Monday morning, Big 10 Conference Commissioner, Jim Delany, is scheduled to hold a press conference and announce that the Big 10 Conference is going to back to their pre-2002 rules on oversigning which bans the practice completely by working with a hard cap of 85, and he is going to demand that the NCAA make it a national rule.
Okay, he's not going to do that, but imagine if he did! Imagine the outrage around the country, especially down in SEC country if Jim Delany tried to do what Mike Slive just did, which was to push his rules on others by trying to make them national rules.
The pre-2002 rules in the Big 10 were originally created in 1956 and completely banned oversigning by limiting coaches to only being allowed to offer and accept as many scholarships as they had available under the annual maximum roster limit, in present day it is 85. So for example, if a school had 16 scholarship openings come National Signing Day, they could offer and receive 16 signed letters of intent for new scholarships, not 37 Houston Nutt, 16. Talk about making it hard on coaches. Talk about working at a competitive disadvantage. But they did it and they did it 50+ years ago because it was the right thing to do, regardless of what other conferences were doing.
Before we get started, we highly recommend that you consider using Twitter to follow this topic, it is the best place to go to get links to articles on oversigning as they come out. It is really amazing how information flows through Twitter. We'll try to retweet as many articles as possible so they will show up in the sidebar here so those of you not on twitter can read them. On to the good stuff...
Now that the dust is settling on the SEC's new "roster management" legislation, the general consensus appears to be that the media is not buy what the SEC is selling. As we mentioned yesterday, this was strictly a PR move by the conference to try and appease the media while at the same time not get on board with REAL legislation that completely eradicates the exploitation and abuse that takes place in oversigning. Was it better than nothing, sure, but let's be honest, could they really do nothing?
Our biggest criticism is that if the SEC wants to move to national legislation on oversigning, why didn't they invite their colleagues to the table for discussion before creating what they want as the national legislation? Why is the SEC pushing so hard for THEIR rules to be national rules? The answer is simple, this was never about being ethical or doing the right thing, this is about competitive advantages, something coaches made very clear in their 12-0 vote to not change the rules and something SEC fans have been accusing Big 10 fans of whining about ever since this topic came up. For SEC fans, the only reason this is even an issue is because Big 10 fans think they are at a competitive disadvantage. Irconically, when forced to do something about oversigning, it was the SEC that showed its hand and revealed that oversigning is about a competitive advantage and if they have to give it up then the rest of the country MUST follow suit. For months and months we heard that there is no competitive advantage in oversigning, that myth has been busted.
Could you imagine if the roles were reversed and it was the Big 10 doing what the SEC is doing?
What if the Big 10 announced that they were going to go back to their pre-2002 rules were there was absolutely ZERO oversigning and they EXPECTED the NCAA to make it a national rule? The outrage would destroy the sport. Just to make sure we have this right, the conference that was the worst abuser of the unethical practice of oversigning declares that it is doing something about it and, by God, the rest of the country is going to follow along. The funny part is that the new rules they are touting are not as restrictive as the B1G rules when you consider that if a school has 16 openings the new SEC rule still allows for 25 signees; that's oversigning by 9. The B1G rule would only allow that school to sign 19, which is only 3 over. If you are a self-respecting college football fan you should be insulted, especially if you are an SEC fan that really cares about the conference and the sport.
But here's the good news, and it really is good for sport of college football and all of college athletics. The door is now open. There is a very real chance that we will get everyone to sit down at the table and draft real meaningful rules on oversigning that addresses the problem at its root, the number 85, and yet still provides competitive equality with regards to the number of players each school is signing each year.
The NCAA has an obligation to create national rules on oversigning that make it clear that hoarding players and playing games with the numbers to gain a competitive advantage through highly unethical behavior has no place in the sport they regulate, that every recruit and current player IN EVERY CONFERENCE will be protected from forced attrition, and that every conference competing for BCS bowl spots and the money that comes with it will be on equal footing when it comes to the number of players they can recruit and sign.
Sports Blog, Get the Picture, which has been following this topic for a long time, has a nice post up on the days events and points out that Chris Low sees the shortcomings of the new legislation. Highly recommended reading.
For a much stronger take, from a Northwestern perspective, check out Lake the Post's latest piece on the new SEC legislation.
Math. Basic math. Per NCAA rules a team is limited to having 85 scholarship players on its roster. The biggest bullshit is the PR spin term they’re using – “roster management”. If you follow the backchannel talk on this type of stuff you’ll know this is a direct response to the heat the conference is getting for oversigning. Yet, somehow they’re using the scholarship cap per season as some sort of veiled attempt to be ethical.
Finally, we stand up loud and proud for our friends at Oversigning.com who make my obsession with Northwestern football look like a mainstream action. The entire site is dedicated, passionately, to this issue. Yesterday was the equivalent of NU going to the Rose Bowl in terms of frequency of posts and “OMG” moments. I can’t do the blog justice as there are so many damn good points on the SEC reaction including the absolutely insane totalitarian Nick Saban stance...
The ShreveportTimes.com has a piece up on the SEC coaches losing to the SEC presidents. Interesting comments from Les Miles and LSU AD, Joe Alleva. Our advice to them is that oversigning college football recruits is not how you solve the problem of poor elementary and secondary education systems, in fact, by oversigning you are enabling those systems, to the degree that they play a role in preparing a kid for a scholarship in college football, to continue to fail kids instead of forcing them to improve.
