Photo by SCOTT ROGERS; Photo illustration by Colin Dunlop | The Times
Adam's piece includes comments from various sources on the topic ranging from university presidents to high school recruits. Here are a couple of highlights:
1. Comments from Chad Hawley on the competitive advantage aspect of the differing oversigning rules, including him mentioning that if the SEC takes their new rules national that the B1G might attempt to do the same.
2. Comments from the University of Georgia's President and Athletic Director regarding oversigning and the possibility of redefining what a scholarship is both in terms of communicating the language and the length of the agreement.
3. Comments such as these from high school recruits and high school coaches:
Chaz Cheeks, a recent East Hall graduate who signed with Georgia Tech, said concerns of oversigning factored into him eliminating Ole Miss from his list of school choices.
“(East Hall football coach Bryan Gray) and I sat down and looked at all of the offers on the table, the pros and cons of each school,” Cheeks said. “Coach said (Ole Miss) was throwing out offers to everyone, and they probably weren’t the best situation for me to go into. Having a spot wasn’t something I wanted to worry about.”
Cheeks said he had greater concerns — like making sure he was academically eligible to attend college — than to have to worry about if his offer still stood once he made it to campus.
“I was just thinking of myself and what I had to do,” Cheeks said. “For those that do get oversigned and have to be let go, I think that’s real messed up on the school’s part. They’ve got to be more careful.”
After a short sabbatical, it appears the topic of oversigning is rising back to the top of the list of things people are talking about in the world of college football. Perhaps it's because college football talk in general is starting to crank back up again and you almost can't talk about college football without saying the word oversigning in the next breath. It is by far, one of the most polarizing topics in college athletics in a long, long time.
Here is a list of quick links from around the Internet lately:
"To get there, the Razorbacks have had to shed more than 40 percent of the 83 players who signed as part of Petrino's first three recruiting classes from 2008-10. Of that number, only five (juco signees in the 2009 class whose eligibility expired after last season) left as a result of "natural" attrition, meaning a full third of Petrino's signees have either failed to qualify, flunked out, been placed on medical hardship, been kicked off for legitimate rules violations, quit or — as we saw last week — been effectively cut from the roster."
"Nevertheless, the act of oversigning and grayshirting recruits has become a very polarizing issue in both the SEC and college football (but mainly the SEC) and Slive is now apparently determined to settle the matter once and for all.
Initial details are sketchy, but Slive has reportedly finished writing conference legislation that, at least in some way, would affect the the practice of oversigning. Whether the package supports oversigning, regulates it or abolishes it, though, Slive wouldn’t say."
Those are just a few of the many links to oversigning articles that have made the rounds lately. The hottest topic in our opinion is that Mike Slive has prepared legislation regarding oversigning and various roster management practices such as grayshirting, early enrollment, etc. The details have not been released yet, but it will be interesting to see the details of the proposed legislation and how all of the SEC presidents vote.
The coming weeks are going to get very interesting around here.
Bruce has written about this topic in the past, and as he mentioned in his blog, he was on the ESPN OTL Oversigning piece last year providing insight as to why oversigning is unethical and why coaches do it.
He was asked about it again recently in his mailbag on his blog and had this to say:
From @RowlffDogg Why doesn't the national media pay any attention to the practice of oversigning?
I've actually written about the subject several times and helped on a recent "Outside the Lines" segment on the issue. I was also the commentator discussing it in detail right after the near-10 minute piece aired.
One of the points I brought up on the show was about the practice of schools rewarding coaches with bonuses for signing a "top" class (either top 5, top 10 or top 25), or for landing a certain number of four-star players. With coaches having even more of an incentive to meet certain quotas and rankings, they often try to sign certain recruits that they know might have a very tough time qualifying academically.
