Oversigning.com
10Oct/1016

Interview with Tim Hyland

A few months back, oversigning.com was approached by Tim Hyland at about.com to do a question and answer session on the topic of oversigning and about the creation of this website.  This interview was prior to the Wall Street Journal's piece on Alabama's players admitting they felt a little bitter about being pressured into taking medical hardship scholarships to free up roster space for oversigned recruiting classes.  Had that story broke prior to our interview session with Tim Hyland, it probably would have been included in one of the answers.

Be that as it may, here is the link to the interview. 

http://collegefootball.about.com/od/rulesofthegame/a/Oversigning-College-Footballs-Hidden-Problem.htm

 If we had to summarize the interview and give a bulleted list of the points we were trying to make it would look something like this:

  • Nick Saban's comments about the fans not needing to know about his recruiting numbers or how he plans to get down to the 85 limit is what really sparked our interest in this entire topic.  This article is what started it all.
  • SEC by far signs the most players and abuses the oversigning loophole the most.  When you see one team from one conference sign 15, 20, 17, and 19, and then another team from another conference sign 32, 23, 25, and 32, something is wrong with the system.  To be clear, this is an SEC issue with the exception of a few other programs throughout the entire country.
  • The purpose of this site is to raise awareness to the topic of oversigning and hopefully help get it removed from college football.  
  • Oversigning is not a rules violation, which is part of the problem.  It is a by-product of the NCAA's 25/85 scholarship limits and their recruiting by-laws.  Oversigning is a loophole that is being exploited.
  • Oversigning creates a competitive advantage by allowing coaches access to a larger pool of players, hedge against academic and medical attrition, and ensure that they maximize the full 85 scholarships by forcing out lesser players to transfer to lesser schools or pressure kids into taking medical hardship scholarships to free up roster space, much of which we saw at alarming rates this preseason.
  • It is our opinion that no coach should have to "get down" to 85 scholarships after national signing day.  They should sign what they have room for and encourage who they have to stay and get better (unless the kid is a criminal or not making the grades) by coaching them up and making men out of them instead of just throwing them off on another coach - after all they thought enough of them when they signed them.  Coaches are paid millions of dollars to evaluate talent, why should we give them an out if they miss on a guy? Why should we allow them to get rid of student-athlete simply because they don't pan out to be as good as a coach thought they would be?  If a coach has a shortfall due to unexpected attrition, then he can give those scholarships to deserving walk-on players in their 4th or 5 th year as a reward for all their hard work.
  • Lastly, we hope the NCAA takes a long hard look at the oversigning issue and revamps some of their recruiting by-laws to include a lot more transparency in roster management.  The LOI should be a two way binding agreement.  Perhaps scholarships need to go back to being 4 year deals instead of one.  Each school should only be able to sign what they have room for on National Signing Day.  There needs to be an exit interview for all players transferring and especially all players placed on medical hardship scholarship in order to determine if they felt like they were wrongly pushed in that direction. We will know when this problem has been solved when we see teams like Alabama and LSU, who both have very, very small senior classes on scholarship and are only losing roughly 8-12 scholarship guys next year, sign classes in the 8-12 range  - as it stands right now they are both on track to sign 20+, and you can rest assured that we will see all kinds of crazy stories next spring between signing day and August when both teams shove guys off in order to make room for the new load of recruits.  

Thanks again to Tim Hyland for his interest in the topic of oversigning and for reaching out and giving us the opportunity to answer some questions.  If you haven't visited his blog, we encourage you to - Tim does a great job covering college football.

Filed under: Feedback 16 Comments
7Oct/10102

Georgia and Alabama

We stumbled across a nice little article over at DawgsOline.com on Georgia's scholarship situation and how it compares to a school like Alabama that oversigns. 

The discussion of oversigning and grayshirting and all of the tricks used to get to the magic number of 85 scholarship players isn’t new. It shouldn’t be easy to forget that these are young men with educations and futures at stake, but we do. Even the console game with the NCAA’s name on it demands that you outright “cut” players. I’d much rather my program undersign than oversign and have to yank or defer a scholarship, but there is definitely a tradeoff and a cost for not playing the game.

The advantage isn’t just the two or three players signed over the limit by another program. Remember that Georgia has at most now 80 players who were considered scholarship-quality when they signed, and the 87 or 88 at the other school all merited an offer. So the difference is more like seven or eight players versus a program that oversigned by a couple. Eight players from an 85-man roster is just under 10% of the team. It’s a third of a recruiting class for any given year.

Of course Mark Richt didn’t know that he’d be five scholarships under the limit. Owens and Banks had battled injuries for a while, but you can’t anticipate a medical disqualification. You can’t foresee the backup QB’s spring break indiscretions. It does seem to be a given though that there is some amount of attrition each year. Every coach has to play inventory manager and balance the 85 scholarship limit against his best guess at attrition. It’s clear though that some are more aggressive at chasing that limit, and it’s not hard to be cynical about how some of the “attrition” eventually comes about.

Again, I’d rather be a little under the limit rather than over because of the human element. It’s all business, but that’s not what coaches say when they’re in the living room. But we can’t ignore that under the current rules coming up five short of the limit isn’t all that great of a situation either. It’s a great story for the deserving walk-ons who see their effort recognized, but 80 scholarship players is borderline probation.

http://www.dawgsonline.com/2010/08/26/80-scholarship-players-the-flip-side-to-oversigning/

The cost for not playing the game (oversigning) that they are referring to is Georgia's 1-4 record vs. Alabama 5-0 record.

Kudos to Georgia and Mark Richt for standing tall and refusing to abuse the oversigning loophole, despite having to compete in a conference where oversigning is the order of the day.  And Kudos to DawgsOline for being on the right side of the fence here!

DawgsOline takes a rather conservative approach to the numbers by only comparing Georgia's situation to a school that oversigns by a couple; the results are much different when you compare them to a school like Alabama that is oversigning roughly 10 a year, as is LSU, Ole Miss, etc.

So not everyone in the SEC is willing to wallow in the slop with Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Huston Nutt, the three amigos of oversigning.

Filed under: SEC 102 Comments
5Oct/1044

Don’t Blame the Coaches

Here is a decent column written by Gary Laney, sportswriter for The Advocate, and although the overall tone of the column is one that excuses the actions of the coaches, Laney does admit oversigning is an issue in the SEC. 

http://www.2theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/100504484.html

He basically acknowledges that oversigning creates a competitive edge and that it's a problem specifically in the SEC, but he says don't blame the coaches in the SEC, blame the NCAA rules.

Increased costs come with increased expectations and increased pressure to win.

If Miles doesn’t oversign, Nick Saban will (and he does) and LSU will lose some competitive edge in the process. You can’t let that happen, not when 9-4 doesn’t do the trick.

That’s not an ethical defense of oversigning, nor is it a defense of how LSU handles oversigned players. The point is when you look at the context in which it happened — high pressure to win and rules that allow it — you should only be surprised if it doesn’t happen..

So I guess we should be surprised that it doesn't happen in the rest of the country?  Or should we not be surprised that it is happening in the SEC?

He's right about it being an advantage, and we are seeing it on the field with Alabama over the last few year and we saw it at LSU and other places, but not all the blame should go to the NCAA.  The athletic directors, university presidents, and the mighty Mike Slive are just as much to blame as anyone at the NCAA office -- this is happening under their watch and they could stop it completely.  That won't happen though.  This is a problem that dates back to the 1960's with the SEC and it would take extreme pressure for them to address it on their own without being forced by the NCAA.

As it has been mentioned here before, this (oversigning) was the reason behind Georgia Tech leaving the SEC.

From the book Dodd's Luck written in part by former Geogria Tech head coach Bobby Dodd...

Bobby Dodd insisted there was no other reason he left the SEC, other than the 140 Rule. The 140 Rule stated a college program could only have 140 football and basketball players on scholarship at any one time. The teams were allowed to sign up to 45 players a year, but could not exceed the 140 Rule.

Dodd would not allow any of the football players choosing Tech to be dismissed from Tech, because they were not good players. Dodd said, “it is not the recruits fault for not making the squad, it was the coaches fault for misjudging their talents”. If a recruit came to Tech, he would stay on a football scholarship until he graduated.

Dodd would sign about 30-32 players a year to meet the guidelines, but the other schools in the SEC were offering 45 scholarships a year. Those players, not good enough to fall under the 140 Rule, had their scholarships withdrawn and sent packing before the end of each year. Dodd insisted, the recruiting of athletes by this method amounted to nothing more than a tryout for a scholarship.