"I think there are academic risks in the SEC recruiting pool," Miles said. "And I think at times you take some of those risks with the idea that you'll have a plan B for him. Then you'll be able to direct him comfortably and delay enrollment. I think that those things are certainly healthy.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, a former Duke athletic director, has noticed the difference in recruiting in the Deep South as opposed to recruiting the state of North Carolina at Duke, where academic risks are usually not taken.
“You’ve got to understand, the elementary education and secondary education in the state of Louisiana is not the best in the world,” said Alleva, who wanted the limit to remain 28. “So we have kids coming out, and we don’t know if they are going to qualify or not. We don’t know if they’re going to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse and be eligible.
Our overall take on the situation:
This proposal was a reaction to all of the bad publicity (which to be honest started right here at oversigning.com), and while it does attempt to curb some of the excesses it does not address the core issue of oversigning, which is preventing schools from signing over the 85 limit. Ridding a conference of the abuses that place because of oversigning is a process that requires building a culture throughout all of the conference sports; clearly the legislation that was passed today does NOTHING to address oversigning in baseball which is just as bad, if not worse than football, and proves that if the SEC University Presidents truly believe in what they say about oversigning and its morally reprehensible actions they would not tolerate it in baseball. Baseball was never addressed by the SEC because we never addressed it here, well we did once, but that was a long time ago.
You see while they have been playing checkers by floating out a Red Herring with their 25-28 rules, we have been playing chess by getting them to admit that oversigning is wrong, morally reprehensible, and not to be tolerated in college athletics. Eliminating exploitation through oversigning is a cultural and ethical decision, and if you don't believe in it then you put things in place to eliminate it everywhere in your athletic programs. SEC officials told the world today that they don't believe in it, yet they never addressed it in regards to baseball, and that is because we never attacked it here and there was no bad publicity regarding oversigning in baseball. There is no argument that can be made against that statement. Their move today was based on bad publicity, not a desire to rid the conference of a culture of oversigning and exploitation.
Update: The main point we were trying to make here is that the new "roster management" legislation is the result of bad publicity, not because the SEC administrators woke up one morning and decided to reshape the conference's philosophy on oversigning and player exploitation. Although we started the ball rolling in a major way by launching this site, it took national and local sports writers, ESPN's OTL, bloggers, sports-talk radio hosts, fans posting on message boards, and a lot of other people to make this happen.
Another tactical error on the SEC's part today was demanding that the NCAA institute their new oversigning rule nationwide. This opens a whole new can of worms. Just like the SEC would not allow the Big 10 rule to be pushed on them, the Big 10 should not allow the SEC to raise the bar nationally to allow more oversigning than the Big 10 currently allows under their rules that address the 85 limit. This is the first step in getting the NCAA to the table and to start discussions about true national, NCAA rules on oversigning.
It is our hope they can find a happy medium that first addresses and eliminates the exploitation and morally reprehensible actions, and secondly creates a completely level playing field where every conference is signing players the same way. It's going to be a tough task, but with everyone at the table it can be done. Had the Big 10 pushed for this it would have been rejected because no one would want their ultra restrictive rules pushed on them, but by Slive, out of fear that they might lose their competitive advantage, demanding that the NCAA adopt their new rules nationally, he has opened the door for more substantive discussion. Surely the SEC doesn't think it is going to do what it wouldn't allow the Big 10 to do, push its rules on everyone else, right?
From here on out we'll be focusing on the national discussion to come up with new national rules for oversigning, rules that won't allow what these will when a school has 16 openings and can still sign 25 guys and cut 9, but instead provides for fair and equitable treatment for the players and competitive equality for the schools and conferences.
We're probably going to start talking about oversigning in baseball now too.
Nick Saban and other SEC coaches, as well as SEC fans, want you to believe that by removing their ability to oversign you are going to eliminate educational opportunities for recruits. Hogwash. What they are afraid of is having to tell a kid they want that they don't have room and then have that kid go to a rival school that does have room.
Removing oversigning doesn't eliminate educational opportunities, it realocates those opportunities in a way that prevents student-athletes that are already receiving the opportunity from losing it. The real problem SEC coaches and fans have is the reallocation of those opportunities. In order to believe that removing oversigning removes educational opportunities, you have to believe that if a recruit is unable to go to the school on the top of his list because they don't have room for him that he will not go to college at all and will have no other offers or opportunities at other schools. Myth.
If a school has 27 openings, but can only sign 25 it will leave two scholarships that coaches will have to give to deserving 4th or 5th year walk-on players for one year until the next recruiting class comes around and they can sign a new recruit with the intention of keeping him for the next 4-5 years.
For some reason, fans seem to think that all walk-on players are rich and don't need a scholarship, and that they are just being used as tackling dummies for the fun of it. Not true. There are walk-on players that are every bit as needy as scholarship recruits; the only difference between the two groups is talent and in some cases there are walk-on players that are actually better than some that are on scholarship.
Scholarships will not be wasted, period. In fact, some coaches say that the greatest joy they get is from being able to award a scholarship to a deserving 4th or 5th year senior as a reward for all their hard work, dedication, and doing things right in the classroom and off the field.
The last two days of quotes and responses from SEC coaches, athletic directors, and now university presidents and the president of the NCAA Mark Emmert, have made one thing crystal clear, they either do not fully understand the issue of oversigning or they are using the hard cap of 25 as a red herring to divert the average fan's attention away from the real number that counts, 85.
