College football recruiting is a mysterious world. In order to understand how the numbers work or when they are being abused, one must first understand common recruiting terminology. Below is a list of keywords or phrases you will see on this site (and various other sites) when talking about recruiting.
1. Oversigning - We define oversigning on this site as the act of accepting more signed letters of intent on National Signing Day then you have room for under the 85 scholarship limit.
There are varying degrees of oversigning, some not quite as bad as others. Regardless, we believe any time you sign more players than you have room for and you have to depend on either the player you signed to not be academically eligible or for a current player to be cut from a team in order to stay under the 85 scholarship limit and bring in the newly signed commitments that it hurts the kids involved and the sport as a whole.
Oversigning is not just signing more than 25 players in a single recruiting class; it is signing more prospects than you project having room for under the 85 scholarship limit. For example, if you have 65 player returning on scholarship on National Signing Day and you sign 23, you have oversigned by 3 because 65+23 = 88. Therefore, even though you didn't go over 25 in a single class, you have oversigned.
Simply put, it is our opinion that there is no place for oversigning in College Football.
2. Recruiting Budget - the number of players that can be taken in the coming recruiting class. Typically, the formula is (85 - # of Players on Scholarship) = Recruiting Budget. As mentioned above, if you have 65 players on scholarship your recruiting budget is 20 players. This has absolutely nothing to do with money or tax dollars.
3. Verbal Commitment - simply a commitment by a recruit to attend a certain school; this is not binding and does not factor into oversigning.
4. LOI - Letter of Intent (or sometimes referenced as a National Letter of Intent) - a binding agreement between a recruit and a university stating that the recruit will attend the university. More information here.
5. Gray shirt - the NCAA rules state that college football players have 5 calendar years to complete 4 seasons of play. When a recruit enters the program they can defer scholarship benefits until the following calendar year. This restricts them from certain team activities, but in terms of the scholarship numbers they don't count until the following year. Often times, coaches will ask borderline guys to take a gray shirt (if they can afford it) to free up a scholarship. This usually applies to players who would be considered tweeners between being a walk-on player or a scholarship player.
6. 85/25 Rule - basically, every school is limited to 85 total scholarship players each year, with no more than 25 scholarship players enrolled in a single season. This rule started in 1987 when schools were limited to 95 scholarships (prior to 1987 there were no limitations, but due to the number of programs stockpiling players just so other schools couldn't get them the NCAA saw fit to put a limitation on the number of players on scholarship). The number was dropped from 95 to 92 in 1992, then dropped again in 1993 to 88, and finally to 85 in 1994.
7. Back counting - is the practice of counting a recruit to the previous year's numbers. Two things must happen in order for a school to back count a recruit to the previous class: 1.) the previous year's class must be under 25, and 2.) the recruit must enroll early (in December).
8. Early enrollment - is required in order for back counting to work. If a player's scholarship is to count back to the previous year, then the recruit must enroll early.