I wrote about the "Sign-and-Place" method in "Meat Market," and for schools that deal heavily with junior college recruits, that also factors in. The process is this: Sign the shaky four-star prospect so that you can up your recruiting ranking, impress other prospective recruits, appease your fan base (and, in turn, the administration), increase your own chance of landing that recruiting bonus, and then send the players who can't get in academically to a junior college as if it's a farm system. If the kid turns out to be a complete knucklehead or flops on the field, you forget about him. If not, you didn't take up a spot for two years and then the juco coach, who is thrilled you sent him a talented player, has protected him for you and sends you back a more ready-to-play, developed prospect.
The rest is behind a paywall, so if you are an ESPN Insider (don't we all want to be?? haha) you can get the rest of his take on the topic. For those of you who have taken the position that there is nothing unethical about oversigning, perhaps this will change your mind.
Over a year ago, the blog Braves and Birds was one of the very first blogs to write about our site, to which we responded. What a difference a year makes. Michael, who writes the blog, was an early anti-oversigning.com blogger who didn't believe that the abuses we claimed were taking place existed:
Paging Bob Ley: In Scenario Two, Saban either tells a player directly that he needs to transfer or implies it with something along the lines of "we're going to make your life very difficult." If that's the case, then the Oversigning.com authors are absolutely right that Saban and other coaches like him in the SEC are deriving a competitive advantage from bringing in large classes and then cutting players who don't pan out. I don't see any evidence of that occurrence, but maybe some media outlet will do some reporting on players in the Alabama Diaspora. I can't imagine that it would be very hard to get a former player to say bad things about Saban and his staff is they are indeed cutting people. I don't see any media outlet in the State of Alabama taking up the cause, but ESPN? Yahoo!? Sports Illustrated? If the story is there, they would be foolish not to take it. Media attention to cutting players should be one of the two checks on oversigning. The other is negative recruiting from rivals. If Alabama really is intentionally cutting ten players per year, then that would be an awfully effective recruiting tool for Urban Meyer or Mark Richt.
At that time Michael was right, as no major media outlet had covered the oversigning topic. This site changed all of that and since that time every major sports media outlet has covered the topic, including ESPN's OTL coverage of LSU cutting players and the Wall Street Journal's coverage of Alabama pushing medical hardships to free up roster space on an oversigned roster. In addition, Florida and Georgia officials have been extremely outspoken about oversigning calling it morally reprehensible.
Michael recently wrote a short piece on oversigning and it appears that he, like many, many others, has changed his mind about oversigning:
There is an analogy to be made between efforts to end oversigning and the efforts to end Jim Crow laws. In both instances, a minority of entities were engaged in an exploitative practice to further their own self-interest. (Note the states where oversigning takes place and see if there is something of a correlation with the states that engaged in massive resistance to Brown v. Board.) The practice went on for a period of time until attention from the national media turned the minority of entities into outliers subject to intensifying criticism. Without the ability to filibuster NCAA legislation, I suspect that the schools that engage in oversigning will meet a similar fate.
We put this off for as long as humanly possible, but the time has finally come to start using twitter. Just to eliminate any confusion, there is a twitter account called Oversigning that has been around for a while and belongs to a reader of our site who is a strong advocate for banning oversigning in the SEC. The creation of our twitter account is not meant to diminish his efforts in any way, we just felt we needed to have an official presence on twitter and to use it to send out links to articles, brief messages when we don't have time to post something, or retweet messages relevant to oversigning.
Lorenzo Mauldin, former South Carolina commitment, signed a LOI with Louisville today. Chip Towers, who has been doing a great job covering the oversigning topic lately, has more on the details of Mauldin's story, which is a remarkable one. Here are a few quotes from Chip's piece that are very disturbing:
Since he already had a signing ceremony planned, Mauldin went through the motions on Feb. 2. He signed a fake LOI and put on a South Carolina cap for cameras at his school. The Gamecocks went on to sign 32 other players to national letters, including the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Jadeveon Clowney, who did not sign until Feb. 14.
