Chris Low, ESPN's SEC Blogger, was recently asked if he thought anything would come of the recent movement to have oversigning banned.
We'll find out a lot more at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., but I can tell you that a number of SEC coaches have made it clear to their ADs and to SEC commissioner Mike Slive that managing numbers in terms of scholarships has been one of the best things the SEC has done in football and a big reason the league has had so much success. In other words, the coaches will fight any kind of hard cap (similar to what the Big Ten does)in a big way.
We'll see what happens in Destin, should be interesting. Mike Slive has a real opportunity to step up and be forever known as the man who ended oversigning in the SEC, something no one has been able to do for 40 years.
For those who saw the entire Outside the Lines episode live on ESPN, you got a chance to hear Bruce Feldman talk about oversigning in a little more detail. Feldman is extremely plugged in on this topic; he spent an entire recruiting season with former University of Mississippi Head Coach, Ed Orgeron while writing the book Meat Market. If you haven't read Meat Market it is an absolute must read.
With his inside perspective on the recruiting process and having been in the trenches, Feldman uncovered a complete sub culture to college football recruiting, particularly in the SEC, that exposes the nasty underbelly of the motives behind many of the issues surrounding the college football recruiting process. Below he reiterates what he has said many, many times before about the practice of signing and placing and how coaching salaries are tied to recruiting rankings, etc. If you are an ESPN Insider, you can get the whole story...for those that are not here is what is publicly available:
From @RowlffDogg Why doesn't the national media pay any attention to the practice of oversigning?
I've actually written about the subject several times and helped on a recent "Outside the Lines" segment on the issue. I was also the commentator discussing it in detail right after the near-10 minute piece aired.
One of the points I brought up on the show was about the practice of schools rewarding coaches with bonuses for signing a "top" class (either top 5, top 10 or top 25), or for landing a certain number of four-star players. With coaches having even more of an incentive to meet certain quotas and rankings, they often try to sign certain recruits that they know might have a very tough time qualifying academically.
I wrote about the "Sign-and-Place" method in "Meat Market," and for schools that deal heavily with junior college recruits, that also factors in. The process is this: Sign the shaky four-star prospect so that you can up your recruiting ranking, impress other prospective recruits, appease your fan base (and, in turn, the administration), increase your own chance of landing that recruiting bonus, and then send the players who can't get in academically to a junior college as if it's a farm system. If the kid turns out to be a complete knucklehead or flops on the field, you forget about him. If not, you didn't take up a spot for two years and then the juco coach, who is thrilled you sent him a talented player, has protected him for you and sends you back a more ready-to-play, developed prospect.
It would be interesting for someone to do some research on assistant coaching contracts and see what the bonuses are and how they are tied to recruiting rankings. Feldman definitely exposes one of the motives behind abusing the signing process and oversigning student-athletes for the sake of personal gain. Guess that throws a little cold water on the notion that oversigning is harmless and attrition is natural, of course most reasonable folks already knew this to be true.
Tony Gerdeman touches on the competitive equality issue with Oversigning and gives you a game by game break down of the bowl games and the recruiting numbers, something that the ESPN OTL piece shied away from in their piece on oversigning this weekend instead electing to focus on the human element of the practice and how in the opinion of one attorney, Donald Jackson, the actions of some of the coaches that oversign are close to meeting the elements for common law fraud.
Clearly, the lives altered so that coaches and schools can prosper is the core issue here, however, you can not minimize the impact oversigning has on the playing field - it is an undeniable truth that the SEC has a huge advantage over the rest of college football due to the conference's reluctance to get serious about stopping oversigning. It's not the only reason for the SEC success, but it plays a major role in the depth and strength of the conference, not to mention the advantage being able to sign more than you have room for gives you in the Rivals and other recruiting rankings. For example, right now Alabama has 20 verbal commitments, when in actuality, under Big10 recruiting rules, they would only have room for somewhere around 12 recruits given they only have roughly 8 seniors on scholarship and don't anticipate more than 4 juniors going pro early. Therefore, if Alabama were bound to Big 10 recruiting rules they would have somewhere around 12-14 verbal commitments right now, not 20. Do you think they would have the second best recruiting class in the country with only 12-14 commitments? No, they wouldn't. However, given the fact that they are able to skirt recruiting rules Big 10 schools follow they are able to load up on recruits and lure more blue chip players to be a part of their #2 ranked class.
Not only does this help a school like Alabama, it keeps other schools who have legitimate room from getting those players.
ESPN OTL is airing a piece on oversigning this morning. In fact, it will be on after the commercial break. Looks like LSU is the focus of the piece; hopefully the other abusers are mentioned as well.
Update (link to the full length video now included):
Just watched the piece on oversigning. Here is a link in case you missed it: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5935634&categoryid=2564308
Go watch the video, they really did a great job with it!!!
Here is a link to the OTL facebook page in case you would like to get fan reactions to their story http://www.facebook.com/OTL#!/OTL?v=wall.
ESPN did a great job with the piece focusing mainly on the human element. Thought they also did a great job presenting the hard to understand rules of the signing process and how it is that schools oversign. By in large, LSU got the hammer in this piece, specifically for their handling of Elliot Porter and Chris Garrett. Garrett gets an opportunity to tell his side of the story regarding how he was cut from LSU, Les Miles declined to be interviewed for the piece.
All in all, ESPN did an excellent job - couldn't be happier with how they presented the information. Hopefully, continued attention to this topic will result in serious rule changes that will eliminate the SEC's abuse of the loophole.
Great work ESPN - THANK YOU!!!!
Brennan's article is focused more on oversiging (which he calls runoff) in college basketball, but he might as well be talking about football.