Dodd thought it unfair and would not withdraw scholarships from his players. He wanted the SEC to limit the amount of scholarships to about 32 per year. This would keep the other schools from offering 45 scholarships, picking the best, and sending the rest packing.

A vote was to be taken by the presidents of the colleges on the issue, and Dodd made it clear, Tech would have to leave the SEC unless the rule was changed. Dodd said he would live with 10, 20, 30, 40, or even 50 recruits per year as long as he did not have to chase any of his players off.

The presidents were split six for Dodd’s position and six against. Bear had promised Dodd he would get his president to vote for Dodd’s position, which would have changed the rule. When the meeting was held, Bryant did not show up and the Alabama president voted against Dodd’s position and the 140 Rule was upheld. Tech’s president immediately walked to the podium and announced Tech was withdrawing from the SEC. Bryant never told Dodd why he reneged on his promise.

Perhaps we need a modern day Bobby Dodd to step in and put his foot down.  Mark Richt would be our choice given that he does not oversign players -- maybe Urban Meyer has enough pull to get it done, he doesn't oversign any where near the level of Saban and Miles.

Filed under: SEC 44 Comments
30Sep/1064

There will be no Stopping Nick Saban; Lands 19th Commitment Today

As mentioned, Alabama only has roughly 8 scholarships Seniors on their roster (including 5th year guys), yet they landed their 19th verbal commitment today.  Guess there will be 11 Juniors leaving early for the NFL because there is no way the rash of medical hardships could continue again this year, no team is that unlucky for that long.  

Of course, we all know that Saban told Jones that his scholarship offer is conditional and could turn into a grayshirt offer based on who in front of him qualifies and who currently on the team suffers a career-ending injury, and we all know he made sure to tell the parents of Jones that his scholarship is just a one year deal that might not get renewed.

UPDATE: Make that 21 commitments given that there are 2 guys from 2010 that accepted a grayshirt from last year's class and will count towards 2011.  Thanks for the correction Vesper.  So there are 19 new commitments and 2 grayshirts, and only 8 scholarship seniors.  Nick Saban is on pace to oversign worse than Huston Nutt did when he signed 37 and only had room for 22 - he was 15 over his budget, if Saban signs a full 28 he will be 15-20 over depending on how many juniors leave early for the NFL.  Yep, the SEC really solved that oversigning problem when they set the limit to 28 per year!

Filed under: SEC 64 Comments
29Sep/1051

Should Marcel Dareus and Mark Ingram Really be at Alabama?

One of the topics that comes up when talking about oversigning is the competitive edge that is gained by schools that abuse the signing process and accept more signed letters of intent on national signing day than they have room for under the 85 limit mandated by the NCAA.  As we have mentioned a million times, they can do this because the NCAA, until just recently, did not limit the number of players that can be signed each year.  They have since set the cap to 28 per year, but that is still an issue and nothing more than window dressing, but we'll get into that at another time.

Filed under: SEC Continue reading
27Sep/1029

Michigan State Player Diagnosed with Cancer Keeps Football Scholarship for 3 Years

Arthur Ray Jr. accepted a scholarship offer from Michigan State in 2007 and signed a letter of intent with the Spartan during his senior year in high school.  The day before the MSU spring game that year, shortly after he arrived at Michigan State, Ray was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.

This kid has endured 14 hour surgeries, chemo, and had his tibia removed for 8 weeks and reinserted.  And never once was his FOOTBALL SCHOLARSHIP in danger.  Never once did ANYONE at Michigan State consider pushing this poor kid out of the football program and onto a medical scholarship so they can free up his spot and give it to someone better who can help them win more games, or heck just play in a game.   Instead they all sucked it up and kept Arthur Ray a part of the team.

"This doctor, he didn't have too good of bedside manner," he said. "He was just like, 'You've got to start immediate chemotherapy. Throw football out the window. The most you'll do is run around with your grandkids.' I'm 17. I'm not trying to hear that at all. I'm not thinking about grandkids.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A large man appears at the entrance to the Skandalaris Football Center, braces himself with his crutches, swings open the door and hobbles inside.

The interview will be held on the second floor, and while the stairs are navigable, the football-shaped elevator is the safer option. When Arthur Ray Jr. reaches his destination, the lobby outside Michigan State's football offices, he lowers himself onto a couch and places his crutches to the side.

The crutches have accompanied Ray since July 2007, when he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his right leg. Last week, doctors gave him the go-ahead to use only one crutch, but he hasn't fully supported himself for nearly 21 months.

He has enough hardware in his leg to fill a shelf at Ace or Home Depot. He has undergone four surgeries in addition to several other chemotherapy procedures. Amputation is still a word doctors use around Ray, who had a type of bone cancer that often results in patients losing a limb.

Bottom line: Ray doesn't look like a man who could play offensive line for Michigan State.

If Ray's leg continues to heal and can supply blood to the infected area to support his 6-foot-3, 307-pound frame, he can start increasing his activity. He returns to Chicago every six months for a series of tests -- MRI, X-ray, CT, bone scan -- and so far everything has been clean.

"Walking is the big step," Ray said. "Because before I can run, I've got to walk. Before I can sprint, I've got to run."

But skipping steps or rushing his rehab could have disastrous consequences. Infection remains a major risk, and Dietzel constantly stresses the importance of taking things slow.

"If you don't stay off of this and allow it to heal, the plates and the screws and the rod that's in your leg cannot support your weight by themselves," Dietzel tells Ray. "Bottom line is we are going to amputate your leg.

"My discussions with him are essentially, 'I want you to leave here in four or five years with a degree, being able to walk down the aisle and get your diploma and not going down with crutches or a wheelchair.' If he does play football, that's just gravy."

But football remains in the forefront of Ray's mind. He attended practices throughout the spring, wearing his No. 73 jersey on the sideline.

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=4195097

Regardless of what side of the fence you are on with regards to the debate over medical hardships, we strongly encourage you to read the entire story, it is truly unbelievable.

And the next time you read a Wall Street Journal article about Nick Saban's former players who felt they were pushed into medical hardship scholarships and asked to leave the team in order to free up scholarship space under the NCAA 85 limit, think about Arthur Ray Jr. and his missing tibia, chemo, and bone cancer, and how Michigan State didn't kick him to the curb and off the football team just so they could get a better player and have a better chance at winning games.

Also think about Arthur Ray Jr. the next time you hear Alabama placing a guy on a medical hardship scholarship when his knee won't function effectively.

“He hasn’t been out there at practice, so he is getting a medical,” Saban said. “He can not function effectively on his knee. Those things happen on occasion. He tried to go through the summer conditioning program and struggled. It’s always a mutual decision when we make that decision with a player, as to what he wants to do in the future.”

Bottom line, if you aren't at practice, Nick Saban has no need for you.

Medical Hardship Scholarships Under Nick Saban

Year Player
2007 Tyrone Prothro
2007 Arron McDaniel
2007 Jake Jones
2007 Byron Walton
2008 Ivan Matchett
2008 Charles Hoke
2009 Jeramie Griffin
2009 Charlie Kirschman
2010 Darius McKeller
2010 Taylor Pharr
2010 MiltonTalbert

The real issue here is that the medical hardship is a safety net of last resort and Nick Saban has made a mockery of the process by using it as a tool to trim his roster, but as those who would defend him would say, it's legal.  Our advice to the guys currently on the roster - stay healthy - most likely 8-10 of you will have to go by next August.

Filed under: Big 10 29 Comments
27Sep/1022

Bama, LSU on Track to be Oversigned in 2011

We've touched on this briefly in the past, but now that we are into the swing of the football season and the final team rosters are in place for 2010, it's time to start really keeping an eye on Alabama and LSU for the upcoming recruiting season.

Both Alabama and LSU face the same problem with the 2011 recruiting class, which is they have very, very small senior classes currently on the roster.  This is the net result of oversigning; basically the guys you see here are the ones who made it through 4 years or more of rosters cuts, being pushed into medical hardships or nudged towards transferring to a lesser school, and as you can tell the list is very short.

Typically, players with SQ next to their names are consider squad team players (walk-ons, non-letter men, and typically not on scholarship).

Alabama has a total of 14 seniors, with 8 non-SQ players; LSU has 15 total seniors, with 11 non-SQ players. 

So in doing a little bit of math it appears that Alabama has 8 scholarship seniors and LSU has 11.

