Oversigning.com
1Jul/111

James Jackson and Ohio State

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."

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory?id=13929839

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.

http://mgoblog.com/content/unverified-voracity-concerned

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."

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory?id=13929839

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
other option."

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.

Filed under: Big 10 1 Comment
11Mar/1144

Addressing the Jim Tressel Situation

In light of the recent developments with Ohio State and Jim Tressel, we felt the need to address the Jim Tressel issue and how it relates to this site and the topic of oversigning.

First and foremost, this site is dedicated to the topic of oversigning.  We have stated that from day 1 and we have not wavered from that topic; we have overlapped into some gray areas that are indirectly connected to oversigning, but we have never entered into discussions on topics that are exclusively outside the realm of oversigning.  Period. 

There is no denying that we have been very strong supporters of Jim Tressel and how he manages the recruiting process and the roster numbers.  On many occasions we have used his numbers and video of his comments regarding the topic as an example of how the process should be handled, and even more so we have praised his efforts to avoid oversigning at all costs by awarding scholarships to deserving 5th year walk-ons.  That has not changed.  Regardless of how you feel about what transpired in the recent events surrounding the NCAA investigation, it has absolutely no bearing on the facts that pertain to how he has conducted himself in the recruiting process and with regards to oversigning. 

Simply put, Jim Tressel's track record on recruiting, roster management, and oversigning has been impeccable, no one can challenge that, and we are not going to throw the baby out with the bath water.  What Tressel did has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of oversigning and therefore nothing will change here with regards to how we feel about how he manages his roster and what he does to avoid the abuses of oversigning. 

That said, it is fully understood that the debate on oversigning is often times a debate about ethics.  It is also fully understood that to engage in a conversation about ethics in one area and yet ignore or defer comment on unethical behavior in another area can be deemed as irresponsible and misconstrued as having an agenda.  That is not the case here.  This site is about having a linear discussion about oversigning in order to have it eliminated.  We will gladly take whatever criticism comes with this narrowed approach, but at the same time we hope that our readers understand that the most effective way to address the oversigning issue is to stay on point.

This site has been instrumental in leading to reform in the area of oversigning and that work will continue until it is finished.  The reason for this site's success is the narrowed focus on a singular topic (oversigning), and while that comes with the flaw of not being able to expand into other areas, such as the Tressel situation or any number of other topics that come up on a daily basis, it is vital to the success of the site and will be maintained. 

Filed under: Big 10 44 Comments
13Feb/1169

Competitive Advantage and Ethics, Two Sides of Oversigning

The topic of oversigning is somewhat complicated, the numbers are hard to track, especially when a school redacts them from public documents, the terms used in the recruit game are hard to understand (greyshirt, redshirt, count forward, count back, medical hardships, medical redshirts, etc), and the NCAA bylaws combined with the NLI process can make the whole world of recruiting hard to truly understand.  Most fans simply follow rivals.com and the other recruiting sites to see where their team is ranked and give very little thought to how rosters are managed and whether or not coaches are abusing the oversigning loophole or any other loophole.

This site has been the epicenter of the oversigning debate since it was launched roughly a year ago.  Since being discovered by Stewart Mandel in May of 2010, its popularity and traffic has grown to the tune of 200,000+ unique readers and 6.6 million page visits.

This is why I love the Internet. I must confess, I was not aware of oversigning.com until receiving this e-mail. (I've since seen it referenced numerous places.) Hats off to the authors. They've done a tremendous job of shedding light on a largely under-covered topic through meticulous research and easy-to-digest data. They seem most concerned with the overlooked human consequence of this practice: coaches quietly cutting loose underperforming or injury-riddled veterans to make room for a new crop of recruits. Currently, the site is closely monitoring Alabama, which, as of the most recent post, still had 91 scholarship players on its projected 2010 roster, in its "March to 85."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/stewart_mandel/05/26/best-conference/1.html#ixzz1DrZKoh9s

 Since that time, the topic of oversigning has been one of the more talked about topics in college football outside of conference realignment and the Cam Newton story.  As National Signing Day drew near, the oversigning drumbeat got louder and louder and the attention escalated to the point where coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, and university presidents were all weighing in on the topic.   The Paul Finebaum Show, a syndicated sports talk show based in Birmingham, Alabama and broadcast on Sirius and XM radio, talks about it almost daily, and in the last couple of weeks there have been days when the topic dominated the entire 4 hour show. 