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If you haven't read the news, Michael over at Braves & Birds - The Atlanta Sports Blog has been reading our site and decided to write an essay on the topic of oversigning and the nature of our website. Michael is an Attorney from Atlanta, Georgia, we on the other had are not attorneys (we didn't even sleep at a Holiday Inn, but we're going to give this a go anyways), but we did we bounce emails back and forth with Michael and he seems like a personable guy, not to mention he has been blogging since we were in diapers.
So let's take a look at the article.
"I've been reading Oversigning.com over the past few weeks and enjoying the discussion. The authors there take a much harder line on oversigning than I would and at times, their writing devolves into unhinged attacks on the SEC from every angle. (Comparing endowments? Really?) In those instances, they come across as excuse-making Big Ten fans who want to justify the fact that SEC teams have won more national titles in the past four years than Big Ten teams have won in the last forty."
Yeah, we're pretty hardcore on the topic of oversigning. People write about it from time to time, especially during the off-season and around signing day, but we are the first and only website completely dedicated to the topic. Why? Two reasons: 1.) During the 2007 during the National Championship game, we saw a graphic that showed the number of players signed in each of LSU's and Ohio State's previous 5 recruiting classes: LSU 28, 26, 13, 26, and 26 = 119 and Ohio State 16, 24, 18, 20, and 15 = 93. A difference of 26 players, or essentially an entire recruiting class. That raised an eyebrow. It was the first time we could remember a broadcast ever showing those kind of numbers. 2.) A couple of months later we saw Nick Saban on ESPN battling it out with a local sports reporter over his recruiting numbers which led us to this link. That raised a second eyebrow. The thing that really got us going was Nick Saban saying:
"It's none of your business. Aiight? And don't give me this stuff about the fans need to know, because they don't need to know."
Something about that has always bothered us. It wreaks of someone having something to hide.
Unhinged attacks on the SEC. Have we attacked the SEC, probably so, has it been unhinged, no not really. If we were attacking the ACC for oversigning, then it would be considered unhinged, but to take the conference with the worst problem with oversigning to task is not unhinged attacking in our opinion. Calling out the SEC for running off Georgia Tech, Tulane, and Sawenee isn't really all that unhinged either, in our opinion, it's more like factual history. The post regarding endowments was a follow up on two fronts: 1.) Texas joining the Big 10, and 2.) The SEC running off academic universities because of disagreements on athletic competition, specifically football, and how that has left them poorly positioned in terms of adding a powerhouse like Texas who wouldn't consider joining the SEC back in the 90's because of the poor academic standards. Again, those are facts, not unhinged attacks.
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If you care at all about this topic then you need to watch this video.
Having watched the video, there is no question that ESPN could have done the exact same story on Nick Saban and Alabama. The parallels are eerily similar. Big name coach, long-term 35 million dollar contract, coach comes in and oversigns recruits and start gutting the roster, etc., etc. All of those things are fine when you are dealing with professional athletes, but when you are dealing with unpaid, college athletes it's a different story.
Ramogi Huma, President of the NCPA, is leading the charge on NCAA rules reform. Go check out the website!
And so does ESPN's ACC blogger, Heather Dinich. They both agree that the oversigning loophole is an issue that needs to be addressed and that it primarily exists in the SEC.
"Some were quick to criticize Butch Davis’ class of 28 last year, but that’s nothing compared to how the SEC has recruited. The SEC has combined for 34 recruiting classes with more than 25 players each. Mississippi State did it each of the past five years. Alabama did it four of the past five, as have Arkansas and Auburn. Only one school in the SEC – Vanderbilt – has kept its classes at 25 or under."
"If you are good at math, you may note that 39, 30 and 28 all are more than 25, the NCAA-mandated limit that has applied to FBS schools since 1992. But a few years ago, some very shrewd coach (no one is sure whom) noticed that the rule says that no more than 25 signees may enter the university in the fall term. It says nothing about how many players may sign with the university in February.
It is a loophole that a coach can drive a championship through. National champion Alabama, for instance, has announced 29 signees on each of the last two signing days."
We really love this comment:
"We spent some time trying to analyze what happens in each signing class," SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey said. "Folks got so concerned that it became an issue that crystallized last spring."
The SEC athletic directors suggested that the signing limit from signing day through May 31 be set at 30. The presidents agreed upon 28. The NCAA also adopted the 28-man limit, although few schools outside the SEC have signed more than 25.
"Spent some time trying to analyze what happens in each signing class" - what a joke. Oversigning has been an issue in the SEC for the better part of its existence. Any SEC official who can't see what is going on is either an idiot or understands exactly what is going on and doesn't have the balls to do anything about it. The rule that needs to come down from the SEC office is a rule that requires SEC coaches to report the number of returning scholarship players prior to national signing day, and with that number the SEC office can assign a max number to each school and not allow anyone to take more than they have room for, period. If a school reports 68 returning scholarship players, they get a budget of 17 scholarships to give out and the message to the coaches should be, "here's your number, make each commitment count."
The SEC implementing the "Houston Nutt Rule" limiting schools to signing 28 commitments to a single class has zero teeth and is a complete joke. Besides, the Big 10 has had that rule for years, so it's not like they came up with something new that no one else has been doing, plus oversigning has never been an issue in the Big 10 anyways.
Now that everyone is glued to recruiting class rankings on signing day (which wasn't the case before rivals.com and scout.com) it has put a spotlight on the number of kids each school signs; before then all of this was pretty much under the radar for the average fan. With both websites displaying numbers from 2002-2010 we finally have enough data in one place to analyze and see if there is a trend or not.
We're not going to say that we scooped ESPN on this one (they have mentioned it before in previous years)...but both of these articles did come out a few days after we put up our first recruiting chart on this website.
Let's hope it continues to come up in the mainstream media.