In looking at the latest Rivals recruiting lists for verbal commitments for Alabama and LSU, we see that Alabama is currently ranked #2 with 18 verbal commitments and LSU is ranked #3 with 17 verbal commitments.

Those that follow recruiting know that there is now way either of these schools are finished with their recruiting classes - not by a long shot.  We know that LSU and Alabama will both have a few Juniors leave for the NFL early, but the gap between what they will have room for and what they are projected to sign is pretty damn big.

ALABAMA

LSU

Should be interesting to watch Saban and Miles cut the dead weight this coming year and keep the football factories running.

Filed under: SEC 22 Comments
26Sep/109

Paul Finebaum Interviews WSJ’s Darren Everson

Those of you who are really passionate about the topic of oversigning and interested in hearing more about the Wall Street Journal article Alabama's Unhappy Castoffs should find Paul Finebaum's (a sports talk show host on Sirius Satellite Radio) interview with the author of the article, Darren Everson, interesting. 

The Darren Everson interview comes around the 20 minute mark in the link below.

 http://www.finebaum.com/media/archives/show/20100924_PFRN_Hour4.mp3

One thing that we found interesting was that it was Phil Steele's list of "players lost for the year" that triggered Everson to do a little more investigative work on the specific topic of medical hardships.  Everson states in the interview that Alabama's numbers, and a couple of other teams, really stood out; Alabama having 3 medical hardships in one year and roughly 12 since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa stood out to him and prompted him to take a closer look.

Obviously, Everson was well aware of the numbers crunch for Alabama over the last couple of recruiting seasons, and he mentions that he was interested to see if there was a connection between the medical hardships and the roster crunch. 

Everson made a couple of phone calls to players and as it turns out some of the guys he interviewed, not all of them willing to go on record out of fear of possible backlash from what they have to say, said that they feel as though they were pushed in the direction of taking a medical hardship to free up a scholarship for a new recruit, AND that they thought that not only did it happen to them, but that they thought it was something the coaching staff did to other players as well.  It's important to note that a few players did go public with their comments, but it would really be interesting to hear what those who wouldn't go public had to say - sure wish the NCAA could interview those players and find out their side of the story. 

Part of the problem here is that the by-laws and the process for handling medical hardships are somewhat of a grey area, even the NCAA by-laws are a little vague.

15.5.1.3 Counter Who Becomes Injured or Ill.  A counter who becomes injured or ill to the point that he or she apparently never again will be able to participate in intercollegiate athletics shall not be considered a counter beginning with the academic year following the incapacitating injury or illness.

15.5.1.3.1 Incapacitating Injury or Illness. If an incapacitating injury or illness occurs prior to a prospective student-athlete’s or a student-athlete’s participation in athletically related activities and
results in the student-athlete’s inability to compete ever again, the student-athlete shall not be counted within the institution’s maximum financial aid award limitations for the current, as well as later academic
years.

One key word for us is the word PARTICIPATE.  What do you define as participation?  To us it could be defined as doing everything with the team except contact drills, scrimmages, or playing, which would leave individual drill work, film study, team meetings, etc.  There are ways to participate in intercollegiate athletics without actually playing on the field on game days...walk-ons and scout team guys do it every week.

This is yet another example of the NCAA writing vague by-laws that speak to the spirit of the rules instead of the factual details that need to be monitored and regulated.  No different than the by-laws for signing players.  The NCAA is trying to give schools and players enough room to protect the student-athlete, but they leave enough room for crass coaches interested in winning above all else to exploit the loopholes and gain a competitive advantage, use youngsters like pieces of meat, and lower the overall ethical standards of the game.

Solutions:

There are a couple of solutions to this problem (abusing medical hardships and pushing kids to accept them in order to get an oversigned roster down to 85, which is clearly what Alabama, LSU, and UNC have done over the last 4 years). 

1. The NCAA should hire a third-party medical team to provide a final exit examination so that some of these mysterious medical conditions can be investigated.

2. The NCAA should create an exit interview for players who transfer or who are asked to take a medical hardship scholarship.  An exit interview, where players can speak freely about what they were told or asked of by the coaching staff would have revealed that there are players at Alabama that have been pushed into taking a medical hardship in order to free up room and avoid NCAA penalties for going over the 85 scholarship limit.

3. Make the medical hardship scholarships count towards the 85 limit and make guys continue to earn their financial aid.  Unless a student-athlete is paralyzed from the waist down, there are plenty of things they can do to earn their scholarship and help the team. 

4. Eliminate the motivation to use this loophole.  If you eliminate oversigning then you can drastically cut down or eliminate all together situations where coaches are looking to push innocent players off the football team in order to make room for better players.

Common Arguments and More from the Paul Finebaum Radio Show: 

1. This happens everywhere, what's the problem?  No. This does not happen everywhere, according to Darren Everson there were 25 Medical Hardships in the SEC and 12 of them were Alabama's.  But that's not the real issue, it's the combination of three things that makes it an issue, and those of you that want to argue against this to really pay attention here:  A.) It's the higher than average number of medical hardships, B.) combined with a motive to issue those hardships (being oversigned and needed to cut players to get down to 85, and most importantly, C.) combined with the FACT that you have ALABAMA players ON RECORD stating that they think they were pushed into the medical hardship IN AN EFFORT TO WORK THE RECRUITING NUMBERS OUT and BRING IN BETTER PLAYERS.

If you take away those 3 factors then there is nothing wrong with the medical hardship, in fact, it is great and should be preserved.

2. This is just another example of northern media out to put down the SEC.  No, it's not.  This is a widely recognized issue that has been addressed by media outlets around the country.  That is nothing more than a lame excuse.

The sports editor of the Tuscaloosa News, Cecil Hurt, tried to use that as an excuse or a reason as to why this is an issue, he even went so far as to say that this is all coming from the Big 10 in response to losing to the SEC all the time.  Cecil Hurt is very well respected, but he is slightly off in his comments.  If anyone has been affected by oversigning in terms of competitive advantage it has been the ACC who signs the fewest number of players of any BCS conference and has a miserable record against the SEC.   His comments are at 32:20 in the link below.

http://www.finebaum.com/media/archives/show/20100924_PFRN_Hour2.mp3

3. This is all not true.  Typical argument from a delusional fan that is willing to do whatever it takes to defend his team or coach.  Finebaum actually had a guy call in and take this position with him, to which Finebaum responds with the following...go to the 3:45 mark in this link and listen to this argument.  

http://www.finebaum.com/media/archives/show/20100924_PFRN_Hour2.mp3

4. This freaking article is a bunch of crap - you could write this article about any of the 119 teams.  Another insane argument posed to Finebaum in the link above at the 21:00 minute mark.

5. This is not against the rules. Yes, medical hardships are not against the rules, but does anyone like the idea of a school abuse them to gain an advantage?  Probably not.

Note: The site to the links for the audio is temporarily down; will probably be up again soon.  Be sure to come back and check out the audio, it's well worth it if you enjoy discussing this topic.

Filed under: SEC 9 Comments
23Sep/1059

Medical Hardship Scholarship Abuse

Hannah Karp and Darren Everson at the Wall Street Journal have decided to probe the Alabama football program and the topic of medical hardship scholarships.  The results are interesting.

At least 12 times since coach Nick Saban took over the program in 2007, Alabama has offered players a "medical" scholarship, according to public statements made by the team. These scholarships, which are allowed under NCAA rules, are intended to make sure scholarship athletes who are too injured to play don't lose their financial aid. A player who receives one of these scholarships is finished playing with that team.

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."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703384204575509901468451306.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth#articleTabs%3Darticle

The article is pretty much in line with everything we have been saying here on this topic, except this time it's actual former Alabama players saying the things we have said instead.

In light of the admission from former Alabama players that they felt pressured to take the medical hardship scholarships to free up scholarships, are we really still supposed to believe that guys like Star Jackson transfer completely on their own free will and that there is no pressure whatsoever from the coaching staff to move guys out in order to make the 85 limit every year.

To be fair, Alabama is not alone here, LSU and UNC are just as bad when it comes to abusing the bogus medical hardship scholarship loophole.

"Alabama isn't the only school that has given players medical scholarships. Including the Crimson Tide, the 12 members of the Southeastern Conference have given at least 25 of these scholarships to football players in the past three years. Ultimately, it's the school's decision whether a player is healthy enough to play football."

No one is forced against their will to take a medical hardship, some players said they were pressured, some said they were not pressured.