University of South Carolina President, Harris Pastides said today that he hopes that whatever the SEC does that the NCAA will force the rest of the country to follow along. First off, his comments indicate that the competitive advantage aspect of the oversigning issue is much more important than the ethical treatment of players. Secondly, Harris Patides obivously knows nothing about how the Big 10 Conference handles oversigning, because if he did he would realize that they have been 50+ years ahead of the curve on this issue.
"We'd love the SEC to play a lead role in doing the right thing," Pastides said. "We would hope the NCAA would adopt whatever we would do. That's where our ADs and coaches are. They don't want us to be so far out in front that we're the only league that clamps down on that."
NCAA President Mark Emmert, who met with SEC presidents and chancellors today, said it's possible the league's position on oversigning could become national legislation.
"It's certainly an issue that's more important to the SEC right now than other conferences," Emmert said. "So if they come out with a good position, it may well be one that could become a national standard."
"We certainly know that our football advocates would prefer there's a so-called level playing field," Pastides said. "I think the challenge is do we go first and hope (the nation) will follow? And what if we go first and they don't follow? Do we go back to 28? Nobody sees that happening."
The lead role??? Are you kidding. The Big 10 Conference banned the practice of oversigning in 1956 and only relaxed its rules slightly in 2002 to allow for 3 over a school's limit with tons of transparency. The SEC is not taking the lead role here folks, they are playing catch up ball.
The key element that is lost on so many involved in this topic is that you have to address this at the 85 total limit, not the annual 25 limit. If a Big 10 school has 16 roster openings to get to 85 on national signing day then they can sign up to 19 new recruits, provided there is proper documentation and approval from the conference office. That's it, they can go three over the limit of 85.
If the NCAA tried to force a hard cap at 25, a school with 16 openings could still sign 9 over the 85 limit by signing a class of 25. How does that address or even curb oversigning? It doesn't.
Setting a hard cap that remains static every year is not the answer, and it will never be the answer because the number of openings each year fluctuates. Schools are allowed to have 85 scholarship players every year; some years schools will have 16 openings some years schools will have 25. Therefore the limit needs to fluctuate with the amount of legitimate openings at national signing day and it should be based on getting to 85, not 25.
But what about attrition after national signing day? The vast majority of that can be mitigated, as rules tighten on oversigning so will the recruiting practices. Fewer borderline kids will be recruited because the expectation on STUDENT-athletes will be that they have to be prepared for college, remain eligible academically while in college, and not just gifted athletically. A lot of the attrition that we see post national signing day is forced attrition due to oversigning, so all of that will be gone. The rest, coaches will just have to deal with. They can award a 1 year scholarship to a deserving walk-on and fill the slot next year with a new recruit they expect to have for 4-5 years. This is a perfectly workable solution that eliminates the exploitation of players through the oversigning loophole.
When you demand excellence from student-athletes you will get it (just ask schools that are already doing it: ND, NW, PSU, Vandy, etc), but when you have a system that says to the student-athlete that they don't have to be prepared for college when they come in, they don't have to take classwork seriously when they get there and they don't have to keep their nose clean because they can easily be replaced via oversigning, you have a system that goes against everything college athletics is supposed to be about, which is the enrichment of the educational experience through competition in athletics. We didn't make that up by the way, that is supposed to be part of the mission of the NCAA.
As fans and alumni, we should demand more from university presidents, they should demand more from athletic directors, they should demand more from coaches, and coaches should demand more from student-athletes. To do otherwise by exploiting a loophole such as oversigning in order to run through kids in search of the best football talent is what is really hurting kids.
We can't seem to get the video player to embed in our page here so here's a direct link to the video on Brook's site.
There are several key elements in the video. The money shot comes at 1:35 mark when Saban tells Ian Rapoport the numbers are none of his business and no one needs to know and the fans don't ask. My how times have changed. Why didn't Saban defend his oversigning practice as good for kids at this point?
Another key element in the video is Mark Richt's comments about oversigning where he claims that other coaches are not being ethical when they oversign.
Today was, by far, the busiest day for oversigning news since national signing day. As you already know, the SEC coaches met today in Destin, Florida and briefly discussed how to divert the attention away from oversigning by having Steve Spurrier announce that he and a few other coaches think they should pay 70 players on each team $300 per game. Didn't see that coming did you? We didn't either, but nicely played by the old ball coach.
“They can give it to their parents for travel, lodging, meals. Maybe they could take their girlfriend out Sunday night or Saturday night and so forth,” Spurrier said. “A bunch of our coaches felt so strongly about it that we’d be willing to pay. Seventy guys, 300 bucks a game. That’s only $21,000 bucks a game.
“I doubt it will get passed. But as coaches, we make all the money, as do universities and television, and we need to give more to our players. That was just something we need to get out there.”
It's statements like that from Spurrier that remind us that coaches should stick to the X's and O's of football and leave the rest to school administrators, conference commissioners, and the NCAA.
Back to what we learned today.
Yes, the SEC coaches did meet today, and yes, they did discuss the topic of oversigning and conducted a vote on the proposal drawn up by the SEC athletic directors and approved by the conference commissioner, Mike Slive.
Typically that indicates an undefeated regular season and a trip to the SEC championship game for the right to win the next National Championship, on this day, however, it meant that all 12 SEC coaches are against the new legislation that would attempt to curb oversigning and address the other roster management areas that have become a concern.
Not that we expected them to vote in favor of the new legislation, but for those of us who are against oversigning and want to see it removed from college athletics there is still hope. The coaches are not going to be the ones giving the final vote, and for good reason because if that were the case Houston Nutt would vote to set the signing limit at 80, Spurrier would vote to pay players out of his own pocket, and Saban would vote to have the bump rule reinstated. We have no idea what Les Miles would vote for because it is impossible to figure out what goes on under the hat.
