In case you haven't heard, James Jackson, former Ohio State WR, was quoted in an article written by AP writer, Pat Eaton-Robb as saying, "Ohio State had an oversigning issue."
Jackson, a wide receiver, says he was asked to transfer after last season, two years into his college career.
"They had an oversigning issue," Jackson said. "They had to free up a few scholarships, and coach (Jim) Tressel told me I probably wouldn't play and maybe Ohio State wasn't the place for me."
Obviously, that sounds pretty bad if it is true. Even if it isn't true, it is pretty clear that Jackson was unhappy about how things went down at Ohio State. In a nutshell, Jackson thought when he committed and signed with Ohio State that it was a 4-5 year commitment by both parties and, as the AP story illustrates, Jackson was obviously not aware of the "fine print" of the scholarship agreement.
While oversigning seems to have grabbed the headlines, in talking to Rusty Miller who helped Pat Eaton-Robb on the story, it's clear that the intent of the story had nothing to do with oversigning. From Rusty Miller via email:
"Our story dealt with legislation in Connecticut and California dealing with making the fine print on scholarships clearer to both sides. It had absolutely nothing to do with oversigning. We won't be doing another story on this, unless the legislation proceeds or becomes a law. But the oversigning part won't be repeated, since James Jackson won't ever be interviewed again."
"I don't think there's any fire here to go with the smoke. It was just the kid who called it oversigning: Not Tressel, nor Smith nor Ohio State. Jackson probably doesn't even know what oversigning is."
Jackson's HS coach also believes that what happened to Jackson had nothing to do with oversigning:
"I know James wasn't an oversigning, but I do believe it was a roster management deal."
So the million dollar question is, if the story had nothing to do with oversigning why start the story off with an accusation from a former player of oversigning against one of the few schools in the country with a spotless oversigning record? This is all very confusing to be honest, as MGoBlog points out here:
If Tressel said he wasn't going to play and should think about a transfer but Ohio State was willing to sign the scholarship papers if he stuck around, that seems like a reasonable thing to do. The implication in the article is that they wouldn't. But it's never directly stated and it seems that even Jackson said something to the effect that they would have, except then he says they wouldn't. So… great job, Pat Eaton-Robb, you've confused the hell out of everyone.
My guess is that the oversigning quote was too good to pass up. The only problem is that it was inaccurate and took away from what the AP article was really all about.
Ohio State's track record on oversigning has been spotless. There are only 4-5 BCS schools that have signed fewer players since 2002, and when asked if Ohio State oversigned their 2010 recruiting class, Chad Hawley, Associate Commissioner Compliance, at the Big 10 office, said:
"My information is that they did not oversign and never were in an oversigned position."
When Ohio State was asked if they oversigned, this was their response:
"Ohio State did not over-offer or oversign for the 2011 football season. Each year available scholarships are calculated based on the number of slots available through exhaustion of eligibility, graduation, departures to professional teams, student-athletes known to be transferring and known situations where aid will not be renewed by Ohio State for various reasons. Once all these factors are considered, Ohio State then offers National Letters of Intent."
And lastly, the numbers. Since NSD Ohio State has lost three scholarship players: James Jackson, Ejuan Price, and Terrelle Pryor. In addition, 2011 signee Adam Griffin, is listed on the chart, but it is unclear if his scholarship was renewed since he was a walk-on that was given the scholarship that was left over from Seantrel Henderson not signing with Ohio State.
These numbers are from the Ohio State rival site, http://ohiostate.rivals.com/content.asp?SID=917&CID=1176611, not Ohio State.
Big 10 Office and Ohio State were asked for official numbers and it appears that a FOIA request will be required in order to get them, which is very frustrating. Schools across the country, Ohio State included, make it very public as to who they sign every year. Yet when summer roles around and the media starts asking questions about numbers everyone wants to go into a shell and stonewall.
Regardless, should we get the official numbers from Ohio State we will do a follow up on this story.
For the time being, let's take oversigning off the table and talk about the AP article and what really went wrong with James Jackson and Ohio State.
The AP story was supposed to be about the new legislation that just passed in Connecticut and how it might have been beneficial to kids like James Jackson who didn't understand that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts.