In some cases, the players who took these scholarships say they didn't feel pressured. Charles Hoke, a former Alabama offensive lineman who took a medical scholarship in 2008 because of a shoulder problem, said the choice was left entirely up to him and was based on the many conversations he had with the team's doctors and trainers over the course of his junior year.

Others who took these scholarships say they believe the school is violating the spirit of the rule. Mr. Kirschman, the linebacker, said he injured his back in April 2008 but continued practicing with the team through the spring of 2009. That May, he was approached by coaches and trainers and asked to take a medical scholarship.

"I wasn't playing significant minutes, but I was personally upset because I did anything coach asked, I was a team player, I had a 4.0 average," said Mr. Kirschman, who played in two career games, both in 2008, and is now working full time as a robot programmer at Mercedes.

But that doesn't mean all of the players were happy about it.

On the surface this looks like the perfect little loophole to get around oversigning.  These kids are given a scholarship to continue their education, so the coaches can sell them on that, plus the coaches can work the "it's for the good of the team and your school, which you'll still be able to attend" angle, which is much more appealing than, "hit the bricks we don't need you and we need to make room for better players." 

Couldn't this be looked at as giving players money to go away instead of giving them money to come?  "Hey, we'll give you $20-30K in the form of paid education and perks such as game tickets if you'll just leave your football scholarship so we can give it to someone else, and by the way, you'll need to sign this medical waiver so the NCAA doesn't slap us with rules violations and probation." 

Mr. Kirschman said the school offered in the summer of 2009 to pay for his graduate degree in business—an offer he accepted—and that he still gets some of the same perks as players. "I still get game tickets, which is nice," he says.

Mr. Kirschman said the decision to take the medical scholarship was ultimately his, and that he decided to do it to open up a scholarship for the good of the team. But he said he felt he was pressured. "It was pushed," he said. "It was instigated for several players."

In today's day and age, it's becoming increasingly harder to give players money and gifts on the front-end to entice them to come to a school without someone noticing, so why not give it on the back end to make room for better players.  That is what this is all about.  You don't build the kind of teams LSU, Alabama, and UNC have, as quickly as they have, without making as much room as possible for new, better players.

Just like the oversigning abuse, this is an issue that is being exploited by certain schools and it needs to end.  You would think the schools that abuse these loopholes would take more pride in just competing straight-up without having to bend every rule in the book or exploit every loophole, but that is obviously not the case some places.   What good is winning a National Championship if you oversigned 40+ guys in a 4 year period and ran off a bunch of kids in the process?  And shame on the conference commissioners, athletic directors, and university presidents that allow their coaches to do this kind of stuff to innocent kids.

Filed under: ACC, SEC 59 Comments
21Aug/1039

NCAA Gives Alfy Hill the Les Miles Treatment

The sole purpose of this site has been to expose the oversigning loophole in the NCAA rule book to the masses, identify the coaches that abuse it the most, and follow the stories of the kids that get screwed in the process.  As we near 3 million hits since this site was created in February, it is pretty clear to anyone who can type the word "oversigning" into a google search box that we have delivered on those three objectives. 

For the last several months, we have closely followed Alabama and LSU as they were both identified as teams guilty of gross oversigning of their rosters.  During that time we were able to predict with a reasonable amount of certainty the number of players LSU and Alabama would have to lose in order to remain under the 85 scholarship limit by the August 1st deadline.   The main problem we have with LSU and Alabama oversigning is that nearly all of the attrition and roster movement below took place after they already accepted over 25 signed letters of intent from new recruits.  When schools accept those signed letters of intent the recruits that sign them are bound to the school but the school is not bound to the recruit.  As we saw with Elliott Porter, LSU screwed up the signing process so badly that they had to just pull the rug out from underneath Porter, who was already on campus, and send him packing because they didn't have scholarship room for him.  Simply put when you accept more signed letters of intent than you have room for when you accept them it's inevitable that someone is going to get screwed.

2010 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Terry Grant Running Back Scholarship not renewed
Travis Sikes Wide Receiver Scholarship not renewed
Rod Woodson Safety Scholarship not renewed
Star Jackson Quarterback Transfer, Georgia State Div 1AA.
Deion Belue Defensive Back Academically Ineligible; headed to JUCO
Alfy Hill Linebacker Academically Ineligible; future unknown
Taylor Pharr Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Milton Talbert Linebacker Medical Hardship
Darius McKeller Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Ronnie Carswell Wide Receiver Greyshirt
Wilson Love Defensive End Greyshirt


With Alfy Hill's departure it opens a scholarship spot for Harrison Jones who just a couple of weeks ago was on the short end of the stick with regards to the scholarship numbers.  Jones was going to accept being greyshirted until January because due to Nick Saban's oversigning and the unknown status of so many of the players on Alabama's roster it appeared that there wasn't going to be room for Jones.   We'll have more on Alfy Hill in a minute.

The March to 85 - LSU

Player Position Reason for Leaving
Akiem Hicks Defensive Tackle Removed from the team - was involved in NCAA investigation
Kyle Prater Linebacker Transfer
Jhyryn Taylor Wide Receiver Transfer
Thomas Parsons Fullback Medical Hardship Scholarship
John Williams Wide Receiver Medical Hardship Scholarship
Clay Spencer Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship Scholarship
Chris Garrett QB Cut - Scholarship Not Renewed
Houston Bates Defensive End Released from LOI in April; refused Greyshirt
Elliott Porter Offensive Lineman Asked to Greyshirt in AUGUST; refused Greyshirt; released


This is in sharp contrast to how a lot of other schools manage their scholarship numbers and the signing process.  As we have mentioned several times, the Big 10 Conference does not allow oversigning, even by 1, much less 8-10 every year.  The practice has not been banned by the ACC but in looking at their numbers it is clear that the coaches and schools in the ACC exercise constraint with the regards to the signing process and outside of North Carolina (Butch Davis) and Miami (Randy Shannon), the ACC has some of the lowest number of signed players in the country.  Same with the Pac 10+2, their numbers are consistently low. 

Outside of looking to get a competitive advantage by moving out lesser players for new recruits, fans of schools that oversign often site that one of the reasons for oversigning is that coaches often don't know who is going to be eligible and they use oversigning as a way to hedge their bets against the NCAA clearinghouse, after all the loophole in the NCAA rule book allows them to do so.

Case and point, Alfy Hill.  Hill was part of Alabama's oversigned class of 2010.  He was cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse, admitted onto campus, completed 3 courses of work, and is now being told that he is not eligible because after reviewing his high school transcript a second time, the NCAA has determined that a couple of his high school courses did not meet their requirements for eligibility.  Hill has now been released from his scholarship at Alabama and will have to go to JUCO or pay his own way. 

This is one of the most bizarre situations we have seen since we really started following oversigning.  Alfy Hill is getting screwed, as is Alabama, and it is completely the NCAA's fault.  The level of ineptitude and the lackadaisical nature of the NCAA is sickening.  The entire signing and scholarship management process that is under the care of the NCAA needs to be thrown out the window and there needs to be drastic reform in order to prevent more kids like Elliott Porter and Alfy Hill from getting screwed over.  The NCAA has managed to create a system so flawed and screwed up that potential student-athletes can get screwed from either side of the equation (Porter by LSU and Les Miles and Alfy Hill by the NCAA clearinghouse).

Between coaches like Les Miles and the NCAA does anyone know what the **** they are doing?  You have coaches signing more players than they have room for and then having to cut players in order to make room and you have a governing body who cannot accurately determine if a player is academically eligible in a timely manner and leaves a loophole in their bylaws that allows coaches to hedge their bets against their ineptitude.   It is almost like the NCAA is telling coaches, "since we are not efficient enough to tell you who is academically eligible in a timely manner so you know exactly how many players to sign or who to sign, just go ahead and sign as many as you want and sort it out later."  WTF???

The combination of coaches willing to oversign and ineptitude of the NCAA is a lethal combination that results in guys like Porter and Hill getting screwed.

This by no means excuses coaches that oversign.  They know the deal and they should at least keep their side of the street clean and some do - shame on the others that don't (Les Miles, Nick Saban, Houston Nutt, Randy Shannon, Butch Davis).  After all, it is these coaches and not the NCAA that are in the living rooms of recruits promising them and their parents that they will take care of them for the next 4 years. 

The bottom line is that the entire recruiting and signing process needs to be thrown out the window and replaced with a system that permanently closes the oversigning loophole and determines academic eligibility in an accurate and timely manner.   The new system should provide coaches with the exact number of players they can sign without going over their limit (which means the number for each team will be different every year based on who each team has graduating and leaving for the NFL early) and it should provide them with a list of players cleared to be signed.  They also need to make the letter of intent a two-way binding agreement, not a one-way agreement that only binds the recruit to the school.