Instead, the university presidents will get the final vote on Friday and that will be the one that counts. If we had to guess, the coaches already know which way this is going to go and they are just making sure all of their fans know that they did not vote to have restrictions placed on their recruiting habits. Kind of sets up nicely down the road should the new legislation pass and have the affect that Saban thinks it will have on the conference:
"In my opinion," Saban told ESPN.com, "it (cutting signee numbers) would really affect the quality in our league."
For all of the tough talk on oversigning that Mark Richt has been giving lately and all of the praise he has received for said tough talk, when he voted in favor of the status quo today it could only mean one of two things:
1. He already knows the outcome (that the presidents are going to vote in favor of it) and he doesn't want to piss the rest of the other coaches off by being the one guy who voted in favor of the new legislation, or...
2. He has been talking out of both sides of his mouth in order to project a certain image.
Either way, Richt missed a golden opportunity to be regarded as the second coming of Bobby Dodd and we are moving him out of the list of people against oversigning. It would have been perfectly acceptable for Richt to say that the same thing Muschamp said today, but instead Richt went back on his previous stance by saying he's okay with oversigning as long as everyone knows what's going on up front. We have always had a lot of respect for Mark Richt on this site for his previous stance on oversigning -- it would have been nice for him to take a stand, publicly, in front of his peers.
"We don’t over-sign," Muschamp said. "That’s a policy we have at the university. We’ve been successful, so it’s not an issue for us."
We'll be moving Muschamp to the "against oversigning" list.
This should probably go in a separate post, but we'll put it here to help curb the outrage from Alabama fans. Saban raised some very interesting points today with his remarks to the media after the meeting where he blamed them for the increased scrutiny saying:
"You all are creating a bad problem for everybody," Saban told reporters. "You're going to mess up kids' opportunities by doing what you're doing. You think you're helping 'em but you're really hurting 'em. It took one case where somebody didn't get the right opportunity. You need to take the other 100 cases where somebody got an opportunity."
So let's get this right, by the media analyzing what is going on with oversigning and documenting the stories of guys like Elliott Porter, Steven Wesley, and Chris Garrett, just to name 3, and how those kids were completely screwed by oversigning, it is now responsible for creating a problem for EVERYONE. Really?
The general consensus of the media is that oversigning has to go, both for reasons of ethical treatment of players and competitive equality. Georgia's AD and Florida's President both support this position and have done so publicly, so it's not just the media.
Essentially what Saban is saying is that to not oversign is harmful to kids -- those are his words. That should be taken as a direct shot at the Big 10 Conference and its coaches -- in Saban's view they are hurting kids and robbing them by not oversigning.
Ironically, Saban coached in the Big 10 for several years and there is no record of Saban lobbying to put an end to the injustice and harm that not oversigning was doing to kids while he was in the Big 10. And based on how strongly he feels about this injustice, it's odd that he hasn't started a campaign to rid the rest of college football of the injustice of not oversigning kids. Surely if he feels this strongly about it he would call out coaches around the country for not oversigning, "look guys, you are ruining lives by not doing this -- you can't do this to the kids, it's not right!!!!"
That's what he is selling -- are you buying? We're not.
Oversigning was probably never even on Saban's radar until he landed at LSU and found out what a powerful tool it is for roster management. Gerry DiNardo didn't realize what a constraint the B1G rules were until he came to Indiana from LSU -- he was the one that lobbied to have the rules relaxed in 2002 so that he could oversign by 3, not Saban.
Regardless, Saban wants everyone to believe this is a problem created by the media; he's dead wrong, this has been an issue for decades, the media is just finally bringing it to the forefront.
SEC University Presidents
It all comes down to the university presidents. In 1964 the SEC university presidents were faced with the exact same dilemma, yes we've been down this road before, oversigning is not something that just starting being an issue here recently, and they voted in favor of not changing the rules for oversigning. The numbers were slightly different back then, but the general principles were the same. Coaches were signing way more guys than they had room for and then kicking the ones they didn't want to the curb.
The SEC presidents at the time were torn over the issue with the vote being split down the middle.
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."
The SEC Presidents have an opportunity to send a message and right the wrongs that have taken place since that decision in 1964. Oversigning is not an issue that Nick Saban created, it's a systemic problem that is as old as the conference and has resulted in countless kids like Elliott Porter and Chris Garrett getting screwed out of their scholarships to make way for new, better players.
On Friday we'll find out who really is in control of the SEC, the coaches or the Presidents. For the sake of college football let's hope it's the Presidents and they vote to push through the new legislation.
Based on the comments coming out from SEC coaches, and now Athletic Directors, it is very unlikely that the new legislation on oversigning is going to pass. The only way it passes is if the university presidents make it happen.
Here's te latest from Arkansas' AD Jeff Long.
The overriding theme from all supporters of oversigning is that they are doing it right, others are doing it wrong, there's nothing wrong with it if it's done right, and there is nothing wrong with treating a kid like a piece of meat as long as you tell him upfront that you are going to treat him like a piece of meat.
Most prognosticators have the oversigners willing this battle 8-4.
One thing is certain, if this legislation doesn't pass it will send a clear message to the rest of the college football world. If you want to compete with the best conference in the country you are going to have to get on board with oversigning and start treating your roster like an NFL roster.
