Andy Staples is not new to the topic of oversigning. In his latest article on the topic, he calls into question the teeth, or lack thereof, behind the NCAA rules for signing players. As Staples points out, the NCAA has now placed a limit on the number of players that can be signed at 28, however, what good is a limit of 28 when a school only has room for 15-18? They still have the opportunity to go over the 85 limit, drastically.
So now that a nationwide rule governs signee totals, the morally shaky practice of oversigning should end. Shouldn't it?
Not even close. The rule isn't worth the paper on which it's printed, and everyone in college football knows it.
The NCAA rule was sponsored by the SEC, home to some of the nation's most notorious oversigners. The SEC passed its own rule in 2009, and that rule was in place last year when Auburn signed 32 players and LSU signed 29. Thanks to a lingering numbers drought in the Loveliest Village on the Plains following coach Tommy Tuberville's 2008 ouster, Auburn managed to squeeze every academically qualified player onto the roster. That wasn't the case at LSU, where coach Les Miles already had tried to clear the decks by cutting quarterback Chris Garrett. Miles misjudged how many of his academically shaky signees would qualify, and by summer's end, Miles had two more qualified newcomers than he had available scholarships.
Tommy Tuberville sheds some major light on the competitive advantage aspect of oversigning with his comments:
Tuberville, now the coach at Texas Tech, doesn't need to see any numbers to know oversigning offers a competitive advantage. "Sure it is," he said. "But hey, nobody told [the Big Ten] they had to do that."
Tuberville, who coached at Ole Miss before Auburn, believes oversigning can benefit certain players. It's no coincidence that most of the schools that engage in oversigning are either in states or border states that allow junior college football. A coach will sign players he knows have no chance of qualifying academically and then place those players in junior colleges. In return, the junior college coaches will feed the best of their players back to the FBS programs when those players are ready to transfer. Tuberville believes the practice allowed some players to reach college when they might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
"I always liked to oversign seven or eight just to sign kids, to motivate them, and then we're going to put you in junior college," Tuberville said. "Once you sign, then we can continue to call you and motivate you to go to class, get your grades higher. Then you go to junior college, and you'll be in a lot better shape. Now, you're not going to be able to do that."
One of the signees Tuberville's Auburn staff placed in a junior college was defensive tackle Nick Fairley. After a stint at Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Wesson, Miss., Fairley went to Auburn, where he helped the Tigers win a national title. He now is considered the top prospect in the 2011 NFL draft by many analysts.
Memo to Tommy Tuberville, you're right, no one had to tell the Big 10 that they had to ban oversigning, they already knew it was bad for the student-athletes and decided to be proactive instead of reactive. Being that the Big 10 banned oversigning in 1956, 8 years before Georgia Tech decided to leave the SEC because of oversigning, you would think that the SEC would have figured out that this was bad for student-athletes and not worth the human expense to allow it to continue. Nonetheless, here we are 55 years later and still trying to get the SEC to come to its senses and put some real teeth into its oversigning rules.
One of the major contributing factors to the oversigning issue, and why it is so prevalent in the SEC, is the academic aspect of recruiting a student-athlete and the JUCO farm system the resides in the Southeastern portion of the country. As Tuberville mentions, when he was at Auburn, he would sign 7-8 extra and place them in JUCO in hopes that maybe one day a guy like Nick Fairley would come back.
Here's a news bulletin, Nick Fairley is not going to Notre Dame, Michigan, USC, Penn State, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, etc., etc. Academically he would have not been admitted into Notre Dame - Notre Dame has never had a JUCO player, ever. Yet the BCS wants everyone to believe that their National Championship is legitimate and that everyone is competing for it on a level playing field - guess what, they are not, and oversigning along with the JUCO farm systems of the south play a major role in explaining why the playing field is not level.
Go read the rest of Andy's article; it's a great piece of work done by a true professional. This might be the site that is at the epicenter of the oversigning topic, but it takes guys like Andy Staples, Stewart Mandel, Bruce Feldman, Bob Ley, and the countless others with real mainstream media pull to move the needle, and right now it is really moving. Now we need the local beat writers to really hound the coaches to explain their numbers when signing day comes around.