It is simply mind-boggling that student-athletes are still not aware that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts. If you believe James Jackson, not only did he not know scholarships had to be renewed every year, he believed that he would be on scholarship for the next 4-5 years, "no matter what" as he puts it.
"My main goal coming out of high school was to get a degree from a Division I program," said Jackson, who now attends Wayne State, a Division II school in Michigan. "If I had known they wouldn't keep me in school for four to five years, no matter what, I would have gone somewhere else.
"I don't necessarily feel used, and maybe coach Tressel was right, maybe Ohio State wasn't right for me," he said. "But this would have helped me out by maybe knowing that before."
Where in the world did he get that idea from? Did Jim Tressel tell him that during recruiting?
According to Jackson's HS football coach, Jim Tressel did just that, as did everyone that recruited James Jackson.
"Not once in any visit to any school was the 1 year renewable stuff brought up.
James had offers and I set in on talks with Michigan, UCLA, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Notre Dame and not a one explained that it is a 1 year renewable scholarship. Instead they talked about anything but that and 4-5 years was said by all of them.
When you make a commitment to an athlete or any individual you owe them your commitment. To deliberately say we are making a 4-5 year commitment to you and come back and say "well, he just not fitting in" it isn't right. He never failed a drug test, put himself in academic trouble, missed workouts, just apparently did not fit in. It is a practice to assume that these athletes know that it is a 1 year renewable and they don't."
This is where it gets ugly. Jackson's HS coach is right, if schools are selling a 4-5 year commitment, then they should honor it, period. The NCAA really needs to step in right here and do something about this. The state legislation is a move in the right direction, but it is not enough. There are way too many kids that don't understand that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts.
The NCAA should create a certification program that requires recruits to be certified by the NCAA for recruitment. The certification would consist of the recruit passing a standardized exam certifying that the recruit has an understanding of the recruiting process and is prepared to handle the challenge of evaluating scholarship offers. At the bare minimum, it would at least make sure that every kid recruited would know that scholarships are only good for one year. They are already doing this for the academic side of the process with the clearinghouse for academics, why not incorporate a certification process through a standardize exam and bylaws that state that schools cannot contact a recruit that is not NCAA certified for recruitment? Seems like a worthwhile use of all the money they are making.
So did Ohio State refuse to honor the commitment they sold James Jackson? That is the burning question. It's pretty clear that he was not the victim of a massive numbers crunch and just another kid run off in order to make the numbers work. There is something more to the story. This was a good kid who kept his nose clean, and who by all accounts did what he was supposed to do inside the classroom and out.
Most likely Jackson was either not good enough to see any playing time or he truly wasn't fitting in with the team, but according to Ohio State's policy those are not valid reasons for non-renewals. As the AP article states, Ohio State and Gene Smith deny forcing Jackson to transfer:
"Our policy is as James Jackson stated: As long as a student-athlete maintains his/her academic standing, behaves appropriately, and handles his/her responsibilities, he or she will retain their scholarship."
The confusing part about the AP article is that it appears there is a missing quote because Smith's statement mentions that Jackson states Ohio State's policy, but the AP article doesn't give the context in which Jackson would have mentioned Ohio State's policy.
I asked Jackson to clarify this and he declined to comment:
"I don't want to do anymore interviews on this matter or in the near future. I just want to focus on my task at hand and to continue being the best person, student and athlete I can be. I'm sorry but I just do not want to speak on this issue."
I also asked Jackson's coach to clarify whether or not Jackson was given the option to continue on scholarship or if he was told that he would not be renewed, his response:
"My understanding is they told him he would not fit in and he should transfer. He was not invited to spring ball and taking off all communication. Now that I think of it, to my understanding they told him he had until June 30th otherwise he would no longer have a scholarship. I believe he was given no
And that is the end of the road. Neither Ohio State nor Jackson will comment further on the story. At the end of the day, James Jackson is no longer at Ohio State and he thought when he was recruited and committed to Ohio State that he would be there until he graduated, if not longer. He never says on record that Ohio State absolutely would not renew his scholarship, but his HS coach believes that to be the case, and meanwhile, Ohio State is denying the claim stating their policy is basically to renew kids that are doing the right things. It's pretty much a stalemate. Ohio State has a pretty good record of player relations, especially avoiding oversigning and giving scholarships to walk-ons that will never see the field, but Jackson's coach is pretty adamant that Jackson was cut.
