of the proposed state legislation, what would you like to see the NCAA or the SEC conference do to address the issue? The Big 10 Conference addressed this issue back in 1954 and it appears that their rules, which were slightly relaxed in 2002 to allow occasional oversigning with the understanding that everything is transparent and processed through the conference office to ensure there is not player abuse taking place to make the roster numbers work, should the SEC and the rest of college football simply adopt those rules or is something more needed?
"While the NCPA believes in and is currently pushing for better transparency on this issue, I believe that there is a better solution. Schools should not be allowed to sign more players than they have scholarships."
And lastly, some have made the point that closing the oversigning loophole will simply move the attrition further upstream so that the number of openings that exist on NSD are greater, essentially meaning that roster purging would take place in Dec/Jan instead of after February and before August. A.) Do you think that closing the loophole will result in further abuses upstream, and B.) how would you address that if it happens?
A.) It is possible that some coaches would remove players from the rosters early unless 2 things happen (see B)
1. All scholarship non-seniors listed on the roster at the beginning of the season are counted toward the scholarship count on National Signing Day. Coaches wouldn't have an incentive to purge the roster before signing day because it wouldn't allow them to sign an excess number of players.
2. Schools should have a second signing period in July to fill scholarship openings due to players who transfer, become academically ineligible, suffer a career ending injury, etc.
With these two provisions, coaches can address natural attrition without the ability to deny a signee a scholarship or remove an existing player due to oversigning. If all of the colleges played by the same rules, none would have an unfair advantage and players' educational opportunities would not be sacrificed.
Quick programming note - we are in the process of switching hosting services and going to unlimited bandwidth - but if the site goes down in the next 24 hours rest assured that we will be back shortly. The site has started gaining traction and people all over the country world are now starting to investigate oversigning.
We want everyone to know that this is a very large topic to investigate - wrapping your head around one roster can be maddening at times, much less trying to investigate 64 rosters. Our goal for this site is to stimulate fans around the country to investigate their programs or their rival's programs, if they want, to help determine who is signing more players than they have room for and who is doing the best job of staying within their recruiting budgets and retaining student-athlete football players.
Many people will say that LOI (Letters of Intent) don't count - only scholarships count. We don't believe that, we believe that LOI are like golf swings, every single one of them counts. If you accept a signed letter of intent, even if it is from the same player two or three years in a row, it counts, and we count them the same way for all schools. If you don't think it means anything, just ask the kids who sign those letters. If it didn't mean anything we wouldn't have all day TV coverage of National Signing Day.
Our initial charts have provided an excellent starting point in that it is one of the only places where you can see the sum total numbers for all BCS schools from 2002-2010 in one place, all nice and neat. You can get this same information by toggling through Rivals.com or Scout.com and going from team to team, year by year, but that is a lot of work. In fact, we created these tables because we got sick of having to toggle back and forth all the time while trying to start our investigation.
Regardless, we just wanted everyone to know that the goal of the site is to get everyone to help investigate the problem and bring it to light.
Now on to Stewart Mandel. It appears that he has discovered oversigning.com and agrees with our position that A. oversigning does exist and is not some made up fairy tale, and B. that while it is not an NCAA violation, it is a loophole in the NCAA rule book that needs to be addressed.
What really blows our mind is that the original question came from Sujith in Bangalore, India. Unbelievable.
Why doesn't the NCAA stop the process of oversigning football recruits? (See oversigning.com.) From 2002-2010 Auburn signed 83 more players than its last bowl opponent, Northwestern. Doesn't this give a major advantage to SEC programs in bowl games when they face teams like Ohio State and Texas, which do not oversign?
-- Sujith, Bangalore, India
This is why I love the Internet. I must confess, I was not aware of oversigning.com until receiving this e-mail. (I've since seen it referenced numerous places.) Hats off to the authors. They've done a tremendous job of shedding light on a largely under-covered topic through meticulous research and easy-to-digest data. They seem most concerned with the overlooked human consequence of this practice: coaches quietly cutting loose underperforming or injury-riddled veterans to make room for a new crop of recruits. Currently, the site is closely monitoring Alabama, which, as of the most recent post, still had 91 scholarship players on its projected 2010 roster, in its "March to 85."
It's been well-chronicled that SEC teams are the most prolific abusers of oversigning -- six of the eight schools that have signed the most recruits since 2002 hail from that league -- and the conference did take a step to curb the practice last year by capping the maximum number of players per signing class at 28. (The year before, Ole Miss signed a staggering 37.) Therefore, some of the disparity in the numbers will decline in coming years. But the reality is, oversigning goes hand in hand with another, unavoidable cause for competitive advantages and disadvantages, which is that some schools simply have lower admissions standards than others. Most schools that oversign do so knowing full well that several of their signees likely won't qualify academically, and in many cases they do so with the intent of stashing those players at junior colleges or prep schools of their choosing.
Seeing as the NCAA already has a pretty clear-cut rule in place capping scholarships at 25 per year, the only realistic way I could envision eliminating oversigning is if you put in place another rule stating that a prospect can't sign with a school until he becomes academically eligible. But that's sure to meet resistance both from coaches, who might end up with unfilled scholarships, and from recruits, many of whom use the spring and summer to improve their final high school GPA and test scores.
Another simple solution that we have suggested here is that the NCAA mandate that each school has to report its recruiting budget prior to signing day and that each school only be allowed to accept that many LOI. By reporting its recruiting budget we mean that each school has to determine, before signing day, the exact number of slots they will have open (which is simply 85 minus the number of returning scholarship players from the previous year - a formula that is used by the Big 10 and several schools around the country that refuse to oversign players - Vanderbilt, Georgia, GT, Notre Dame, etc) and only accept signed letters of intent from that many players. This will encourage coaches to only take players they know will qualify and will eliminate the loophole of signing 10 extra players and figuring out over the spring and summer who stays and who goes, thus eliminating the extra spring evaluation period that some coaches use.