Needless to say the topic is viral, as it should be.  It's a topic that is years and years overdue for the spotlight.

For those of you who are new to oversigning, there is plenty of material on the topic readily available all over the Internet.

In the past year of following and writing about this topic, we have found that there are two main components to the oversigning debate: competitive advantage and ethics.

Competitive Advantage:

Where most people get lost in this argument is in that they think that the team that oversigns the most is automatically the better team.  Often times people will say, Huston Nutt is the most notorious oversigner in the country - he signed 37 in one class, if it was such and advantage why doesn't he win the National Championship every year?  Well, it's not that simple.  You have to look at when the attrition takes place in order to determine if a coach is upgrading his roster by signing more guys than he has room for, having those guys qualify and enroll, and then having upperclassmen or guys already on the roster pushed out via transfers, medical hardships or simply not renewing their scholarship, OR, if a coach is signing a bunch of guys that won't qualify and have to go to JUCO which ultimately has no tangible bearing on the roster in the short term, a practice commonly known as signing and placing.  Nick Saban and Les Miles would be the former, Huston Nutt would be the latter, and that is perhaps why we see a difference in the results on the field, not to mention Saban and Miles are simply better coaches, much better.

There is absolutely no question that oversigning creates a competitive advantage against schools that are prohibited from the practice or elect on their own, as does Georgia in the SEC, to not exploit the loophole.

Oversigning provides coaches with the opportunity to hedge their bets against attrition, gives them leverage in the recruiting process by not being as restricted in terms of the number of players they can pursue, and gives coaches a mulligan should they miss on a recruit.   We wrote a post a while back comparing the numbers for National Championship Coaches

National Championship Coaches 2002 - 2010

Coaches Conf. 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total Average
Saban (03/09) SEC 26 28 26 0 0 25 32 27 29 193 27.50
Miles (07) SEC 28 31 19 13 26 26 26 24 27 220 24.44
Meyer (06/08) SEC 22 19 25 18 27 27 22 17 27 204 22.66
Brown (05) BIG12 28 18 20 15 25 24 20 20 22 192 21.33
Carroll (04) PAC10 22 28 19 19 27 18 19 18 20 190 21.11
Tressel (02) BIG10 24 16 24 18 20 15 20 25 18 180 20.00

The first thing that jumps off the screen is that despite being out of college football for 2 years (2005 & 2006), Nick Saban still signed 193 recruits, which is second only to Les Miles his successor at LSU when Saban left in 2005.  Saban also has the highest average recruits per year at 27.50.   In 7 years, Nick Saban has never signed less than 25 recruits in a single year.

Let's compare that to the same set of years (2002-2004 & 2007-2010) for the coach with the lowest numbers, Jim Tressel.  Tressel signed 142 players in the same years that Saban signed 193 recruits.  That is a difference of 51 players over the same period of time, 7 years.  That is mind boggling to say the least.

Note: we would add Gene Chizik to the table above, but he only has two recruiting classes as a head coach: 2010: 32 and 2011: 24. 

Ken Gordon at The Columbus Dispatch asked former Head Coach of LSU, Gerry DiNardo, about the competitive advantage of oversigning:

"At LSU, I could do whatever I wanted," said DiNardo, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network. "The athletic director trusted me. If I signed 30, he knew I would be at 25 when I had to be. There was always a way to manage to numbers."