My personal belief is that unless something happened to Jackson when his position coach, Darrel Hazell left for the Kent State job and he simply didn't respond well to the new position coach, there simply isn't a logical reason for him to not be at Ohio State right now other than what the coaching staff told him.
By NCAA rules and by Big 10 Conference rules, Ohio State did nothing wrong. It is completely within the rules for a school to decide to not renew a scholarship based on athletic performance and ability, and according to the Big 1o Conference Office, Ohio State did not oversign so there was no reason to push someone out because of numbers.
James Jackson was told two things by the coaching staff:
1. He probably wouldn't play.
2. Maybe Ohio State is not the right place for him.
What those two things most likely meant were:
1. You're not good enough to play.
2. You don't fit in with the guys on the team.
The question is whether or not it is right for a school to not renew someone based on those two factors. The first one is obvious, no school should ever not renew a kid simply because he didn't live up to expectations or he is not good enough to play. He was good enough when Ohio State recruited him and enticed him with talk of 4-5 year scholarships and they should honor that, period. To not do so is flat wrong. The second one is a little more tricky. If a guy doesn't fit in it could be a problem, both for the him and for the team, but "not fitting in" is a very vague term, and it is probably used for this very reason.
If James Jackson wanted to stay at Ohio State he should have been allowed to stay, period. As his HS coach said:
When you make a commitment to an athlete or any individual you owe them your commitment.
That commitment was broken between Ohio State and James Jackson, and while we can't track down the exact reason why the fact remains that Jackson is no longer at Ohio State and that is a shame. The whole story is a shame. At best it's a story of a kid getting a shot to make a mark at Ohio State and things simply didn't work out so he was forced to move on and at worst it's a story about a kid being chewed up and spit out by the college football machine. Neither are appealing.
Chad Hawley, Associate Commissioner of the Big 10 Conference, was kind enough to take a few minutes and explain to us exactly how the Big 10 Conference monitors oversigning, and what he has shared with us shines a new light on a few things we were not aware of, things that, in our opinion, actually make the recruiting process much more restrictive than just limiting oversigning. We were aware that there was an audit prior to national signing day to determine the number of scholarships available and that schools had to establish their budget prior to signing day, but we had no idea that Big 10 schools were limited in the number of offers they could give out in addition to being limited to oversigning by 3.
As outlined in step 1, the Big 10 limitation is triggered by the issuance of an offer, not by the acceptance on the part of the prospect. Therefore, Big 10 schools are required to establish a budget number for how many OFFERS they can give with an exception of no more than 3 over what they have room for under the 85 limit at any one time. Mr. Hawley notes that several institutions overoffered, but as of right now there is only 1 institution that is oversigned. Therefore, despite having the option to oversign by 3, of the 12 member institutions, only 1 has oversigned.
In reading between the lines just a little here (we should probably ask a follow up question on this), it appears that the number of offers a Big 10 institution can issue is controlled by the conference office. Step 2 indicates that there is a little bit of wiggle room in total number of overoffers, but that there can be no more than 3 at one time. It would be interesting to see just how many are given out over the course of a recruiting class. However, given that you can only have 3 over the budget number at a time and that you would have to wait until a recruit turns the offer down to issue a replacement, it's hard to imagine that schools would be offering way more than they have room for under the 85 limit.
Here is an excerpt from Mr. Hawley's email:
Several of our institutions overoffered, but as of now I'm aware of only one institution that actually oversigned. We'll take the official inventory after the signing period ends.
This is how our monitoring process works:
Step 1 (Prior to the signing period): An institution notifies us of the number of scholarships available and whether they intend to use the exception to overoffer. [I think I may have explained this previously, but in case I haven't, our rule is triggered by the offer of aid, not the acceptance on the part of the prospect. In other words, technically our exception is that an institution my overoffer by 3.]