Filed under: NCAA, SEC 39 Comments
15Aug/1020

The Machine

In a story ESPN The Magazine published on the birth of Georgia State's football program, they interviewed recent Alabama transfer Star Jackson, and when we read the following quote the first thought we had was William Bradford Huie said this 69 years ago.

"Bama is a machine. You do it like this, and if you don't -- your ass isn't playing."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2010/08/bill_curry_star_jackson_was_al.html

Star Jackson's transfer to Georgia State has drawn a lot of attention, primarily because of when it occurred (which was after Saban accepted more signed letters of intent then he had room for when he accepted them AND after Jackson spent the summer competing against a new QB recruit 5* Sims for a spot on the roster) and the circumstances surrounding his transfer.

His comment regarding Alabama and calling it a machine rings a bell for us because one of the first posts on this site was about a man named William Bradford Huie.  Huie wrote a spectacular piece on his Alma Mater in 1941 called  How to Keep Football Stars in College, and in his piece he refers to Alabama as a machine.

"Three thousand hopeful young men have entered the University of Alabama to play football during the fifteen years I have been close to that machine. Fifteen hundred fell out by the end of the first semester. All of these initial casualties had played football in high school and had learned little else. When the athletic department dropped them, what could they do? Even if their parents could afford to send them to classes, they were not prepared. They had come to college prepared only to play football. Had football not robbed them of their opportunities in high school some of them might have worked out successful college careers." 

More from his piece here.  The problem back in the old days at Alabama was not the scholarship limit, but the 5-year eligibility rule.

"The Red Shirts composed the "suspension" squad. They were the fifty or more prospects who had already served their time on the freshman squad but had not yet been chosen for the varsity. You see, under the five-year eligibility rule in the Southeastern Conference a boy can play a year on the freshman squad, a year on some intermediate squad, and still play out his full three-year varsity career. Thus in the spring the coaches look over the varsity and see what is needed to fill the holes resulting from what the sports writers politely call "graduation." They look over the Red Shirts first since they are older and better developed. Then they pick up a few from the freshman squad. Next they consign the rest of the freshmen to the Red Shirt pool to grow and develop another year. The chaff portion of the Red Shirt squad is then fired off the pay roll, and the brain trust promptly allows them to flunk and fall out of school. This fate will already have caught up with more than a hundred freshmen before the end of the first semester." 

We highly recommend you read our previous post on his piece and read his entire article yourself. 

Things have changed a great deal since Huie's time, or have they?  Sure there are scholarship limits now and the sheer numbers have changed, but based on Star Jackson's story and his calling Alabama a machine, how much has really changed?  Guys are still trying out for scholarship spots against oversigned rosters and fighting an uphill battle against numbers, just like back in the day.  Things were a lot more brutal back in those days, guys nowadays are at least getting medical hardship scholarships and opportunities to transfer to other schools. 

In the end, the bottom line is that institutions of higher learning are not supposed to be football "machines."  And according to the NCAA mission statement they exist to ensure that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount, not the sports experience.

Filed under: SEC 20 Comments
14Aug/1049

Saban Wants a Level Playing Field

Nick Saban seems to have taken the lead on the issue with the player agents.  Last week he held a conference call with various representatives from college football, the NCAA, the agent community, and the NFLPA to discuss how to deal with rouge agents, citing his strong desire to maintain a level playing field for all of the agents as they recruit college players to become professional athletes and to make sure that those not acting within the spirit of the process are punished and penalized.  You see the professional agent industry is loosely regulated in that there are some clear cut laws/rules, but for the most part everyone is just hoping the agents operate with professionalism.  Remind you of anything?  In reality the recruiting process for college players to the NFL and their interaction with agents is very similar to that of college coaches with high school players.

“We’re all trying to put our heads together to figure out what we’re going to do to level the playing field so that everybody that’s in the agent community, which some of them are very professional, have the same opportunity to recruit players and that the bootleggers out there are guys that get punished and penalized,” Saban said.

http://www.foxsportssouth.com/08/12/10/A-New-Approach-to-Scouting/landing.html?blockID=289137&feedID=4354

Glad to know Saban is so concerned about maintaining a level playing field.  We can only assume that he is holding similar conference calls with the NCAA regarding oversigning.  The hypocrisy and irony of Nick Saban leading the charge to level the paying field for agents and making sure that those who act unethically are punished is the damnedest thing we have ever seen since we started this website.  Wait a minute, Les Miles trying to tell everyone that what he did to Porter was not a big deal was the damnedest thing we have ever seen, this takes second place though.

We suggest you take a look at the article above and watch the video.

When you compare how coaches in the Big 10 handle the signing process and only take what they have room for on signing day to how Les Miles and Nick Saban oversign their rosters by 9-10 players per year it's pretty clear to see that one group of coaches are doing it the right way with integrity and the other bunch is exploiting the system.  The issue with the agents is exactly the same - it comes down to have two groups of people in the same profession, one operates with integrity and ethics and the other is a bunch of bootleggers.

Filed under: Rants 49 Comments
12Aug/1011

There is nothing wrong with Greyshirting, Les Miles

It appears that Les Miles has not taken the criticism he has received, which he was rightfully given, for the Elliott Porter debacle well and he has taken to defending the practice of Greyshirting players.   Here are a few of his comments...

He noted that Porter’s scholarship offer was still good, just postponed a semester. He said if somebody made the same offer to one of his sons, they would “certainly be disappointed that day, but recognize that, long-term, it’s not a bad thing.”

Miles said grayshirting can benefit players who could use time to allow their bodies to mature.

“He might take his time to come in shape and to benefit his body and compete,” he said.

The practice is common in the Southeastern Conference, but not allowed in other conferences, like the Big 10. CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel was particularly harsh with his critique in a column Sunday, calling Miles “a bad guy.” He had similar descriptions for others who oversign, calling Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt “despicable” and Alabama’s Nick Saban “two evolutionary stages below a lizard.”

Miles said he had not read the Doyel column but “I did get bits and pieces of that.”

“I can tell you no one is more critical of how I operate than me,” Miles said. “I can tell you the guys I visited with and I told, for the team, it might well be the best thing for you physically and might well be best for you and your health and by the count of numbers and scholarships, you might benefit the most by postponing your entrance into school."

http://www.2theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/100425914.html

Allows us to put on our Miles decoder and see if we can decipher what he said -- not sure we'll be able to make anything out of that last quote, though. 

First let us clear up some errors in Laney's original article.

1. The Big 10 has not banned greyshirting players; it is something that is watched very closely but it has not been banned.  Oversigning is not allowed, but greyshirting is allowed in the Big 10.

2. You'll have to read the entire article for this one, but in the original article the general tone is that the issue with Les Miles was the 25 scholarships per year rule and that by signing 27 he was two over the limit, hence the greyshirt offer.  While Laney is right, 25 per year is the limit and LSU was over with 27 eligible, the real issue here is the 85 limit and what took place prior to August deadline.  If you examine LSU's recruiting budget at signing day you can see that by signing 27 they were projected to be 9 over the 85 limit.  Therefore, in addition to the greyshirt offers that were declined there were a handful of other players that were removed in order to make room for 25 of the 27.  We happen to have a list handy.

The March to 85 - LSU

Player Position Reason for Leaving
Akiem Hicks Defensive Tackle Removed from the team - was involved in NCAA investigation
Kyle Prater Linebacker Transfer
Jhyryn Taylor Wide Receiver Transfer
Thomas Parsons Fullback Medical Hardship Scholarship
John Williams Wide Receiver Medical Hardship Scholarship
Clay Spencer Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship Scholarship
Chris Garrett QB Cut - Scholarship Not Renewed
Houston Bates Defensive End Released from LOI in April; refused Greyshirt
Elliott Porter Offensive Lineman Asked to Greyshirt in AUGUST; refused Greyshirt; released


When you step back and look at the entire body of work in this recruiting class you can see just poorly Miles has managed the entire process.  The only conclusion you can draw about the series of events is that Les Miles simply signs the 25 max every year and sorts the bodies out later, and until this point it really hasn't bitten him in the ass.   We have a list handy for that as well.  This is every recruiting class for Miles since 2002; some of the numbers came from his time at Oklahoma State.  Roughly a 24 average with as many as 31 in a single class.  And for just about every one of those years there are handful of BS stories about how Les got the roster down either to the 25 for the year or 85 overall.