It appears the battle lines are taking shape as the SEC meetings draw near. On one side we have the chronic oversigners clamouring to come up with excuses as to why oversigning should remain in tact, reasons such as “It’s a very difficult job to try to manage, to keep two, three deep at every position” (Houtson Nutt), or "oversigning is 'helpful' because so many of the players in the state come from underprivileged backgrounds and may not qualify academically" (Steve Spurrier), or "I don't see it as a bad thing unless you're being dishonest or waiting until the last minute, which eliminates their visit opportunities with other schools" (Bobby Petrino).
Nick Saban added his name to the list of coaches that will fight to keep oversigning alive and well in the SEC on Thursday.
"The innuendo out there is that all these things are being manipulated in a negative way," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "But nobody has ever really brought to the forefront the positives by doing it the right way. People hang onto all the situations that aren't done the right way and act like in every situation that somebody is getting screwed in some sort of way, and that's just not the case."
Shouldn't the situations like Elliott Porter, Chris Garrett, and Steven Wesley be the situations that everyone holds onto, not the positives? Did he even mention any positives other than the competitive advantage aspect? The stories of kids having their scholarship offers pulled the day before signing day by Spurrier and their High School coaches being irate about it, shouldn't that be what we hold on to?
If just one kid gets screwed by oversigning, isn't it enough to seriously crack down on the practice? Think about it in terms of the way the NCAA creates its rules. Often times, an NCAA rule is created not because the area in question is nefarious, such as the rules regarding selling personal memorabilia, but rather because of the potential for abuse. The rules regarding selling personal memorabilia are in place to prevent a booster from buying a jersey from a player for $100K, not because they don't want some kid selling his ring at a fraction of its value. Even if you believe that oversigning only harms a few and only when not done right, shouldn't it be addressed in the same way as the rules regarding selling memorabilia? What's more harmful, a kid getting a few extra bucks or some poor kid losing his scholarship at the last minute because a coach oversigned his class to bring in better talent so that he can keep making his millions of dollars?
Those positives that Saban refers to by the way are the competitive advantage that these coaches gain by exploiting this practice. Nearly every coach that oversigns has stated that it provides them with an advantage.
"In my opinion, it would really affect the quality in our league," Saban said. "You can't know the attrition from signing day until August, which guys who're going to be fifth-year seniors that decide they don't want to come back and play football. Well, you can't count those guys. You're going to have to tell those guys they're going to have to decide in January.
This is where the competitive advantage issue comes into play. By oversigning, coaches can bring in a few extra guys and work them through the spring while at the same time working the 5th year guys that have eligibility remaining, and then after spring training is over coaches can make a decision as to whether or not they want to renew a 5th year guy who may or may not have graduated yet, knowing all along they have an ace in the hole and will end up with the best 85. The coaches want their cake and eat it too.
Why is it that 5th year guys can't make a decision as to whether or not they want to come back in January, but Juniors leaving early for the NFL can? Are Juniors that much more prepared to make a life-altering decision than 5th year seniors?
Furthermore, if the question is whether or not they want to come back, isn't their participation in spring practice an indication that they would like to come back? Just recently Alabama had a 5th year RB Demetrius Goode participate in spring practice, indicating he hadn't given up on football, but then after spring practice decided he wanted to go to UNA instead. Perhaps he wanted playing time, fine. But can't that decision be made in January at the same time Juniors make decisions to go to the NFL?
On the other side of the battle line you have Florida and Georgia who have both been very outspoken about the abuses of oversigning and greyshirting. Mark Richt has been especially outspoken about the abuses taking place:
Georgia coach Mark Richt is in the opposite camp. He said that it was an "awful thing to do" to bring in players to participate in the summer strength program and then ask some to leave or wait until January to sign based on which ones performed the best.
He didn't stop there, either.
"These other coaches have been oversigning, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 number," Richt said earlier this month at a Georgia booster club speaking engagement in Greenville, S.C. "But in doing so, have they done it in an ethical way?
"I'd say the answer is probably not."
It has become extremely clear that the coaches that want to continue oversigning all want you to believe that there is nothing wrong with the practice as long as it is done the right way. Again, there is nothing wrong with selling your jersey for a few bucks, so long as you don't sell it to a booster for $100K, right?
At the end of the day it all comes back to the competitive advantage aspect of the argument and the pressure on these coaches to win. These coaches are under more pressure to win than anywhere else in the country, so of course they want you to believe their practice of oversigning is okay as long as it's done right, they can't afford to live without it based on the pressure to win.
Houston Nutt is already starting to feel the affects of the 28 rule, named in his honor, and he knows if further rules are passed that he could be in serious jeopardy of losing his multi-million dollar job, so of course he's fighting for the right to continue to exploit the spirit of the signing process and the loopholes inherent to the NCAA's 25/85 rule.
Quick Note Regarding the Medical Hardship Aspect of the new Legislation:
The new legislation that is on the table includes a proposal to address the issue of medical hardships and how those are being used to game the system and fudge the scholarship numbers. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Nick Saban's medical hardship numbers are way above the norm, and then when former players were asked about those medical hardships and whether or not they felt pressured to take them the players revealed that they were pressured and that they thought the medical hardship was loophole used to bring in better players.
Three Alabama players who've taken these exemptions say they believe the team uses the practice as a way to clear spots for better players by cutting players it no longer wants. These players said they believe Mr. Saban and his staff pressure some players to take these scholarships even though their injuries aren't serious enough to warrant keeping them off the field.
"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."
That is THREE former players coming out and saying they believed the team used the medical hardships to clear roster space for better players, one of which says he's still bitter about it calling it a business and a loophole.
Here is what Nick Saban had to say about it.