Sure wish Chip Towers could ask the South Carolina coaching staff if their bonuses are based on recruiting rankings on the Rivals and Scout sites and whether or not those bonuses are prorated to account for the signing of a fake letter of intent.
“I don’t believe they thought I would make the [qualifying test] score. It kind of made me feel like they were wishing for me to not make the score."
“The way South Carolina did me was not an ideal situation because I didn’t expect it to happen. But it did, so when it came down to it, I just took it as another trial in life and decided to overcome it. So I went on some visits to see what other teams had to offer and I liked Louisville.”
Mauldin said he did not inform South Carolina of his decision and hasn’t spoke with its coaches for a while.
“I’m sure they found out through media,” he said. “They still haven’t contacted me and I haven’t made an effort to contact them either. Once again, I felt like there was some favoritism going on there. I kind of gave up on that situation.”
Here's hoping Lorenzo realizes that there is more to college than football and that he makes the most of his opportunities at Louisville. For a kid who has been through as much as he has hopefully the stability of knowing where he will be for the next 4-5 years will help him make the most of this opportunity. Hat's off to Charlie Strong and Louisville for being straight with the kid instead of jerking him around like South Carolina.
We have been busy the last couple of days exchanging emails with Ramogi Huma, President at NCPA and Chad Hawley, Associate Commissioner from the Big 10 Conference regarding oversigning. We have two interesting pieces coming, hopefully later tonight, if not we'll have them up tomorrow. Here are some tidbits.
1. Ramogi Huma brought it to our attention that he provided testimony during a legislative hearing in the state of Connecticut to propose legislation that would require institutions to state whether or not they engage in oversigning and if they do what the ramifications are for the student-athlete. There were several other topics discussed during the hearing and included in the proposal. In addition, Mr. Huma was gracious enough to do a question and answer session with us via email, in which he has some very interesting comments on the topic of oversigning, and we will be sharing that with you soon as well.
2. In an effort to continue to work on the recruiting numbers for the oversigning cup, we sent a request to Chad Hawley regarding the numbers for Big 10 Conference teams, in addition, we asked Mr. Hawley to share with us how the Big 10 rules work for monitoring the signing process, specifically the monitoring of oversigning. As with Mr. Huma, Mr. Hawley was gracious enough to give us a detailed account of how the Big 10 office monitors oversigning and we will be sharing that with you as well. Note: Mr. Hawley sheds some light on a few things we did not know that all of you should find very interesting.
We gave you the first one a while back which came from an Alabama blog, and now we give you exhibit B of what we consider to be some of the worst articles ever written on the topic. We can only hope that there are SEC fans that are embarrassed by this kind of nonsense. Perhaps Mike Slive should print it out for the conference meetings, surely he agrees with this blogger's assessment of the oversigning situation. Allows us to summarize for you:
Almost everyday there is a new athletic director or coach publicly denouncing oversigning or stating that they will refuse to do it. Today we add Tom Osborne and Nebraska to the list. See his comments in the second paragraph.
What are some of those differences between the Big Ten and the Big 12?
TO: There are some relatively minor issues. In the Big 12, we were able to furnish complementary tickets to all of our student-athletes to football and to men's basketball games. This is not true in the Big Ten, so we've had to notify all of our student-athletes. For other athletic contests like baseball and track, we can give them tickets. That's not a huge thing. There are some minor issues in terms of academics. There are a few changes in the idea of oversigning. At Nebraska, we've had I think an average of 4.4 [baseball] players per year who have opted to go into Major League Baseball after their junior seasons. Under Big Ten rules, it's very difficult to replace those 4.4 players. You can replace maybe a couple of them.
We don't believe in oversigning, signing more letters of intent than you have spots. We've never done that in football, we don't do it in any of our sports, but we do feel in a couple areas, the Big Ten might be a little more restrictive than what we've encountered. Although it's nothing major.