Then in 2002, when DiNardo was hired by Indiana, he was in for a shock. The Big Ten had the most restrictive rules against oversigning of all the major conferences.

The NCAA allows 85 scholarship players. DiNardo found that he could sign only the number of players that would bring him to 85. Not only that - he could offer only 20 scholarships.

What that meant was that if any of the 20 players he offered went elsewhere, he was short of 85 that season.

"The Big Ten puts itself at a competitive disadvantage," DiNardo said. "You would never be at 85. When I got to Indiana, the numbers were awful. We had 50-some players on scholarships. My only chance to catch up was to oversign."

Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said, "It's like in bowling, if your opponent gets three balls instead of two."

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2011/02/13/rules-on-oversigning-put-big-ten-at-a-disadvantage.html?sid=101

The analogies are endless, but the point remains, having the freedom to play fast and loose with the numbers when competing against schools that play conservative and tight with the numbers creates a competitive advantage.   Jim Tressel, being the senator that he is, took the high road when questioned about it:

This doesn't bother Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, though. The way he looks at it, the majority of his games are against Big Ten schools working under the same rules.

"I don't think (oversigning) is a crisis-type thing," he said. "I don't see it happening in our league that much. Sometimes in a bowl game we compete against another conference, but I've never thought we had an unfair bowl matchup because of that."

But he did make it very clear where he stands on the issue:

Tressel said his staff tries to keep the lines of communication open, so he usually has a good idea who might transfer. But in general, Tressel is in philosophical lock-step with the Big Ten. Where others consider it a competitive disadvantage, he looks at it from the perspective of making sure he treats recruits fairly.

And that means ensuring he doesn't have to sweat out a summer like DiNardo did.

"We're probably conservative in more ways than just play-calling," Tressel said, referring to offering relatively few scholarships. "We've ended up under 85, because we don't want to overcommit.

"To me, the worst nightmare would be if you have got to tell someone, 'We can't fit you.' You're talking about a young kid's life."

Ethics

The direction of the ethical side of the oversigning debate became pretty apparent to the general public when University of Florida President, Bernie Machen, called the actions of other SEC members morally "reprehensible," "disgusting," and "nefarious."  Those are STRONG words from an SEC President aimed directly at other SEC member institutions who are notorious for oversiging.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/football/ncaa/01/31/bernard.machen.letter/index.html

When it comes to the ethics side of oversigning you have to look at several areas: 

1. Honesty in recruiting.
2. The spirit of the NCAA rules vs. The Written Bylaws.
3. College football being "Big Business" instead of Tax-Exempt Institutions of Higher Learning.

With the increased attention on recruiting rankings, college football's second season has become more competitive than ever, especially in the SEC where the recruiting battles are just as hard fought and nasty as the actually games on the field.  Greg Doyle recently wrote about this very topic. 

Honesty in recruiting:
How honest are coaches being with recruits?  Are they telling them upfront that they plan to oversign the roster and that there might not be space for them?  Why are we seeing guys who commit and then on signing day are surprised with greyshirt offers, or even worse after signing day and after they have moved onto campus?  Is it unethical for a coach not to prepare for roster management and ensure that there is never a need to push someone out?  After all, most coaches make more than the smartest, most-credentialed professors on campus, surely they should be able to manage their roster in such a way that doesn't force them to push a greyshirt on an unsuspecting kid or push out an upperclassmen. 

Recently, Nick Saban alluded to a possible ethics issue with recruiting in the SEC when he compared how coaches in the SEC react to a verbal commitment to how coaches in the Big 10 reacted to verbal commitments when he was in the Big 10.  Paraphrasing, he said that in the SEC when a guy commits verbally he becomes a target for other schools, but during his time in the Big 10 when a guy commits verbally he was off limits unless the recruit approached another Big 10 school, in which case the coach that was approached would contact the coach the player was originally committed to and discuss the matter.  If coaches in the SEC are not handling verbal commitments ethically, according to Saban, which he admitted he was just as guilty of because of the competitive nature of recruiting in the SEC, are they handling roster management ethically with regards to the oversigning? 