Saban is also quick to defend the charge that he pressures players into taking medical redshirts or dismisses players who aren't contributing on the field in order to open up more scholarship room each year.
"First of all, I've never gotten rid of a player who didn't create his own circumstances for why he had to leave the program, whether it was academic, whether it was behavior, whether it was drug-related, whatever," Saban said. "Really, I've always given guys more rope than they deserve, and I think the innuendo out there is that I'm just picking and choosing which guys to run off, and people bring it up that I've medical-ed more people. Well, yeah, I medical them so they can stay in school and graduate, where other people just get rid of them. I don't make those decisions, either. The doctors make them, and we have great doctors."
In one breath Saban says, "I medical them so they can stay in school," and in the next breath he says, "I don't make those decisions, either. The doctors make them, and we have great doctors." Which one is it? Who is making the final decision to issue the medical hardship? Hard to believe everything is on the up and up when you have 3 players claiming they were wrongly pressured to take those medical hardships to clear roster space and another player calling it a loophole.
The new proposal on the table includes a measure for medical hardship monitoring, but is it enough?
Giving the SEC league office more oversight concerning those players placed on medical scholarship. In other words, the league would be involved in reviewing outcomes. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.
The new legislation would require 3 people to sign off on the medical waiver, does anyone in their right mind believe that a trainer or an athletic director are going to go against the decision of a doctor? And if what we read above from Saban is true, it appears that he has great influence on whether or not a medical is issued to a player. The details are still unclear, but you have to believe the athletic director would only be signing off on whether or not to grant the medical hardship or to just not renew the player -- if coaches are allowed to continue oversigning and continue to be in a numbers crunch, is there an athletic director out there that is going to refuse to sign off on a medical hardship and have his school face NCAA violations for going over the 85 limit?
Unless there are more details regarding the medical hardship oversight, what we have on the table doesn't appear to be anything other than window dressing in reaction to the WSJ piece on Alabama's medical hardships.
We have a couple of suggestions: 1. many of these medical hardships are the result of a numbers crunch because of oversigning, eliminate the oversigning and you would see a drastic decline in the number of medical hardships issued by schools that oversign, 2. have the NCAA conduct an exit interview with the kids placed on medical hardship so that guys like the 3 Alabama players who told the WSJ that they thought they were being pushed out to make room for better players can tell the NCAA and have the NCAA conduct an investigation.
Details of the new SEC legislation proposed by Mike Slive are starting to come out. The Athens Banner-Herald has obtained a copy of the new legislation aimed to curb some of the abuses that have been rampant in the SEC over the last several years. Actually, these abuses have been taking place as far back as Bobby Dodd's time in the 1960's when GT was a member of the SEC before leaving the conference because the conference refused to address the roster management issues and oversigning. Here is what has been made available to the public:
- Limiting the size of a football signing class in each academic year to 25, down from the current level of 28. The 25 limit would cover those who sign from Dec. 1 to August 1.
- Making football signees who attend summer school on athletic aid before the fall semester count against a school's scholarship numbers for that next academic year.
- Giving the SEC office more oversight in medical scholarship exemptions to review and determine outcome for cases. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.
- Keeping early enrollees from signing an SEC financial aid agreement until they are enrolled and attend class at the school. Currently, recruits can begin to sign a financial aid agreement after their junior year of high school, which keeps other SEC schools from recruiting them.http://staugustine.com/sports/2011-05-24/oversigning-secs-football-priority
This is definitely a comprehensive package covering more areas than just oversigning, but the proposed legislation that addresses oversigning is still lacking and does not address the root of the oversigning issue. The current SEC rules allow for 28 recruits to be signed between February and May 31st; the new rule is 25 between December 1 and August 1. Neither of them address the 85 limit, which is the core issue.
This is nothing more than more window dressing, unfortunately. Slive and the SEC are still hung up on the annual signing numbers and the 25 limit for an incoming class. The root of the oversigning problem is the 85 limit, not the 25 annual limit. What good is a limit set at 25 when a school only has 16 scholarship spaces available??? It is worthless at stopping oversigning.
The current Big 10 rules are based on the 85 scholarship limit first, then the 25 annual limit. If a Big 10 school has 16 scholarships available, they can accept up to 19 signed letters of intent, but there's a catch. The school has to petition the Big 10 office for permission to accept those 3 extra signed letters of intent and they have to explain why they are going over. But there's more, before they petition to accept the oversigned letter of intent, they have to petition for permission to issue a written offer that is over the 85 limit. That's right, the Big 10 office controls the number of offers the school can issue and just like the number of signed letters of intent a school can accept, Big 10 schools are only allowed to offer 3 more scholarships than they have room for under the 85 limit. So despite the NCAA allowing a school to sign and bring in 25 new players each year, if a Big 10 school has room for 16 new recruits the most they will be allowed is 19 by the Big 10 office and the three extra have to be documents.
If you think those rules are tough, prior to 2002 there was no waiver to go over the 85 limit. That changed when in 2002, Gerry DiNardo, having spent time coaching at LSU and realizing the advantage of oversigning, was hired at Indiana where he inherited a repeated roster and started lobbying for the oversigning waiver. DiNardo got his wish and the oversigning waiver was accepted into the Big 10 rules, but he was later fired from Indiana after a few years and never being able to turn the program around.
The net result of the Big 10 measures on oversigning is that there is very little oversigning in the Big 10. Associate Commissioner, Chad Hawley, says that despite the option to oversign by 3 that very seldom do schools petition for the oversigning waiver. In fact, according to Hawley, only 1 Big 10 school oversigned this year.