We appreciate the stability, we appreciate the collegiality we've seen within the Big Ten. There is a good deal of concern about the welfare, the health of the league, as opposed to individual desires to get a bigger piece of the pie. That's probably a healthy thing because the long-term viability of the league eventually serves everyone well.
Are these coaches adhering to the letter of the law by oversigning? Yes. Spirit of the law? No.
That's basically what college coaches are telling you when they sign more recruits than they have roster spots. The NCAA says you can sign a maximum of 25 each recruiting year and have a max of 85 on scholarship. That doesn't keep coaches from oversigning as a hedge against academic problems, for example. We knew scholarships were renewable year-to-year. What the world is finding out that it's a minefield just to get to that first season with a scholarship.
The stories of kids having schollies ripped are piling up at an alarming rate. The long-standing practice of oversigning became more of an issue in the past recruiting season because until they're kept from doing it, coaches are going to keep abusing the loophole.
Sounds like the SEC East has decided to take a stand against the SEC West and the oversigning abuse that takes place at Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn (Note: Auburn's oversigning issues were primarily in the Tuberville era -- Gene Chizik has had room the last two years for his numbers).
According to McGarity, “I think it will be a topic for discussion (at SEC meetings) in Destin this year.”
“I think you will see controls in place,” McGarity said. “Now what that model will look like will be determined later -- sooner than later. … I think you'll see it being dealt with at the conference level much like the Big Ten (Conference) deals with it currently.”
SEC teams currently are limited to 28 signees in a certain class. But there are technical ways around the 28, such as the ability to count prospects that enroll early to the previous year.
In the Big Ten, teams are restricted from recruiting more than the 85 players. This has led to cries that Big Ten schools continue to play against a stacked deck when it comes to the SEC, which has an ongoing five-year streak of BCS titles.
“No question it gives the SEC a big advantage," former Ohio State coach John Cooper recently told The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. "And let's face it -- they don't need another advantage.”
McGarity’s preference would be a rule similar to what the Big Ten has in place. By instituting that, McGarity says the SEC could then help initiate change on the national level.
“For instance, if you know you're going to lose 20 student-athletes at the end of the year, then you basically should be able to sign that amount,” McGarity said. “I know there's several proposals out there that we'll discuss later. But I think there has to be some controls in place that prevent oversigning from occurring.
“And it should be based on the number of individuals that you're graduating or that are moving on to the NFL or choose to transfer at the appropriate time. We've got a lot of work to do to work through that process, but I think in general, (we should do) whatever we can do to avoid the situations that have developed here recently.”
One thing is for sure, in order for oversigning to go away in the SEC you are going to have to cut the head off of the snake and make 100% sure that no one is abusing the practice -- all it takes is one school doing it and the rest will feel as though they have to do it in order to keep up.
Adopting the Big 10 rules for oversigning is the ideal short-term solution. However, given how hard it has been to get the SEC to address this issue, we would not be surprised to see a new loophole emerge as a result of banning oversigning.
Jon and Kevin both work for The Birmingham News and both have recently written some very good articles on the topic of oversigning (and yes, the al.com site search for the word "oversigning" nets 18,000+ links on the al.com website -- wow). Scarbinsky, more so than Solomon, has incurred the wrath of Alabama fans for his comments regarding Nick Saban, so much so that subscribers have threatened to boycott The Birmingham News. We personally commend both Jon Solomon and Kevin Scarbinsky for covering oversigning they way they have, which has been both thorough and professional. And kudos to the Birmingham News for standing behind them.
The writing is on the wall. The abuse of this loophole has been uncovered for all to see and the only people defending its practice are the coaches that are exploiting it and the fans of those coaches. Most objective, rational-minded folks see this for what it is and are against it.
Kevin and Jon touch on all of the aspects of oversigning in this podcast. Jump to the 10:15 minute mark to hear the beginning of their comments on oversigning.