Just today, Sports by Brooks published an article called: Player's Parents Outrage Illuminates Nutt's Deceit, in which he claims any credibility that Houston Nutt had left in recruiting has been driven off of a cliff.

http://www.sportsbybrooks.com/players-parents-outrage-illuminates-nutts-deceit-29491

The Spirit of NCAA Rules:
Obviously, there is a loophole in the recruiting bylaws with regards to the number of players that can be enrolled each year and the total number of players allowed on scholarship each year.  25 new players can enroll and no more than 85 can be on scholarship at one time; 25*4=100 plus any redshirt seniors obviously doesn't even come close to the 85 limit.  However, the NCAA used those numbers to provide a little bit of cushion and probably had no idea that some coaches were going to use that cushion as a way to manage their roster like a professional football team.  The Spirit of the NCAA bylaws for recruiting is that if you have 17 openings for new scholarship players then you should sign and enroll 17 new players, not 25 and push 8 guys out the door. 

The NCAA bylaws are enormous and they grow every year.  Much of that growth is in response to coaches abusing the spirit of the existing rules, such as the Huston Nutt "28 rule" because of his abuse of the signing process and the Nick Saban "bump rule" because of his abuse of bumping into recruits while visiting their coaches. 

In the Big 10 Conference, there is not a problem with oversigning.  Although schools are allowed to send out 3 extra NLI than they have room for under the 85 limit, most coaches avoid doing it at all costs.  Why??  Because they like competing at a competitive disadvantage?  Probably not.  They probably avoid it because they all know oversigning is a dirty little trick that is played with numbers in order to gain an advantage and it comes with the price tag of messing with the lives of young people.  The Big 10 Conference has embraced the spirit of the signing process by developing a culture devoid of oversigning.  It didn't happen overnight--the rules on oversigning have been on the books in the Big 10 Conference since 1954.

College Football as Big Business:
Often times, supporters of oversigning will point to the 1 year renewable scholarship and infer that college football has become big business and schools need to manage their rosters like NFL teams.   That argument falls on deaf ears because despite the growth of college football these are still institutions of higher learning, governed by an organization with a mission statement that states athletics only exist to enrich the educational experience and that the educational experience is paramount, and they enjoy a tax-exempt status that the NFL does not enjoy.  Somewhere along the line, there is a disconnect between the spirit of the NCAA's mission statement and what certain schools are doing in blatantly managing their rosters like an NFL team.  How ethical is it for a coach or school to hide behind the tax-exempt status of an institution of higher learning while attempting to run a NFL style team with roster cuts and an injured reserved list; at least in the NFL guys on the IR have half a shot at making it back.

Filed under: Big 10, Coaching, SEC 69 Comments
19Jan/1161

Who Said That?

Several readers have asked about the quote at the top of the home page and who it belongs to.  That quote was one of the inspirations for the site and it came from none other than Nick Saban.  Here is the context from the original interview with Ian Rapport http://blog.al.com/rapsheet/2008/04/playing_the_numbers_game.html 

Today, after Alabama's last spring practice, I had one of those situations. One of the big questions, I think, for the offseason is how will coach Nick Saban whittle the roster down to just 85 scholarships? There are 66 on scholarship now, and assume 25 freshman will enroll. That's 91. So six have to go by August.

How?  That's what I asked Saban today. He was entertaining as always. Let's just say, the conversation was classic:

Me: "The numbers is issue. First, do you know, is Colin Peek on scholarship?"

Saban: (Time to play dumb.) "I don't know. You ask me, do I know..." (Bad question. Clearly, he knows.)

Me: "I think you do know." (See?)

Saban: "You'll have to ask somebody else." (Cue mischievous grin) "You're asking the wrong guy."

Me: (Alright, come on, it's getting late.) "He is, right?"

