Things are starting to heat back up a little on the oversigning topic. The last few weeks have been slow, but with the conference meetings coming soon, as well as the forced attrition to clear roster space via medical hardships, grayshirts, and coerced transfers to lower tier programs, we will start to see a lot more news on the oversigning front.
Will Muschamp got things going today during a teleconference with all 12 SEC head coaches when he had this to say when asked about oversigning and grayshirting:
Muschamp also addressed the oversigning and grayshirting of athletes that has become a recent subject of concern in some areas.
"I think there is some gray area involved with all of it," he said."Now, you're able to sign players back (previous year) as long as you're under your 85 (scholarship) total. So does that count against the 28 you signed in February? Right now it doesn't.
"Again, at Florida, we don't grayshirt. That's not something that we do; it's not a policy of ours. We don't place students; that's not a policy of ours. That's not something that I'm going to cross that bridge on right now because it's not something that we do or is part of what we're going to do."
Wonder what Huston Nutt, Les Miles, and Nick Saban had so say to that during the conference call? Kudos to Muschamp for going public with their policy on signing and placing and grayshirting, and Kudos to Florida for making it a policy (not sure if that is an actual written policy or not) not to exploit these two loopholes in the system.
In a very well written article by Tim Twentyman, the SEC's Associate Commissioner, Greg Sankey admits the practice of grayshirting by some of his member schools is not appropriate. Our position all along has been that for a coach to go out and offer a ton of kids and tell them all that they might have to grayshirt depending on how things work out on signing day is fraudulent, at best. It is nothing more than a tactic to string kids along and keep them away from competing schools and offers no guarantee of a scholarship; there is a reason why the NLI's Susan Peal doesn't support grayshirting.
The SEC's Sankey admits that the practice of grayshirting by some of his member schools is "not appropriate" and says the SEC is considering adopting stricter measures on how recruits are counted.
"This year, we saw a couple circumstances where there was really late notice to student-athletes about programs' desire for them to defer enrollment," Sankey said. "Those circumstances are not appropriate. We don't want to see that type of thing happen.
"Part of the discussion is, 'Is there a way to manage grayshirting that should be out in front of folks?' In a similar way, should we be managing early-enrollment issues in a different way? All of those things mix into this discussion and that's why it takes some time to do some analysis to figure out some reasonable solution for our conference. We've been after this issue since the fall and we have an annual meeting in late May and early June, and I'd expect some potential solutions would be considered."
The article also includes quotes from several coaches, other conference officials, and recruited players who admit they had no idea what oversigning was until someone told them about it.
Madison Heights Madison defensive back Valdez Showers, who signed with Florida in February, said he never once thought about oversigning during his recruitment. He didn't even know such a thing was allowed.
"All I looked at was how many people they signed at my position," he said. "I never really thought about oversigning and I can tell you by experience that recruits aren't really looking at that, either."
Showers did say he was going to make sure future recruits at his high school are aware of the practice and ask the right questions during their recruitment — especially when dealing with some SEC schools.
"I think (oversigning) is real immature and unprofessional by a coach," Showers said. "Why would he recruit this many guys knowing that he's going to mess up another kid's chance of getting another scholarship from another school? I think recruits should start looking at that now."
Saginaw's DeAnthony Arnett, who'll also play in the SEC next season for Tennessee, said he didn't have to worry about having a spot on the team, due to his stature in the recruiting rankings. He is ranked the No. 8 receiver in the country by Scout.com and the No. 12 receiver by Rivals.com. But he said he could empathize with those players that find out too late to do anything about the fact that they are no longer wanted on campus in the fall.
"Some schools like oversigning kids and then giving them grayshirts or telling them to leave, which is wrong," he said. "Whatever your maximum is, that's how many you should be able to sign and not go over that."
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio says that they have never had to tell a kid that he doesn't have a scholarship; he also believes in Jim Tressel's method of giving open scholarships after the spring and summer natural attrition to deserving walk-on players who have earned a scholarship reward.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio told The Detroit News that he's never had to tell one of his players that his scholarship no longer exists, and can't imaging having to do so. But Dantonio added that he has to protect his program, which can be accomplished with moderate oversigning.
"My feeling is that as a program, you sign what you think you're going to have, and then there are always opportunities for a non-scholarship player — who's really played himself into a position to play — award him a scholarship, which we've been able to do every single year," Dantonio said.