National Championship Coaches 2002 - 2010

Coaches Conf. 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total Average
Saban (03/09) SEC 26 28 26 0 0 25 32 27 29 193 27.50
Miles (07) SEC 28 31 19 13 26 26 26 24 27 220 24.44
Meyer (06/08) SEC 22 19 25 18 27 27 22 17 27 204 22.66
Brown (05) BIG12 28 18 20 15 25 24 20 20 22 192 21.33
Carroll (04) PAC10 22 28 19 19 27 18 19 18 20 190 21.11
Tressel (02) BIG10 24 16 24 18 20 15 20 25 18 180 20.00

Based on LSU's numbers at National Signing Day they should have signed 18 new recruits, not 27.  Had all 18 made it academically, like all 27 did, they would have all had a spot, Chris Garrett would be at LSU not Northeastern State or wherever he landed, and Elliott Porter, since he was an early verbal commitment, would be living on LSU campus partaking in LSU spring ball.  But then again, we all know the deal, you know, it's just business and all.  Plus, if Miles only signs the 18 he has room for he might miss out on a new recruit and another SEC school might get him, plus he won't have any extra players to hedge against unexpected injuries, where's the fun in that?

The Les Miles decoder tells us the following:

1. He only cares about the athlete portion of student-athletes.

2. He only reads bits and pieces of Doyel's columns.

3. He is a man with enough money to pay for his son's education and having to greyshirt would not be an issue for him.  Nothing like screwing a kid over and then telling the world that it wouldn't be a problem for him if it happen to his kids - no kidding Les, your son could go to any school in the country and you could stroke a check for the full 4 years and never even blink.  A four year education is rounding error on your balance sheet.  For the rest of the working stiffs and the underprivileged in this country who don't make $3MM  a year being a coach, having to pay for 1 semester of college can be an issue.

4. He told his players something about scholarship numbers and greyshirts, but we don't think he had any idea what he told them, when he told them, or who he told.  Reminds us so much of his explanation of the time out at the end of the LSU - Ole Miss game last year.

How can you seriously believe that he knows what is going on with regards to recruiting numbers after something like this: http://ballhype.com/video/les-miles-calling-for-spike-and-lying-against-ole-miss/

The problem wasn't that he offered a greyshirt to Porter, it was how it was offered and when it was offered, and for Miles to come out and take exception with the criticism further proves that he has no clue that he did anything wrong.  Perhaps that empty suit Mike Slive should have a talk with him about managing scholarship offers and proper etiquette when dealing with potential student-athletes.

Now let us address the greyshirting and scholarship numbers for next year.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with greyshirting a player provided there is an understanding between the school and the player way in advance.  Obviously, we want the NCAA to do something about oversigning and our hope is that by closing the oversigning loophole we create transparency in the entire signing process, especially the greyshirt process.

So here is a scenario that we would like to see happen:

A school has 18 openings that can be filled on National Signing Day because that is their established recruiting budget for the year based on who they have graduating and who they have leaving early for the NFL.  Given the 18 LOI limit, the school is given the option to sign up to a certain number of greyshirt prospects (let's say 3 per year).  These three extra players are signed to a different type of LOI that explicitly states that the school has to honor their scholarship offer the following year but the players are free to accept scholarship offers from other schools and are not bound to the school offering the greyshirt. 

This keeps the school at or under the 85 scholarship limit, allows them to sign a few greyshirts for the next year to accommodate players that are willing and able to pay their own way until the next year and obviously really want to go to a certain school, and it eliminates the Elliott Porter scenario, which absolutely has to stop.

Now for the scholarship numbers next year.

Greyshirting creates a scenario where you are counting scholarships forward.  Let's take Alabama for instance; it appears that they have 3 potential greyshirt candidates this year that will join the team next year and count to next year's numbers.  Looking at Alabama's scholarship roster it also appears that they only have 9 scholarship seniors and 5th year guys who will be freeing up scholarship room for the next recruiting class (feel free to correct us on that Bama fans).  When you subtract the 3 greyshirt players from the number of scholarship seniors for next year the number of openings looks something more like 6).  According to Rivals Alabama already has 17 verbal commitments.  Let's say there are a 5 Juniors who jump to the league, that's only 14 scholarship openings.  Does anyone think that Saban is done recruiting for the year??? 

LSU is in the exact same situation, small senior class and already over committed (verbally at least) in terms of having verbal commitments from more recruits then they have room for next year.

And come next year we'll see all kinds of transfers and hear all kinds of stories attached to them, but at the end of the day it's all garbage because regardless of how many "mutual agreements to leave" we hear the bottom line is that in the business of college football, especially in the SEC, it's out with the old, injured, and less than, and in with the new.  After all, fans care just about as much about winning the recruiting national championship as they do about the BCS national championship.

Filed under: Rants, SEC 11 Comments
5Aug/1038

Last Comment on Rod Woodson

Mark Barron from Alabama's secondary doesn't believe that Rod Woodson will be missed at all in the secondary.

And what about Rod Woodson's departure? The sophomore free safety is transferring.

"Rod's a good athlete, but at the same time, we have more athletes that can step up and play at any time," Barron said. "He will be missed, but I don't think it'll hurt us as much as some people - other people - might think."

So there goes the argument that he was too valuable to cut or that he was cut despite being soooo valuable.  Then there is this other tidbit of information...

Alabama signee Blake Sims has been cleared academically by the NCAA and will practice tonight with other Crimson Tide newcomers, according to his father.

Sims was signed as an "athlete" out of Gainesville (Ga.) High School, where he starred as a quarterback. At the time he signed, it sounded as if he would begin his college football career as a slot receiver, but his father, Sonny, said this afternoon that Blake will start off as a defensive back.

"They want him at safety," Sonny Sims said.

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2010/08/blake_sims_qualifies_at_alabam.html

Are we really supposed to believe that Rod Woodson's dismissal from the team and Blake Sims being cleared academically had nothing to do with each other?  Had Blake Sims not qualified are we to believe that Saban would have still removed Woodson from the team?  After all, no team rules were violated and he is academically eligible.

We'll need to clean up our attrition board for Alabama and remove Blake Sims and replace him with Deion Belue as #10 because he did not make it academically.

Filed under: SEC 38 Comments
5Aug/101

Mike Slive, Empty Suit

The year before last when Huston Nutt signed 500 recruits to letters of intent and then rubbed the NCAA's and the SEC's nose in it by saying that there wasn't a rule that said he couldn't, Mike Slive and the SEC university presidents decided to take a hard stand on the practice of oversigning and banned it in the SEC, or at least that was the spin at the time.

SEC ADs had wanted the cap at 30. The presidents had other ideas. Coaches tend to oversign classes for two reasons: 1) To protect themselves against academic casualties; and 2) To stockpile players by placing signees into prep schools or junior colleges, with a good likelihood those players will come back to them.

"The presidents and chancellors view signing the letter of intent as a commitment to the institution for a student-athlete that is academically capable of being admitted and contributing athletically," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "From their point of view, there aren't other reasons to sign a kid. Obviously, coaches have their own reasons for doing things, and there's a litany of those."

http://blog.al.com/solomon/2009/05/sec_passes_limit_on_football_s.html

In light of that the SEC limit was set at 28 signees per class and the Huston Nutt rule was born.  28 x 4 = 112 but we'll come back to that later. 

So did the new rule instituted by the SEC chancellors, presidents, and commissioner make any difference in oversigning this year?  Well, Houston Nutt didn't sign 37 recruits and his farm system is dead, but a number of schools signed more than they have room for: Alabama had 10 more than they had room for and LSU had 9 more than they had room for when the accepted the signed letter of intent.  Both schools managed to get down to 85 before the deadline in order to avoid NCAA penalties.

Mike Slive's new rule lacks teeth.  The Houston Nutt rule was nothing more than window dressing to quiet the masses and enable the practice to continue.  Mike Slive, as the SEC commissioner, should required that each of his institutions prove where every accepted LOI has an available scholarship tied to it before it is accepted.  And he should prohibit schools from accepting signed letters of intent that bind a player to the school if the school can not show him on paper at the time the LOI is accepted that there is already room for that ONE-WAY COMMITMENT to the school.  By allowing his institutions to exploit the oversigning loophole he allowed guys like Les Miles to screw an innocent kid like Elliott Porter.  And that is why this site exists.