Saban: "Yeah." (Round one: Me!)

Me: (The real questions) "How are you going to handle the numbers and when do you start to worry about it?"

Saban: (Getting a little loud... What, Saban worry?) "I'm not worried about them. It'll all work out. I mean, the whole thing has a solution to every issue. You don't put yourself in a position where you don't know what's coming, then have to take it in the chops." ("Chops" is such a dad word. Not that there is anything wrong with that) "Aiight? We know how it has to be managed, and it will be managed."

(Pause)

Saban: "And you don't need to call me and ask me to write a column for you, and I won't call you and ask you how to manage our numbers. How's that?"

Me: (Deal! But when when did I suggest how to manage the numbers? If he did ask... I digress.) "I don't even have a calculator." (Can't do math without one of those.)

Saban: (The smile returns.) "You don't need one to do this."

Me: (Throwing the hands up in the air.) "So you're not going to tell us?"

Saban: "I'm not going to tell you what?" (That exit is looking mighty welcoming now.) "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."

Me: "I would never say that."

Saban: "Don't even ask. Aiight? So. (Starts to walk out, but he's got one more zinger before he leaves.) Ya know, I thought we could get this one last thing without having to..." (attempt a scolding?)

Me: (Even I start to laugh at that) "You really thought that? No chance."

Saban: (Off the podium, he can't help giggling to himself, too) "Not with you."

Media relations guru Jeff Purinton: (Escorting Saban out the door) "He (me) needed something to hold him over until the season..."

True. Good times...

Compare that with Jim Tressel's press conference video below where he discusses his numbers and how he manages them each year.  That pretty much says it all.

Filed under: SEC 61 Comments
8Jan/1188

Tressel on Oversigning

This is a video we posted a long time ago of Jim Tressel talking about his 2010 recruiting class.  Oversigning.com has had over 4 Million hits since its creation last February, but the vast majority of that traffic has been in the last 6 months or so, and as with any blog site content often rolls off the front page and gets buried in the archive somewhere.

With National Signing Day approaching, we thought we would revisit Jim Tressel's press conference from last year that took place just days after sign day.  The video below is about 8 minutes long, but we are only concerned with the first 2-3 minutes.

In the video, Tressel announces to the media that Ohio State had 20 vacancies they could fill with the current recruiting class.  That number, no doubt, was based on the number of seniors graduating and the number of juniors leaving for the NFL early, plus any scholarships that were banked from the previous year.

Tressel explains that one thing you never want to do is go over the limit but in order to sign everyone they wanted to sign they would have had to sign 30 guys.  The limit he is talking about is not the limit of 25 guys per class, he is talking about the 85 limit.  It is important to note that he treats signatures as enrolled players.  When he says "right now we are at 18" he is referring to having 18 kids signed not 18 kids enrolled.  Ironically, one of the kids he signed did not make it into school and that scholarship was given to a deserving walk-on for his senior year. 

The 19th player he had hoped to sign was Seantrel Henderson.  Ohio State did not land Seantrel and since they were not able to sign more than they projected to have room for they couldn't heavily recruit Seantrel and several other top OL prospects for fear of landing more than they would project having room for or having to turn someone away after an offer had been given.  Ohio State could have easily pursued 5 OL and found some pour soul(s) to cut on the bottom end of the roster, but that didn't happen and won't happen under Big 10 recruiting rules.

Notice there is no mention of medical hardships, grey shirts, cuts, transfers, etc.  Notice that he doesn't get upset with the media for asking questions about his numbers, in fact he is as transparent as the NCAA will allow him to be with regards to roster management.

Let's compare that to Nick Saban's current recruiting class, ranked #1 in the country.