The bottom line is that this appears to be just more window dressing -- Slive is reducing the number from 28 to 25, but he is increasing the window from Dec 1. to August 1. His legislation, at the end of the day, does not address the root of the problem, going over the 85 limit, and any legislation that does not address the potential for a coach to sign 8-10 guys over the 85 limit is severely lacking. Scholarship and roster numbers fluctuate every year, some years a school will have room for 25 other years they will have room for 16, the rules on signing players need to work in accordance with that fluctuation.
We'll have more on the rest later.
Houston Nutt is, whether he likes it or not, one of the reasons oversigning has received the attention it has over the last two years. Why? Simple, you can't blatantly rape the spirit of the NLOI process and then laugh about it to the media.
“There is no rule that says we can’t sign 80! All I know is we have to have 25, we got to have 25 come ready August”
Those were Houston Nutt's exact words, words that lead to the Houston Nutt rule that limits SEC schools to only signing 28 players between the months of February and June. Words that Houston Nutt would probably take back if he could. When asked if he would sign 37 players again, Nutt told Ole Miss reporter, Kyle Veazey, he probably wouldn't:
"And as for that 37, he thinks it unfairly characterizes him in a bad light. He knew going in that many of those players would go to junior college, but he felt that if he signed them initially that it might give them incentive to improve at juco — and give the Rebels an inside track two years later should they be eligible. But even after saying all of that, he said he wouldn’t have signed 37 if he had it do over again (and the new rule wasn’t in place)."
According to Veazey, Nutt plans to fight for keeping oversigning in the SEC, along with the morally reprehensible practice of grayshirting, as Florida's President Bernie Machen would describe it.
Nutt thinks those who criticize him on grounds of oversigning just don’t get the difficulty involved in the number juggling in a college roster. “It’s a very difficult job to try to manage, to keep two, three deep at every position,” Nutt said. He says he hasn’t ‘run off’ players just to meet his numbers, isn’t dishonest and said that he doesn’t ‘non-renew’ a scholarship player unless he’s involved in disciplinary issues. But he says if a player comes to him and says his goal is to start and Nutt doesn’t see it, he might suggest that it’s not a bad idea if he goes somewhere else. When I told him critics counter that by saying coaches should be accountable for their talent evaluations, he said this: “Until you’ve done it, until you’ve actually done it, it’s one of the most difficult things, ever.”
Houston Nutt's defense for oversigning is that it's tough to evaluate talent, brilliant! But isn't that what he is being paid millions of dollars to do? Veazey also mentions that he will have more on Nutt's defense of oversigning later in the week, but at this point, it's pretty clear that Nutt plans to dig in and fight this thing out until the bitter end. Perhaps he has no choice, perhaps oversigning is the only thing that is enabling him to field a team. Despite all those large numbers: 31, 37,26, and 28 in the last four years, Ole Miss is on track to have way less than 85 scholarship players next year. That is a lot of recruiting misses...maybe it is as hard as he makes it sound.
Pat Fitzgerald would probably disagree with his ultra small classes of 18-20 players each year with virtually no attrition, excellent graduation rates, and conference best APR ranking.
Needless to say, things are going to get very interesting in the coming weeks as the SEC deliberates over the oversigning issue. One thing is for sure, Houston Nutt fully intends to fight to keep oversigning alive and well in the SEC.
For anyone who wonders where I stand on the issue of oversigning, here goes. As you may know, my undergraduate alma mater is Indiana University. In yesterday's Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times was a story describing the way IU head basketball coach Tom Crean is rebuilding the Hoosiers after the debacle that was Kelvin Sampson. It's not a pretty sight.
For three straight years Crean has struggled to recruit players who can compete on the floor and represent the university's values, while simultaneously passing college courses. Virtually everyone agrees that the kids he's brought in are doing a great job in their off-the-court responsibilities. But there's always that W-L thing. Last season the once mighty Hoosiers won just 3 Big Ten games. Out of 18.
It appears that Crean is turning the corner on big time recruits with the signing of Cody Zeller boy,who is Indiana's reigning Mr. Basketball and a national Top 10 high school All America. Crean's 2012 recruiting class is being called the best at IU since 1975 and perhaps the nation's #1 recruiting class for 2012. The class is strong in both quality and quantity. Therein lies the rub.
IU basketball is currently oversigned by 1 (sadly, this is allowed by the Big Ten conference) but the problem coming down the road is much bigger. I have been watching this looming oversigning status unfold and reading numerous IU basketball fan forums. The consensus of Hoosier fanatics is that Crean is going to have to orchestrate an exodus of players he recruited in their darkest days . . . players who cannot compete at the Big Ten level. Hoosier fans seem entirely OK with that. Many openly state, "That's the way big time sports operates. No player is guaranteed a 5 year career. If they can't cut it, be gone!"
In my opinion these are kids who chose to play for IU when Crean couldn't get top flight recruits to commit. Those kids forsook attending lesser programs where they could have played and probably starred. But commit they did. If those kids are jettisoned when Crean's big time recruits show up, I for one am going to have a big time problem with it.
IU's AD should have told Crean that his mission was to rebuild the Hoosiers slowly but steadily without compromising what's right. Shucking those first two signing classes now that they have better players coming in is just wrong. Moving more slowly by signing fewer top flight recruits for 2012 would have taken big cojones but it would have been the right thing to do. We'll see how this thing shakes out.
Kelvin Sampson was corrupt; let's see what Tom Crean is made of.