This might be considered slightly off-topic in that the article we are linking doesn't directly mention oversigning, but the point we want to illustrate is that college football recruiting has become as big of a game as the actual game played on the field; it even has its own National Championship ranking on National Signing Day. We have written about this in the past and this video of Randy Edsall is one of our all-time favorites.
Today, Matt Hinton takes a look back at Lane Kiffen and Ed Orgeron's recruiting class of 2009 which paints an ugly picture of the recruiting "game." Oversigning is a byproduct of this game, as is the medical hardship issue and the greyshirting issue, and the one thing they all have in common is that they lead to the exploitation of kids by coaches. Not all coaches are this way; for every one scumbag coach that only cares about jacking up the recruiting rankings and landing a bonus or another gig because "he's a great recruiter," there are probably 3-4 or more coaches that are really sincere and really care about the future of their kids.
In Division I college football this practice is known as "grayshirting" and, unfortunately, there are universities that sanction this activity. The universities, with full knowledge of what they are doing, extend more athletic scholarships than they have. These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people. If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it's legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.
Associated with "grayshirting" -- and equally disgusting -- is the nefarious practice of prematurely ending student-athletes' scholarships. Some are just not renewed even though the student-athlete is doing what is asked of him.
Some students are mysteriously given a "medical exemption" which ends their athletic careers -- and makes another scholarship available for the football coach to hand out.
To be clear, greyshirting is not the core issue here...it is the ethics and lack of a moral compass that leads to the, as Machen describes it, disgusting practice of pushing kids into medical hardships or cutting them from their scholarship. There is a particular coach in the SEC who is selling the greyshirt model and that same coach has had just as many or more medical hardships (13) than the rest of the SEC combined in the last 4-5 years. That is not by accident and it appears that Mr. Machen has had enough of it.
We believe that when handled properly, with complete transparency and extra care given to protect the student-athlete, there are unique situations that constitute a greyshirt opportunity.
Jon Solomon with an excellent piece on oversigning. Here is a reader response to Jon's article. It is amazing how widespread this mentality is regarding student-athletes and college athletics.
You have to over sign to keep the freeloaders off the teams, leave it to you Bugsy to try and cause a stir. You're getting as bad as your twin Scarbo.
You take a kid like Tyler Love, he's never made one single contribution to that team is it right that he continues to have a free ride? He was a 4 or 5 star prospect. Nothing but dead weight. B. J Scott he couldn't find a spot on the either. Is it fair for him to just sit there? I think not, give him chance to play somewhere else, and make room for a new player.
Why don't you take a trip to Afrika, Bugsy, I hear the lions are hungry on the Serengeti Plain.
LSU Reveille with an interesting piece on LSU's scholarship numbers. They point out that LSU is facing a scholarship reduction of 2 this recruiting class because of recruiting violations. This means they can only have 83 total on scholarship this year and can only sign 23 this year. As we pointed out, they had an extremely small senior class of around 11-13 guys. By the time you take away the 2 scholarships from the NCAA penalty, they have room for a legitimate 8-11. Let's say there is some wiggle room and the number is 15. Right now they have 21 verbal commitments and according to the article they plan on taking a full 23.
This is one of the best articles written on the current state of oversigning. National Media Members, you have been given your marching orders - drill these coaches about their numbers - generate heat on the coaches, university presidents, and the NCAA. It is the only way that the abuse of oversigning and the lying and abusing of kids will stop. Now is the time!!!
Our general theme with regards to the Elliott Porter story and the media's coverage of it has been that most people are missing the point with regards to the numbers - most media outlets are focused on the fact that Les Miles signed 27 and it was 2 over the single year 25 limit, completely missing the bigger issue which was that LSU was over the 85 limit based on what they lost from graduation/early entry into the NFL and what they signed (27). They should have signed 18 recruits, not 27. 18 was all they had room for under the 85 limit and had LSU resided in the Big 10 Conference and not the SEC they would have been required to sign 18 and would not have been allowed to sign 27.