Saban has roughly 8 scholarship seniors and he announced this week that 3 Juniors are leaving early for the NFL.  That is roughly 11 scholarship openings.  Let's be generous and say there are 15 openings.  His class right now has 22 verbal commitments plus two players that accepted a grey shirt offer from last year and are expected to enroll this year.  That makes 24 total scholarship commitments this year and only 15 at most openings.  There was no room to back count players to last year's class so everyone is going to count towards this year.

But Nick Saban is not finished recruiting yet.  National Signing Day has not arrived and Nick Saban is still pursuing recruits such as #1 ranked DE Clowney. 

Defenders of Saban's recruiting practices and even Saban himself will probably tell you that they have a plan and that everything is on the up and up with the NCAA.  What they won't tell you is that his plan is to exploit every known loophole in the NCAA rule book for recruiting.  Players will be moved to medical hardships, transferred, or asked to greyshirt in order to make room to get down to 85, room he didn't have when he accepted their signed letter of intent. 

There is something drastically wrong when a coach like Jim Tressel has 1 greyshirt and maybe 2 medical hardships in 10 years at Ohio State and Nick Saban has 12 medical hardships in 4 years and is looking at giving out 10 greyshirt offers this year.  It's a problem and it's real.   And LSU is no different - it's not just Alabama.

Filed under: Big 10, SEC 88 Comments
3Aug/108

LSU’s March to 85 is NOT Over

We have been following LSU's journey to get their roster down to 85 players ever since one of our readers started posting the details of their roster situation a while back, and with the announcement that Chris Garrett was being cut from the team we thought that LSU's march to 85 was over.  Therefore, we started looking at LSU's recruiting for next year and that is when we noticed that Les Miles and LSU were getting a jump start on screwing players next year by already having more verbal commitments then they have room for next year.

Turns out we were wrong, forget about next year, Les Miles is not done screwing players from his current roster.  Word has come out today that Elliot Porter, who had this to say about his commitment to LSU...

"I stood face to face with Coach Miles and I committed,'' Porter said proudly Saturday evening shortly after meeting with Miles during an unofficial visit to the Baton Rouge campus. "I was blown away by the campus, blown away by the school. Just everything about it, I felt at home.''

              

http://highschoolsports.nola.com/news/article/-816132523422918078/shaw-lineman-elliott-porter-commits-to-lsu/

...has been asked to take a greyshirt because LSU does not have scholarship room for him because all 27 of the players they signed have made it academically.

Due to the fact that all 27 of LSU's signees are academically qualified, there would not be scholarships available for two players.

According to sources close to the situation, Archbishop Shaw High School lineman Elliott Porter will not be with the team when practice begins Thursday. Porter was asked to take a greyshirt. However, he did not want to be greyshirted. Porter asked for and received a release from his letter of intent.

Porter will be immediately eligible at any other school. A possible destination for Porter is Tennessee. Last year, Porter made 65 tackles. As a junior, Porter recorded 85 tackles, including 20 sacks. LSU intended to move Porter to the offensive line. Porter worked out with the team during the summer.

With Porter leaving, there are only two offensive linemen in the 2010 recruiting class - Evan Washington and Cameron Fordham. Washington enrolled in school last January and participated in spring practice.

http://lsu.rivals.com/barrier_noentry.asp?ReturnTo=&sid=&script=content.asp&cid=1109003&fid=&tid=&mid=&rid=

There are so many things wrong with this situation that we really don't even know where to start.  How does this even happen???  Why is this poor kid getting word at the last minute that there is not a scholarship for him?  At least Miles has enough sense to grant him a release from his LOI, but ask yourself, why is this poor kid bound to his commitment to LSU and LSU not bound to their commitment to him???  Why does he have to ask for a release AFTER they tell him that they are not going to give him the scholarship they promised him?

It would be one thing if this was the only situation to arise with LSU this year, but look at the list of attrition and the number of scholarships they have already had to cut in order to make room. 

