Houston Nutt is, whether he likes it or not, one of the reasons oversigning has received the attention it has over the last two years. Why? Simple, you can't blatantly rape the spirit of the NLOI process and then laugh about it to the media.
“There is no rule that says we can’t sign 80! All I know is we have to have 25, we got to have 25 come ready August”
Those were Houston Nutt's exact words, words that lead to the Houston Nutt rule that limits SEC schools to only signing 28 players between the months of February and June. Words that Houston Nutt would probably take back if he could. When asked if he would sign 37 players again, Nutt told Ole Miss reporter, Kyle Veazey, he probably wouldn't:
"And as for that 37, he thinks it unfairly characterizes him in a bad light. He knew going in that many of those players would go to junior college, but he felt that if he signed them initially that it might give them incentive to improve at juco — and give the Rebels an inside track two years later should they be eligible. But even after saying all of that, he said he wouldn’t have signed 37 if he had it do over again (and the new rule wasn’t in place)."
According to Veazey, Nutt plans to fight for keeping oversigning in the SEC, along with the morally reprehensible practice of grayshirting, as Florida's President Bernie Machen would describe it.
Nutt thinks those who criticize him on grounds of oversigning just don’t get the difficulty involved in the number juggling in a college roster. “It’s a very difficult job to try to manage, to keep two, three deep at every position,” Nutt said. He says he hasn’t ‘run off’ players just to meet his numbers, isn’t dishonest and said that he doesn’t ‘non-renew’ a scholarship player unless he’s involved in disciplinary issues. But he says if a player comes to him and says his goal is to start and Nutt doesn’t see it, he might suggest that it’s not a bad idea if he goes somewhere else. When I told him critics counter that by saying coaches should be accountable for their talent evaluations, he said this: “Until you’ve done it, until you’ve actually done it, it’s one of the most difficult things, ever.”
Houston Nutt's defense for oversigning is that it's tough to evaluate talent, brilliant! But isn't that what he is being paid millions of dollars to do? Veazey also mentions that he will have more on Nutt's defense of oversigning later in the week, but at this point, it's pretty clear that Nutt plans to dig in and fight this thing out until the bitter end. Perhaps he has no choice, perhaps oversigning is the only thing that is enabling him to field a team. Despite all those large numbers: 31, 37,26, and 28 in the last four years, Ole Miss is on track to have way less than 85 scholarship players next year. That is a lot of recruiting misses...maybe it is as hard as he makes it sound.
Pat Fitzgerald would probably disagree with his ultra small classes of 18-20 players each year with virtually no attrition, excellent graduation rates, and conference best APR ranking.
Needless to say, things are going to get very interesting in the coming weeks as the SEC deliberates over the oversigning issue. One thing is for sure, Houston Nutt fully intends to fight to keep oversigning alive and well in the SEC.
In a piece in today’s JACKSON (MS) CLARION-LEDGER by Kyle Veazey, Houston Nutt drove any credibility he had left in how he recruits and subsequently treats players off a cliff.
In the article, SBS links to an article written in 2009 about former Arkansas recruit Dan Bailey.
Bailey, who's from Mustang, Okla., had passed up a full scholarship at Ohio to accept an offer from Arkansas. Head coach Houston Nutt and his special teams assistant, James Shibest - both of whom are now at Ole Miss - told Bailey he could walk on and receive an academic scholarship that would cover tuition. Bailey, who has relatives in Fayetteville, agreed to the deal.
But soon after losing the competition for the starting job in late August, Bailey was approached by Nutt and Shibest, who told the kicker he would have to pay his own way if he wanted to play football. As they explained at the time, they didn't realize that Bailey's partial academic grant would count toward the team's 85-scholarship limit.
"It wasn't anything intentional," Nutt said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in September 2006. "I can promise you that. I wish things had been made clearer."
Nutt told Bailey he could earn a full ride by January if he performed well on the field. But Bailey's parents were outraged. A meeting with athletic director Frank Broyles didn't mollify them.
"We told them it wasn't our fault they didn't know the rules," said Bailey's mother, Ann. "That's your mistake and it's wrong what you're doing. You just don't do that to these kids."
According to SBS, referencing an article by the Clarion-Ledger, despite the 7 players leaving unexpectedly, Huston Nutt and Ole Miss are still 3 over their limit. Nutt encouraged the Clarion-Ledger to contact any of the 7 players who left early, only 1 could be reached and would not comment on record. Interesting to say the least.
In our Oversigning Cup standings, which we are still working on, we had Ole Miss at +14 based on having 85 scholarship players at the end of the season and not taking into account the 7 players that left early. In addition, we were tracking verbal commitments at the time and obviously those are not official numbers, as we also noted at the time -- the official numbers are the number of players that sign a NLI. Regardless, we were projecting Ole Miss at +14 and according to the Clarion-Ledger there are still 3 spots that need to be cleared as there is only room for 19 of the 22 remaining players that have signed a NLI; this is after the 7 departures. So it looks like they were over by 10, lost 7, and still have 3 to go. That would mean that our numbers were right provided Ole Miss finished the season with 81 players on scholarship, not 85, and their real number was 10 not 14. Note: we posted an asterisk next to the Ole Miss numbers because we were unclear about the SPES number; this helps clear that up.
To be honest, all of this would be so much easier if everyone handled their roster like Pat Fitzgerald at Northwester: "We are at 85 scholarships, we had 17 to give, and we are at 85 right now." Case closed, no BS. Why don't we demand this of every coach and why can't every coach deliver - 17 openings, 17 additions, end of story?
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.
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.
Andy Staples, writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote an excellent article on oversigning last year in the wake of Huston Nutt's 37 player class and subsequent thumbing of his nose at those who criticized the number of players he signed, given that he had 64 scholarship players set to return to Ole Miss and there was no way he would have room for all 37 players.
Let's take a closer look at Andy's article.
First, regarding Nutt's position on his class of 37:
"I checked with [compliance director] David [Wells], and there's no rule that says that we can't sign 80," Nutt said at that Signing Day press conference. "All I know is we have to have 25 ready to go in August ready and eligible."
Is this the kind of coach with which you should entrust your child's signature on a letter of intent? Seriously. Fortunately, the SEC addressed the situation and placed a limit of 28 signed letters per class, but 28 * 4 != 85, so there is still room for improvement and further regulation.
As long as programs keep their total at 85 scholarships and don't bring in more than 25 a year, the NCAA has no quarrel -- for now. The NCAA's Football Issues Committee discussed oversigning and grayshirting at its January meeting. The committee, which comprises coaches, athletic directors and conference administrators, agreed to monitor oversigning, but Sun Belt Conference commissioner Wright Waters, the committee's chair, said until the committee can get some hard data, it can't determine if oversigning is an issue that requires legislation.
"We don't know yet, because we don't know the numbers," Waters said. "If you look at it purely in principle, you're uncomfortable with it. But you've also got to ask if kids are being benefited by it. If they are, then you've got to find a way to not hurt those kids and at the same time make sure you maintain a level playing field."
As Waters noted, oversigning and grayshirting raise some ethical dilemmas. For instance, what happens when too many players have qualified academically and there is no scholarship available for a grayshirting player?
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