However, in our haste to point out that everyone missed the boat with regards to the numbers, we glossed over how the mainstream media missed the target and the real root of the problem all together, OVERSIGNING.
Eagle-eyed Tony Gerdeman didn't miss it though. Gerdeman has been on the right side of this topic from the very beginning. He knows the deal and he understands what is really going on with these coaches in the SEC that exploit the oversigning loophole. In his weekly installment of The Week that Was, Gerdeman comments on the article we mentioned above and adds a really great point that we totally missed.
The gist of the article is detailing the way Miles told incoming freshman offensive lineman Elliott Porter that he needed him to grayshirt—and this was after he was already moved into his dorms, which then forced Porter to ask for his release and try to find somewhere else to go to college.
But that's not what really bothered me about the article. We all know Les Miles has character issues—he went to Michigan for crying out loud, so I don't really feel the need to stoke that tire fire anymore than it's already burning.
My issue is with the way the practice of oversigning was just glossed over in the article, and how perhaps the most ethical way of dealing with oversigning was actually vilified.
Yeah, offering a grayshirt is a jerk move that late in the deal, but it very much beats getting cut. At least the student athlete was given a choice in the matter. Normally in the SEC, they aren't.
Maybe I'm mistaken, but I don't recall the Big Ten ever outlawing grayshirting as the article indicated. You just never hear about it because it isn't used to fitting 27 players into 24 slots.
And it certainly isn't discussed half a year after national signing day.
We wrote a piece on greyshirting being okay, but we really missed the point that greyshirting was vilified more than the oversigning - the focus should be on the oversigning because without it there is no greyshirting of players. This is like a drunk driver hitting another car and the victim dying on the way to the hospital because of a bumpy ambulance ride and everyone vilifies the medical staff and the ambulance driver while the drunk driver slides under the radar.
Sounds crazy doesn't it?
But that's kind of what happened. Everyone was too busy looking at what Les Miles did with the greyshirt process and vilifying it, while the real culprit (oversigning) slid out the backdoor barely even noticed. Heck, even oversigning.com, the only blog on the entire Internet dedicated solely to oversigning missed it because we were too busy correcting everyone for missing the real point behind the numbers (that it wasn't the 25 per year rule that was the problem it was the 85 total that was the problem).
Great work Tony!
In the end, the Elliott Porter story and how Les Miles handled everything should have taught everyone the following:
1. Oversigning is the real problem - if the SEC had a ban on oversigning this would never happen.
2. The greyshirt process is not the issue and is not the villian here. When handled correctly and in the right situations, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a greyshirt opportunity. We would like to see the NCAA add a few rules to further regulate the practice and create transparency, but in the end greyshirting is not to blame - oversigning is.
3. The main issue with LSU and Les Miles (outside of the piss poor way he pulled Porter's scholarship away from him at the last minute) was not that he went 2 over the 25 limit in a single class, but rather that he went 9 over the 85 limit on National Signing day when he accepted signed letters of intent that bound 27 new recruits to LSU in a ONE-WAY agreement that they can't get out of and at the time he only had 18 openings. That is the core of the issue and that is oversigning. LSU had room for 18 recruits, not 27, and had they signed 21 instead of 27 they would have still had a problem, despite not being over the 25 per year rule.
4. Oversigning causes kids to get screwed and it has got to stop. This is the very reason why the Big 10 banned oversigning all together decades ago.
List of Athletic Directors, University Presidents, and Coaches that have publicly defended their practice of oversigning.
All 12 SEC Coaches voted to keep oversigning, these are the most vocal:
Huston Nutt - Ole Miss
Bobby Petrino - Arkansas
Steve Spurrier - South Carolina
Nick Saban - Alabama
Les Miles - LSU
Larry Blakeney - Troy
Tommy Tuberville - Texas Tech
Working on an update to the cup standings using the number of players signed. Time consuming process. Hope to have it finished soon. Until then, take a look at the number of players signed for each BCS conference.