The March to 85 - LSU

Player Position Reason for Leaving
Akiem Hicks Defensive Tackle Removed from the team - was involved in NCAA investigation
Kyle Prater Linebacker Transfer
Jhyryn Taylor Wide Receiver Transfer
Thomas Parsons Fullback Medical Hardship Scholarship
John Williams Wide Receiver Medical Hardship Scholarship
Clay Spencer Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship Scholarship
Chris Garrett QB Cut - Scholarship Not Renewed
Houston Bates Defensive End Released from LOI in April; refused Greyshirt
Elliott Porter Offensive Lineman Asked to Greyshirt in AUGUST; refused Greyshirt; released


Now add Elliot Porter to the list.

But this is nothing new at LSU, back in March we wrote a piece on Gerry DiNardo and his time at LSU and Indiana, and really nothing much has changed (sign as many as you can legally get away with and then do whatever you have to in order to get down to 85 by the fall).  Here are some of his comments regarding oversigning from an SI article a long time ago.

"There are 28 new Tigers, although some of them will not qualify academically (which will keep LSU within the NCAA one-year maximum of 25 new scholarships) and many will never contribute. 'It's a fact that only about a third of the guys you sign will end up starting, because if you get it going, you sign someone the following year that's better,' DiNardo said. 'There will be injuries, transfers, failures. There always are.'"

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1007746/1/index.htm

Perhaps DiNardo and Saban were a little better at using discretion when screwing players out of scholarship to make room for better players or when hedging their bets against academic eligibility, or perhaps there just wasn't enough media coverage of this aspect of college football recruiting.  There certainly wasn't an oversigning.com website back in those days.  

The most disturbing part about this whole story is that the schools and the coaches have all of the power and they dangle the NFL $$$ carrot out there to the recruits in order to get them to sign and to keep them from signing with someone else, and if they want to get rid of them at any time, for any reason, they can, and they do.  This is where the NCAA has got to step in and put an end to the games these coaches are playing with oversigning.  Sure, we understand that these guys are trying to ensure that they have a full roster, but at what price?  For all the MILLIONS of dollars these coaches make and given the fact that they are the adults, you would think that they would take the moral high ground and do the right thing ethically by these kids.  And where the hell are the University Presidents, Athletic Directors, and the NCAA on all of this???  They don't appear to have a problem with a coach accepting a signed LOI that binds the player to a school, only to rip it up and not honor it because he couldn't count to 85 and doesn't have enough room for everyone. 

Thankfully, not all coaches operate this way.  There are coaches who refuse gamble with lives of the kids they recruit by hedging their bets on academic eligibility and injuries.  Guys like Mark Richt, Jim Tressel, and several others around the country.

Jim Tressel was asked about recruiting numbers at the Big 10 Media Days this week, here are his comments:

When asked about the 2002 recruiting class..

"It was special, and it was 25 guys--which is an unusually high number."

25 unusually high???  Not for the SEC.  When asked about the size of his upcoming recruiting class...

..."21 or 22. That would be the lid. We never want to be in that predicament where we're close to being over, because all of a sudden you're not recruiting a guy that you said to him you're recruiting. And we've got some walk-ons that we try to help them out."

This is nothing new for Tressel, here are some of his comments regarding last year's class.  This was taken on National Signing Day.

How is it that Jim Tressel already knows EXACTLY how many spots he will have for the next recruiting class in August, yet some SEC coaches all seem to not know what their numbers will be until next August?  That's because Tressel is not gambling with his commitments and is not hedging his bets to gain a competitive advantage, something that is just a way of life in some places.

What LSU, Alabama, and other schools are doing is not only is poor taste, it cheats the game, not to mention the players that get screwed in the process.  We get all up in arms when a coach runs the score up on a weak opponent or does something cheap like call a last second time out from the sideline right before a kicker kicks a potential game-winning field goal.  We boo these acts because they cheapen the game and they are unsportsmanlike; oversigning is no different, at least for the time being until it is banned and then it will not just be unsportsmanlike, it will be illegal.

Filed under: Big 10, SEC 8 Comments