In the end, however, it is obvious that Mike Slive cannot do that; he serves at the pleasure of the SEC university presidents.  Hence the empty suit.  He wears it well though.

Filed under: SEC 1 Comment
4Aug/10151

Saban Gets Down to 85 on the Last Day

We'll have more on this later today, but Saban just announced that 1 player is transferring and two players are accepting a greyshirt and will delay enrollment until next year. We said months ago that Saban was over by 10 and that 10 players needed to go; until today we had 7 accounted for and today we got 8, 9, and 10.

The interesting part is that Alabama only has 9 scholarship players on their roster, and with two guys greyshirting this year that leaves only 7 openings for next year plus the juniors that leave for the NFL. Alabama currently has 16 verbal commitments for next year, so much like LSU, they are already over the limit and we will see the exact same thing next year that we have seen this year.

Update:

As we mentioned above, Saban announced earlier today that 3 guys won't be joining the team this fall, two of which have elected to greyshirt.  The one that is getting the most attention is Rod Woodson.  Here are some comments from Saban regarding Woodson and the situation:

"He will transfer and have an opportunity to do that," Saban said. "We were very helpful in trying to give him an opportunity someplace else. We wish him very well. He did a good job for us."

Multiple sources had previously indicated that academics could be an issue in Woodson's case. After the initial announcement, Saban later made it sound more like a dismissal from the team.

"I don't really feel it's a problem, when you have people in the organization who aren't accountable, how not having one would affect anything," Saban said. "We cannot make decisions about the future of players who aren't accountable for what they're supposed to do and not responsible to what they're supposed to do as a member of this team, regardless of what they issue is, behavioral, academic, football-related.

"We have a lot of good players on the team, and I would rather move somebody from another position to play where we don't have enough players than to allow somebody not to do the right things and be involved. I don't think we do anyone any good if we do that."

So did Woodson violate a written team rule or was he declared academically ineligible?  Doesn't sound like it.  Sounds like Saban simply didn't like what he saw out of Woodson, end of story.  Next.  Too bad Woodson didn't have an agent when he signed his letter of intent, maybe his agent could have negotiated a better contract for him when he signed.  That's where we are headed this this pattern, we all know it's coming. 

It is interesting that Saban refers to the University of Alabama as an "organization," he could have fooled us, we thought it was an institution of higher learning that enjoys a tax-exempt status because it exists to educate the masses.  Maybe we should start treating these schools like what they are, semi-pro "organizations," which flies directly in the face of every NCAA and University mission statement.

So here is what the final March looks like for Alabama:

2010 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Terry Grant Running Back Scholarship not renewed
Travis Sikes Wide Receiver Scholarship not renewed
Rod Woodson Safety Scholarship not renewed
Star Jackson Quarterback Transfer, Georgia State Div 1AA.
Deion Belue Defensive Back Academically Ineligible; headed to JUCO
Alfy Hill Linebacker Academically Ineligible; future unknown
Taylor Pharr Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Milton Talbert Linebacker Medical Hardship
Darius McKeller Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Ronnie Carswell Wide Receiver Greyshirt
Wilson Love Defensive End Greyshirt


Sometimes a diagram is better than wordy explanations; we put together two diagrams that best depict the difference between how Alabama and LSU are managing their rosters compared to programs like Penn State, Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Ohio State, and other brand name power schools.

The first is the OVERSIGNING MODEL which gives the coaching staff an extra period of time to evaluate the players and make decisions on how they are going to get down to the NCAA mandated 85 scholarship players.  This model results in mandatory roster cuts or non-renewal of the 1-year scholarship agreement.

The second is the UNDERSIGNING MODEL or the model where we have coaches who exercise constraint and ethics in the recruiting process and who are guaranteed not to have cut anyone in order to stay under the 85 scholarship limit. 

It doesn't get any more cut and dry than the two diagrams above, and as we documented this year with LSU and Alabama this is exactly what is happening right now.  Couple of things to note: both teams started with 66 players; one signed 29 and one signed 17; both ended up at 85.

At the moment what the oversigners are doing is legal because the NCAA doesn't not prohibit schools from oversigning, but we are of the opinion that they don't realize just how badly it is being abused.  It is our goal here to raise awareness about oversigning and help make the NCAA realize that they have to do something about the entire signing process - it is completely out of control and it is damaging kids.  Not to mention, the NCAA mission is..

Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.

http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/ncaahome?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/ncaa/NCAA/About%20The%20NCAA/Overview/mission.html

Our proposed solution has been to create a system where schools are required to declare the number of openings they expect to have before National Signing Day and be limited that number of signed letters of intent.  This number, and bear in mind we are adhering to the NCAA's mission statement that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount, will the number of players that have graduated and any juniors who opt for the NFL early.  That is who should be replaced, not some 3rd string DL who doesn't have the potential of the next 5* stud recruit.

In addition, we recommend that the NCAA require schools to prove that there is a scholarship available before a letter of intent is accepted.  This will eliminate scenarios where coaches like Saban and Miles knowingly accept more letters of intent then they have room for when the accept them, knowing full well they have 6 months to make arrangements in order to get down to 85.  Let's be honest here, guys like Star Jackson and Rod Woodson were dead men walking the minute Saban oversigned his class...everything else is window dressing.  This will also eliminate situations like what we saw at Miami this year where they didn't have scholarship room for Seantrel Henderson when they accepted his LOI so they cut someone in order to make room after the fact. 

We know what you are thinking, "well that will just lead to guys getting cut before hand instead of after."  We have a plan for that as well, as mentioned by one of our best posters here, Mario.  Require that each player leaving a team go through an exit interview at the NCAA office where the NCAA can monitor when players are released from a scholarship and get their side of the story as well as the schools.

That only leaves one issue on the table - the 1 year renewable scholarship rule.  We are on record here numerous times that the 1-year renewal scholarship is something that needs to be addressed as well.  Granted, you need to have something in place in order to remove a player who doesn't meet the academic requirements or violates a university policy, but giving the coaches power to make judgement calls on this not the answer (and save of the BS about the appeal process and the review process by university officials outside of the athletic department). 

Bottom line, there is no reasonable excuse for allowing oversigning, especially when the results are what we have seen over the last couple of days at Miami, LSU, and Alabama.

Filed under: SEC 151 Comments
24Jul/1057

Pimps, Agents, and Hypocrisy

Just about every sports blog on the Internet has been covering the three-ringed circus that is SEC media days.  But before we comment on the issue with the agents and the hypocrisy of someone like Nick Saban calling someone else a pimp, we want to point out something that appears to have flown under the radar everywhere except over at Tony Gerdeman's weekly installment of The Week that Was.

It appears that Nick Saban might have had a slip of the tongue with regards to the Andre Smith agent situation from a couple of years ago while at SEC media days.

As you would expect, this has been the main topic of discussion from the SEC media days, and it's left us with some pretty interesting quotes.

Nick Saban talked quite a bit about the agents and his program, and before he got to his now famous pimp analogy, he said this about former offensive tackle Andre Smith:

“We had an issue a couple years ago with Smitty who got suspended for the Sugar Bowl. You know, we probably could have prosecuted the guy. But in prosecuting the guy that did wrong, we would have put our institution in jeopardy - possibly - from an NCAA standpoint. We didn't do it. But then the same guy is standing in line trying to give our players money this past year and nothing gets done about it. It's not a good situation.”

I'm a bit confused here. Back in late 2008, after suspending Smith for the Tide's bowl game, Saban labeled the situation as an “institutional matter” and “not an NCAA matter”. Now he's saying that had they chosen to prosecute the agent involved, things could have been exposed that could have put Alabama—a school that is currently on probation for another two years—“in jeopardy”? But I thought it wasn't “an NCAA matter”? Does this mean the university covered things up, or just decided not to report them? Either way, it seems a bit hinky.

http://www.the-ozone.net/football/2010/summer/weekthatwas10_07_23.html

Like Tony, we are confused as well.  Why would there be any reason to be concerned about putting Alabama in jeopardy?  Jeopardy of what?  The NCAA finding something else going on?  Sure wish he would expound upon that one.  Furthermore, Tony is exactly right, was the Andre Smith issue an institutional matter or an NCAA matter, and why is Saban not being consistent in his labeling of the situation? 