Step 2 (Prior to/throughout the signing period): An institution that overoffers submits the name(s) of the prospect(s) who received the offer(s) that exceeded the institution's limit. Per our rule, there may be no more than 3 outstanding overoffers; if an institution offers beyond the original three names submitted, the institution must indicate why it is permissible to issue an additional overoffer (e.g., "This additional offer is permissible because an offeree signed with another institution, which reduced the number of outstanding overoffers to two").
Step 3 (After classes have begun in the fall): An institution that ultimately oversigned has to account for every signed prospect--did they enroll, and if not, why? In addition, the institution has to account for every student-athlete who received a scholarship the previous year. These SAs will fall into 4 basic categories:
- Renewal-counter (SAs who have returned, are on aid, and count against the limit of 85)
- Renewal-noncounter (SAs who have returned, are on aid, but do not count against the limit of 85--e.g., exhausted eligibility SAs and medical noncounters)
- Nonrenewal-graduate (SAs who were not renewed because they graduated)
- Nonrenewal-other (This category would include SAs who have--for example--transferred, quit, turned professional, or knew they were getting aid for just one year)
For any SA who is categorized as "nonrenewal-other," the institution has to provide not just the reason the SA was "nonrenewal-other," but also information regarding that SA's history at the institution (including academic history), who initiated the nonrenewal (the SA or institution), whether a hearing for nonrenewal of aid was requested, and finally the SA's present status (i.e., does he remain enrolled at the institution, is he enrolled elsewhere, etc.).
This is pretty interesting stuff because many of you who debate this topic in the comments section were talking about controlling the number of scholarships offered.
Mark Richt has some very strong words about schools offering scholarships like candy:
One of the hardest things for us to do is to evaluate and nail down who you’re going to go after, especially in our own state. A lot of the out of state teams will just come in and just offer like mad. They’ll come in and just offer like candy. Quite frankly I’m not going to name names of schools, but a lot of them will do that just to get in the fight and if the kid commits too soon and they’re not sure they want, they’ll just tell them that’s not a committable offer. Whatever the heck that means?
Perhaps when the SEC meets this summer to discuss oversigning they can look at some of the guidelines and rules the Big 10 has set forth to eliminate the abuse and consider adopting them. We are certain that Mark Richt would appreciate a limitation on the number of offers that can be issued.
In addition to controlling the number of offers, step 3 also provides some insight as to the transparency required when oversigning actually occurs, as well as requiring a full account of every SA that received a scholarship the previous year.
Mr. Hawley has indicated that would be glad to try and answer any follow up questions. We have a few of our own, but wanted to get feedback from our readers before sending our own questions.
The Big Ten has no issue with oversigning because it banned the practice in 1956. The conference actually loosened its rule in 2002 to allow schools to oversign by three players, but even that rule is drastically different from the NCAA rule now in effect. According to Big Ten associate commissioner Chad Hawley, schools are allowed three over the 85-man limit, not the annual 25-man limit. If, for example, Michigan ends a season with 20 open scholarship spots, then Michigan may sign 23 players. No more.
If a Big Ten program chooses to oversign, Hawley said, it then must document exactly how it came under the 85-scholarship limit. That way, coaches are less likely to cut a player who has done nothing wrong other than fail to live up to his recruiting hype. "If you've oversigned, you're going to have to report back to the conference," Hawley said. "Come the fall, you're going to have to explain how you came into compliance."
Back in March of 2010, we wrote that there was a rule change in 2002 that allowed Big 10 schools to accept 3 LOI over the 25 limit, provided they had room to back count the players to the previous year and provided they proper documentation to the conference office regarding the 3 extra recruits. What we failed to comprehend was that the 3 over the limit applied to the 85 limit, not the 25 limit. To confirm this and get further clarification, we contacted associate commissioner, Chad Hawley for further explanation, to which he provided the following:
The Big Ten exception in football is that an institution may oversign by 3. Our rule isn't based on the NCAA limit of 25 initial counters, it's based on the number of scholarships available. Using your example, if an institution has 65 countable scholarships returning, the institution could sign up to 23.
When we approved limited oversigning in 2002, part of the deal was that institutions that did oversign would need to provide "sunshine" to allow for peer review. This reporting includes identifying the individuals who received the offers that created the oversigned situation. In addition, institutions that actually oversign would need to provide a person-by-person accounting for how the institution comes into compliance with the NCAA limit of 85; this includes reporting on not only the new signees, but also the status of each student-athlete who received countable aid in the previous academic year.