To be clear, when reading these articles and talking about oversigning, you have to remember that there are two kinds of oversigning: signing more than 85 and signing more than 25. In many cases, like the quote above by Dantonio, coaches are referring to oversigning the 25 not the 85. For example, if a school has 57 returning players on scholarship, they can take on 28 to get to 85, however, 28 is over the 25 limit for a given year. What happens is that 3 of the 28 enroll early and count towards the previous year, then the remaining 25 enroll in the current year and count towards the current class. Therefore, despite going over the 25 limit, the school did not go over the 85 limit. This is what the Big 10 rule of going over by 3 is really there for; not so much to enable schools to abusively go over the 85 limit every year, which in talking to Chad Hawley simply doesn't happen. Our issue has always been going over the 85 because when that happens cuts have to be made; you can go over the 25 and not have to cut anyone as long as there is room in the previous class and guys enroll early.
We encourage you to read the rest of the article and discuss in the comments section. It's amazing that kids today, despite all of the talk in the media and everyone on the Internet, do not know what oversigning is or that it is allowed. Marc's proposal for Truth in Recruiting would definitely eliminate this problem.
Updated: Added quote from Mark Dantonio and commentary on the Big 10 rule for oversigning.
On the heels of national signing day, one of the hot topics right now is oversigning, and those in the Big Ten are screaming that the SEC has a huge advantage because many of the SEC teams oversign so many players. Where do you stand on the matter?
MS: It was two years ago that we took the initiative and put in an SEC rule that 28 was the most you could sign [in one class] and understanding that the rest of the country might not do that. The rest of the country followed suit and copied the SEC rule nationally and made it 28. Now, we’ve had a couple of years with the 28, and there are issues that relate to signing day. We’ve actually had an athletic director committee that’s been looking at all this for several months before all of the articles. We expect a recommendation from the committee that will come to our athletic directors this spring, and I fully expect legislation to be considered in Destin [at the SEC meetings] that will address some of the issues that have been raised.
First, it has widely been accepted that the SEC Sponsored NCAA 28 rule is an absolute joke and in no real away addressed the core issue of oversigning, which is ethics. Second, the 28 rule is a moot point in the Big 10 because they address the oversigning issue at its root, the 85 number. What good is limiting signing to 28 when a school legitimately only has room for 15 under the 85??? That limit of 28 is just for February to May 31st by the way. If a school has room for 15 and sign the 28, they can still go 13 over the 85 limit, which in essence is what causes the roster purging we see in the spring and summer as we close in on the August deadline for 85.
Why wouldn't the other conferences agree to the 28 rule? Very few of BCS conferences had a problem with schools going over 28 on regular basis to start with; that's not to say everyone was staying under 28 all the time, there were school here and there that would get to that level, but you could usually look back and see that they had a small class in the teens a year or two prior.
We'll call this what it was - a knee-jerk reaction and window dressing by the SEC office to try and save face after Houston Nutt made a mockery of the signing process by signing 37 kids and then laughing about it to the press on signing day. Let's hope the SEC athletic directors do the right thing in Destin and adopt the Big 10 recruiting rules which state that you have to establish your number before signing day and then you are allowed to issue exactly that many LOI with the option to petition for 3 extra, in which case you have to provide complete transparency in the numbers and document exactly how you come into compliance with the 85 rule. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason on earth for the SEC and the rest of the country to not adopt these rules. They have been in place since 1954 in the Big 10 and have worked well. Therefore, what in the world could there be to look at and study? There is a proven solution to this problem, all they have to do is adopt it.
Do you think we’ll essentially see the end to oversigning in the SEC with some of this new legislation, and will there be some real teeth in this new legislation?
MS: It’s a much more complex question than meets the eye. That’s not to say it isn’t one that needs to be addressed and resolved. Just like we did with the 28 limit, I’m pretty confident that we will take some initiative in Destin to try and deal with some of the issues that have been discussed. It’s complicated when you talk about the 25 you can get in in August and then counting some back and then counting some forward and then the issue of “grayshirting.” You also have more and more prospects enrolling for the spring instead of waiting for the fall. Our athletic directors are trying to take all of those pieces to the puzzle and see if there’s a way in which to address them that’s really fair to the student-athlete and fair to the institution.
No, it's not complicated. What is complicated is trying to track down and plug all of the loopholes that are being exploited by coaches trying to figure out a way to make room for more kids than they have room for under the 85 limit. The signing process for recruiting kids is as simple as Pat Fitzgerald said it was on signing day: "We have 85 kids on scholarship now, we had room for 17, now we have 85." What is making this complicated is all the tricky dickey exploitation of loopholes such as excessive medical hardships and the abuse of legitimate practices such as grayshirting.
Do you agree with Florida president Bernie Machen that “grayshirting” is a morally reprehensible practice?
MS: I think it’s a practice that on its face is one we’re going to address head-on. There’s a question that relates to notice and making sure that everybody knows exactly what’s going on. I think you will find that our ADs and our league will address the issue of “grayshirting.” Bernie has raised it. It’s definitely something that will be a part of whatever recommendations come from our athletic directors.
Let's hope the athletic directors don't address grayshirting the same way they addressed oversigning with their Houston Nutt Rule of 28.