Not trying to read between the lines, but it sure sounds like Alabama elected not to prosecute the agent involved with Smith out of fear for what might happen to Alabama had there been a full-blown investigation.  It also sounds like they decided to allow the same agent back on campus, knowing full well what he did and how wrong they believed it was at the time (and that is not speculation on our part).  Now the guy is back on campus and still trying to offer money and Alabama does nothing?  Sorry, but that doesn't pass the sniff test.  Why not throw him and the rest of them out?  Why not do the right thing ETHICALLY and shut these guys out?   Oh that's right, there is not an NCAA rule prohibiting this activity so no law is being broken, never mind, move along.

Regardless, the situation with Andre Smith is really not related to oversigning, we just thought it was very interesting how that part of Saban's SEC media days speech flew completely under the radar.

Now on to the portion of Saban's speech that does pertain to oversigning.  First off, we had to chuckle listening to Saban criticize sports agents for acting like pimps.  Coming from a man that earns $4MM a year to lure high school boys to come play at his school and then shops them to every NFL agent in the country by running the most agent friendly campus in the country, even the agents that have screwed his own players and his school in the past are still welcome back, we can only laugh at the irony of Saban claiming someone else is being a pimp.  Please. 

Here again from Tony Gerdeman's article, we found this to be the best way to interpret exactly what Saban was saying at media days.

Okay, now we're going to get to the “pimp part”, but when you read what Saban says, I want you to imagine he's talking about oversigning and when he says “agents”, replace that with “coaches”.

“It's something that is affecting college football in a negative way. It's affecting college football fans. It's affecting a lot of people.”

“I mean, the consequences are negative for them [the players] and their future. They'll probably not get drafted as high as they could have got drafted if they played and participated.”

“I don't think it's anything but greed that is creating it right now on behalf of the agents. Agents that do this, I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do that to young people, none. I mean, none. How would you feel if they did it to your child?”

Pretty interesting, eh?

I absolutely love the irony of Nick Saban calling agents pimps for the way they treat the players. This is the same guy who is famous for oversigning recruits every single year because he knows that by the time the next fall camp starts, he'll have kicked his lowest earners to the curb to make room for better looking prospects.

Hearing Saban complain about the runners for these agents who try to entice these players reminds me of coaches who hire high school coaches of prospective recruits to help out at their camps. You know, kind of like Nick Saban does. For instance, why on earth would Saban need a high school coach from Springfield, Ohio to help out at his camp. Is there some specific technique that only he knows how to coach? Wouldn't it be cheaper just to have somebody local do it? Don't they have enough coaches in the south to help out? And was it just a coincidence that Saban is targeting a highly-recruited linebacker from that same Springfield school?

I'm not saying these high school coaches are runners (not all of them, at least), but I highly doubt they go back with negative things to say when prompted by their players.

Basically, Saban calling agents pimps is more ironic than Houston Nutt making fun of somebody else's accent.

http://www.the-ozone.net/football/2010/summer/weekthatwas10_07_23.html

Does Nick Saban really have any business commenting on agents and referring to them as pimps?  Maybe it was the old saying that sometimes it is easier to see the things we don't like about ourselves in others and it's even easier to call them out about it than it is to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that we don't like what we see.

Filed under: SEC 57 Comments
7Jul/1011

EDSBS with Sound Advice for Alabama Scholarship Athletes

Go here and read this for yourself.  Solid.  Be sure to partake in the comment section as well. 

Maybe this is the answer.

Side note: this is the least amount of effort ever put into a post on this site - ever.  Goodnight.

Filed under: SEC 11 Comments
25Jun/1014

Verification 2.0

We have been accused of pulling numbers out of thin air, not being able to count to 85, and not knowing the difference between recruiting by-laws and the dollar menu at McDonald's, so every now and then we have to post something from a 3rd party source to verify that we are not making this up as we go.

Verification 1.0

The same source that published verification 1.0 has put out an update on Alabama's scholarship numbers.  They have the magic number at 2, we have it 3, however, there seems to be some confusion regarding the status of 1 player's scholarship and whether or not his parents are paying his way.  Given all the variables to the Alabama scholarship equation, which is nearly as complex as quantum field theory, we feel fairly satisfied with being within one scholarship, if not dead on the magic number. 

Verification 2.0

Nick Saban's roster management equation:

Notre Dame's:
(60 + 23) - 1 = 82

One has to wonder why it is so complicated and why there are so many back stories to Alabama's roster.  Notre Dame doesn't have this problem - there is no need on June 27th for a 5,000 word explanation as to how Notre Dame is going to get to 85 by August.  The explanation for Notre Dame's roster can be summed up in one sentence: Notre Dame had 60 players on scholarship on signing day, they signed 23 players, and they now have 83 players on scholarship. End of story.  Oh wait, there is a need for another sentence, sadly, one of Notre Dame's recruits tragically fell from a balcony and died, so Notre Dame is at 82 scholarship players.  Instead, with Alabama and other schools that oversign you have to sit down and go through something like this to get to the bottom of where their numbers are and how they are going to get down to 85.

This is the exact area that needs attention:

Before getting into the actual roster as it stands now, you also need to know exactly what has transpire since the Tide headed home from Pasadena.

On January 11, eleven new Tide players began their academic career at the Capstone:

Cade Foster, Jalston Fowler, John Fulton, Brandon Lewis, Chad Lindsay, Darius McKeller, DeMarcus Milliner, Anthony Orr, Austin Shepherd, Phillip Sims, Petey Smith

That saw Bama's number of scholarship athletes climb to 78.

Within one week of that, both Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson declared for the NFL Draft (and went on to be 1st round draft picks), dropping Bama's number to 76.

On February 3, 18 more student-athletes signed their national letter of intent to play for Alabama in the fall. Those guys don't count towards the scholarship limits until fall practice begins, so we won't add them into the mix quite yet.

Obviously, those 18, plus the 11 that enrolled early gives Bama a total of 29 new players. Since an incoming group can not exceed 25, something has to give.

The NCAA has got to recognize this as a problem (actually they are currently investigating and gathering research data on oversigning).  With Alabama's scholarship numbers sitting at 76 on national signing day, Alabama accepted signed LOI from 18 more student-athletes.  76 + 18 = 94.  That is just plum ridiculous, legal, yes for the time being, but ethical?  Not hardly.  The days are numbered on this practice - we just wonder why it has taken 40+ years for everyone to recognize it for what Bobby Dodd saw it as, a scam.

The solution is simple and it is one that we are sure the NCAA is going to adopt soon; before a LOI can be offered to a player to sign, the school has to prove that there is an opening for the scholarship at the time the LOI is signed - no opening, no LOI - period.  If Nick Saban and others want to replace players that fall to the wayside because of "natural attrition" they can do it when the attrition happens.  If a guy transfers in the spring and opens up a scholarship then Saban can go out and recruit a replacement or give the scholarship to a walk-on.  We have got to put an end to coaches recruiting and signing these extra players 4-5 months before the scholarship becomes available.

Filed under: SEC 14 Comments
25Jun/1010

Alabama well on their way to being Oversigned for 2011

Posting has been slow lately, but that doesn't mean there isn't news floating around about signing classes and oversigning.  A few days ago we posted a piece on LSU getting a head start on oversigning the 2011 recruiting class.   As it turns out, Alabama is in the exact same boat as their senior class currently sits at 9 players.  Obviously, there will be a number of talented juniors leave early for the NFL, but 9 + 4 is only 13, and 13 is a long ways away from Saban's average class of 27+ players per year, even if you throw in Saban's mandatory attrition which sits at roughly 9 players per year Alabama will be hard pressed to bring in a full class of 28 (25 for the current and 3 for the previous year or next year) players next year, which appears to the holy grail to SEC recruiting.

Just like LSU's situation where they have 9 seniors and already have 11 verbal commitments, Alabama also has 9 seniors but they already have 14 verbal commitments and there is no sign of Saban shutting down recruiting for the year.  

Maybe a word of caution is in order for those considering LSU and Alabama (and other schools that have made a habit of signing more players than they have room for when they sign them) - if you are one of the players that signs a LOI to a scholarship that doesn't exist yet, you will be, in essence, forcing someone out of their scholarship and that might be something to think about down the road when you are in their shoes and the next class of 5 star studs show up and there isn't enough room for all of them.  We know none of you think you will ever get cut and that all of you think you are going to the NFL to make millions, but the harsh reality is that only a select few of you will, and the rest of you will be "going pro in something else."  Just food for thought.

Here's a little something to chew on; LSU's and Alabama's senior classes of 9 started at 26 and 23 respectively.  That's a total of 31 players over 4 years, and that is just from ONE FREAKING RECRUITING CLASS.

Filed under: SEC 10 Comments