Over the years, a few institutions have used the exception to oversign, but what we've seen is that the majority do not use the exception.
That last line is the most crucial. Despite having an exception available to oversign by 3, the majority do not use the exception. One could argue that the reason the exception is not being used is because of the transparency in the process and any foul play, such as bogus medical hardships or forced transfers, would find its way to the light. Regardless, the exception is there provided there is a legitimate situation that would justify its use.
Football is the only sport in which the exemption is allowed.
Why can't the SEC adopt these rules? Is it the portion of the rules regarding transparency and peer reviews that have kept the SEC from adopting the Big 10 rules or is it the fact that it provides a clear cut advantage that they do not want to lose? What the Big 10 is saying with their rules is that they are willing to give a little bit of wiggle room but everything is transparent and monitored (and the net result has been minimal use of the exception to sign 3 extra). Those are the things that will end oversigning, transparency and monitoring, not increasing the scholarship limit or changing the agreement from 1 year to 4 years. It's time to have every SEC school open the books and operate with transparency. When a school like Alabama or LSU has an ultra small senior class (8-11 seniors) yet has 21+ verbal commitments and looking to add more, the conference office and the rest of their peers should be all over it demanding an explanation and demanding transparency; instead the SEC gives its members the green light to run a muck of the spirit of the rules. Shame on them and shame on the University Presidents that allow it to continue despite the strong outcry for change in the national media. Schools don't have to wait on the NCAA to change the rules; they can make a moral decision to start doing the right thing immediately and have their Athletic Directors instruct their coaches not to oversign, period, starting immediately - there is no rule that says they have to oversign!!
Simply put, if LSU or Alabama were in the Big 10 they would be allowed to accept around 13-15 signed LOI and they would have to explain, in detail, the 3 over they limit they would be and there had better not be any bogus medical hardships that push kids off the football team or yanking of scholarships like Les Miles did to Chris Garrett. What kind of affect would that have on their highly rated recruiting classes right now? Sure makes you wonder. Alabama and LSU are both sitting at 21 verbal committments and both will land more on national signing day.
Look no further than Penn State who, with similar numbers as Alabama and LSU in terms of departing seniors, only has 15 verbal commitments. Wonder what they would be ranked if they had 21 verbals and were looking to be in on the nation's top players still left on the board on national signing day.
This morning, we received a forwarded copy of this email from Mr. Hawley from one of our readers and we were able to confirm that it did originate from Mr. Hawley, and that we had his blessing to share his thoughts on the topic of oversigning with the rest of our readers.
From Mr. Hawley:
I appreciate your interest in the issue of oversigning. As you may know, the Big Ten is philosophically opposed to the practice of oversigning in all sports, and our long-standing rules in this area reflect as much. Consequently, we are pleased to see that the conversation regarding oversigning appears to be picking up steam nationally. We’ll continue to monitor that conversation, and when given the opportunity, we will continue to share our position that our approach better serves student-athlete welfare.
I do believe that we are heading in the right direction nationally. For example, there is now an NCAA rule in football—effective for the first time this year—that limits the number of prospects who may sign National Letters of Intent with an institution (28 during the regular signing period). In general, the NCAA rule is not as restrictive as Big Ten rules, but again, it’s a step in the right direction—we voted in favor of the rule and will continue to vote similarly in the future.
I can’t say whether the day will come when NCAA rules prohibit oversigning in any or all sports, but we obviously would welcome such a day. Continued pressure from the media and the public certainly help the cause.
I hope this is helpful to you. Again, thank you for your interest.
Things are moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work left to be done. Setting the cap at 28 does not eliminate the problem, as we have seen in the SEC, but is a move in the right direction. It should be noted that the SEC, the biggest offenders of oversigning, does not have supplemental rules in place to safeguard their student-athletes from oversigning and situations such as what Elliot Porter and Chris Garrett went through this past year.
The associate commissioner has been gracious enough to extend an invitation for further questions and we are working on that now and will share his response as soon as possible. In the meantime, we thought this was relevant and worthy of sharing.