Chris Low, ESPN's SEC Blogger, was recently asked if he thought anything would come of the recent movement to have oversigning banned.
We'll find out a lot more at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., but I can tell you that a number of SEC coaches have made it clear to their ADs and to SEC commissioner Mike Slive that managing numbers in terms of scholarships has been one of the best things the SEC has done in football and a big reason the league has had so much success. In other words, the coaches will fight any kind of hard cap (similar to what the Big Ten does)in a big way.
We'll see what happens in Destin, should be interesting. Mike Slive has a real opportunity to step up and be forever known as the man who ended oversigning in the SEC, something no one has been able to do for 40 years.
Perhaps without them he would be playing golf instead of pulling scholarship offers at the last minute.
But hey, time heals all wounds, right? Are academics in South Carolina really that piss poor?
Hope Mike Slive is proud.
Things are starting to heat back up a little on the oversigning topic. The last few weeks have been slow, but with the conference meetings coming soon, as well as the forced attrition to clear roster space via medical hardships, grayshirts, and coerced transfers to lower tier programs, we will start to see a lot more news on the oversigning front.
Will Muschamp got things going today during a teleconference with all 12 SEC head coaches when he had this to say when asked about oversigning and grayshirting:
Muschamp also addressed the oversigning and grayshirting of athletes that has become a recent subject of concern in some areas.
"I think there is some gray area involved with all of it," he said."Now, you're able to sign players back (previous year) as long as you're under your 85 (scholarship) total. So does that count against the 28 you signed in February? Right now it doesn't.
"Again, at Florida, we don't grayshirt. That's not something that we do; it's not a policy of ours. We don't place students; that's not a policy of ours. That's not something that I'm going to cross that bridge on right now because it's not something that we do or is part of what we're going to do."
Wonder what Huston Nutt, Les Miles, and Nick Saban had so say to that during the conference call? Kudos to Muschamp for going public with their policy on signing and placing and grayshirting, and Kudos to Florida for making it a policy (not sure if that is an actual written policy or not) not to exploit these two loopholes in the system.
Mike Slive took a few minutes to answer questions about the upcoming annual conference meetings and as expected the topic of oversigning came up during the conversation (see below). The million dollar question is which athletic directors are in the group that is studying the oversigning issue??? Will Georgia and Florida have enough pull to force the rest of the conference athletic directors to seriously address the oversigning issue or will it be another round of window dressing with another toothless rule named after a coach? Or, will the SEC shock the world and come up with a set of conference rules that are the toughest in the country on oversigning and grayshirting?
Q: Will the SEC re-examine its rule, which has now become an NCAA rule, setting a limit of 28 football signees per class? Do you believe it has adequately addressed the issue of oversigning or does it need to be toughened, possibly even looking to the Big Ten model (which allows its football programs to sign only three over the number of scholarships it has available under the 85 limit)?
A: I don't think there's any particular model out there that we would care to emulate, but we're going to take a look at all these issues. It's more than just the question of oversigning. It's a question of looking at all these issues that comprise how teams develop their ultimate roster. We have put together a group of our athletic directors who have been working on this now for several months and we anticipate looking at their report in Destin, when we do our business. We expect the First Amendment to be alive and well in Destin and I actually anticipate that we would do something more than we have done up to now.
There are a lot of things that go with it -- the question of oversigning, the question of grayshirting, the question of early admission, the question of pre-enrollment in summer school. We are working to take a very comprehensive look at all the different elements, not just the one issue of oversigning.
This is somewhat old news, but Marquavius Burnett at The Crimson and White just wrote a nice article about the situation at Alabama regarding their refusal to disclose scholarship numbers, including an image of the document where Alabama blacks out the scholarship numbers in their annual report. Alabama officials are saying that federal privacy laws prevent them from disclosing the number of scholarships, but law experts disagree and question why the schools that do release this information are not in violation of the federal privacy laws.
From the article:
Deborah Lane, and assistant vice president for University Relations, said in an emailed statement that privacy laws prohibit them from disclosing scholarship numbers because they can be used by a reasonable person to find out personal information about individual students.
But law experts disagree.
“This information is not confidential,” said Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “In fact, Alabama routinely announces the names of star athletes it has signed to scholarships…. Other schools are comfortable releasing the numbers. There is no practical way that you could match up the number of scholarships with particular athletes and, even if you could, it would not compromise any private information.”
It is really unclear as to why these numbers are being hidden. Cecil Hurt at the Tuscaloosa News has filed a Freedom of Information Act request in order to try and obtain the official scholarship numbers, hopefully he will hear something soon so we can get this all cleared up.
The irony in all of this is that Alabama goes out of its way to have a fax cam streaming video of the recruits names as their faxed LOI to receive a scholarship comes in on national signing day.
The article goes on to cite the Wall Street Journal article on Alabama's oversigning:
The entire SEC, especially Alabama, has been under fire recently for oversigning in football. Under NCAA rules, it is legal to sign more players to scholarships than the limit of 85 as long as teams are not over that limit by July 31. However, The Wall Street Journal reported in September of 2010 that former Alabama players said the school tried to gain a competitive edge by encouraging underperforming players to quit the team, allowing the Tide to not exceed the limit of 85 scholarships per season.
Because the deadline to get down to 85 football scholarships is July 31, when 2010 expense reports were filed, it would not have been a violation to be over the limit of 85. In fact, LSU and Mississippi’s 2010 athletic expense reports show the schools had 91 and 89 scholarships, respectively, allotted to football when the reports were filed.