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 Georgia-based website, LHB, has been a supporter of this site since its creation. We recently received an email from its owner, Greg Poole, regarding his concern that should Georgia lose Mark Richt that the new coaching staff would use oversigning in order to keep up with the Alabama's and LSU's of the SEC West.
Obviously, Poole and many Georgia fans take great pride in not oversigning. Many of the SEC supporters that we have on this site are Georgia or SEC East fans being that the East does not oversign to the extent of the West. This is not something new with regards to the state of Georgia or the issue of SEC West teams abusing oversigning. We wrote a piece a good while back when we were first investigating oversigning regarding Georgia Tech's departure from the SEC. Here are a couple of lines from that piece for those who don't want to read the entire entry.
This is a quote from Bobby Dodd's book, Dodd's Luck.
"Another issue of concern for Dodd was Alabama's and other SEC schools' over-recruitment of players. Universities would recruit more players than they had roster space for. During the summer practice sessions, the teams in question would cut the players well after signing day thus preventing the cut players from finding new colleges to play for. Dodd appealed the SEC administration to punish the "tryout camps" of his fellow SEC members but the SEC did not. Finally, Dodd withdrew Georgia Tech from the SEC in 1963. Tech would remain an independent like Notre Dame and Penn State (at the time) during the final four years of Dodd's coaching tenure."
Georgia Tech, a charter member of the SEC, withdrew from the SEC in large part because of the oversigning issue back in 1960's (yes we know about the fight with Alabama and the broken jaw, but that was only part of the issue according to Bobby Dodd in his book). This problem, while greatly diminished from back in Dodd's day, still has not been completely eradicated.
More from Dodd...
"Bobby Dodd insisted there was no other reason he left the SEC, other than the 140 Rule. The 140 Rule stated a college program could only have 140 football and basketball players on scholarship at any one time. The teams were allowed to sign up to 45 players a year, but could not exceed the 140 Rule.
Dodd would not allow any of the football players choosing Tech to be dismissed from Tech, because they were not good players. Dodd said, “it is not the recruits fault for not making the squad, it was the coaches fault for misjudging their talents”. If a recruit came to Tech, he would stay on a football scholarship until he graduated.
Dodd would sign about 30-32 players a year to meet the guidelines, but the other schools in the SEC were offering 45 scholarships a year. Those players, not good enough to fall under the 140 Rule, had their scholarships withdrawn and sent packing before the end of each year. Dodd insisted, the recruiting of athletes by this method amounted to nothing more than a tryout for a scholarship.
Dodd thought it unfair and would not withdraw scholarships from his players. He wanted the SEC to limit the amount of scholarships to about 32 per year. This would keep the other schools from offering 45 scholarships, picking the best, and sending the rest packing.
Maybe it is time the University of Georgia takes a stand like Georgia Tech did back in the 1960's. It's pretty clear that Georgia fans see oversigning for what it is and are against it; they see the harm it causes, the lying required to make it happen, and the competitive advantage that is gained through its abuse. All of that has been well documented and is indisputable. This is simply a matter of ethics. Our advice to Leather Helmet Blog is to lead the charge for the SEC East to pressure Mike Slive and the 12 University Presidents to take serious action on this issue. No more window dressing.
The Huston Nutt rule was an absolute joke and nothing more than window dressing sparked by Nutt mocking the rule book in front of the media; had it not been for his blatant disregard in front of the media there would be no 28 player cap. Force them to address this issue. Force them to make each school report their number of openings after January 15th, the deadline for Juniors to declare for the draft, and force them to only accept signed letters of intent for the number of openings they show to have on National Signing day. Stop the SEC from being allowed to sign way more than they have room for February and then figure out how to get back down to 85 in August. This is exactly what was going on back in Dodd's day; the numbers are just a little different.
Everyone should demand transparency in the roster management. Bring roster management out into the light; fans want to know about it, fans like Greg Poole over at LHB.
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?
Clink link to continue reading >>>>
At the end of the day, that is the fundamental question when discussing oversigning. By virtue of the way the NCAA by-laws are written and the structure of the 85/25 scholarship rules, there is no question that coaches, by NCAA rules, are allowed to sign as many players as they want (in fact the NCAA places no limits on the number of players that can be signed), as long as only 25 new scholarship players are added each year and no more than 85 scholarship players are on the roster at one time. Those that have been following this site already know all of this, as we have talked about it and debated it many times here.
For those just reading this site for the first time, we have taken a look at the restrictions some conferences have added to the signing process to prevent the practice of oversigning and we have looked at some conferences that until just recently have had no such restrictions and that blatantly oversign. There is no question that there are two schools of thought on this topic and that fans are just as passionate about this topic as they are about recruiting rankings and the games played on the field.
We ran across a wonderfully written article on oversigning and whether or not it is ethical at www.athlonsports.com. If you follow this site and this topic then this is a must read article, as it touches on all of the main talking points when it comes to oversigning, including comments from high school coaches upset that their players were victims of oversigning, something that detractors of this site claim doesn't exist. We're not sure when the article was written, but based on the comments from the coaches in the article our best guess is that this was written somewhere around 2003.
Let's take a closer look at the article (warning, this is a long, but very informative read - you might want to get a cup of coffee or something before you dive into this):
Click the link to continue reading >>>
In Tennessee's case you end up with a scholarship shortfall and monstrous holes in your 2-deep roster. Just recently Tennessee announced that 5-Star running back Bryce Brown left the team, and today it was announced that starting offensive lineman, Aaron Douglas, is leaving the program. Those are two big holes to fill.
Tennessee signed 25 recruits this year in Derek Dooley's first year as Head Coach of the Volunteers. Dooley arrived late on the heels of Lane Kiffen's departure to USC and didn't have a whole lot of time to put a recruiting class together. In fact, Dooley had to scramble at the last minute to try and hold the class together amidst all of the coaching changes. All things considered, however, it appears that Dooley did a great job with the recruiting class. His class ended up ranked 9th nationally by the time it was all said and done.
Based on recruiting numbers alone, Tennessee has signed 32, 18, 22, and 25 over the last 4 years, which equals 97, but to determine how many players were on scholarship on signing day we need to know how many seniors left, how many juniors left early for the NFL draft, and how many seniors with a year of eligibility left came back for a 5th year. If we had to guess, Tennessee probably had somewhere around 60 scholarship players returning. We haven't seen any articles on Tennessee oversigning this year, and looking at their historical numbers they are not has high as Alabama's or Auburn's.
Some of the Tennessee fans seemed to think that Dooley was going to sign 30-32 players in this class.
"Maybe promised was the wrong word. We (the fans) were told by numerous articles this past week to expect UT to sign 30-32 players with 5 of them counting on last years class. If UT doesn't do this, then they will continue to be way under manned to other teams. We were down 22 players last year and could make up 5 of those this year if we would sign them."
Obviously that didn't happen, as Tennessee signed 25 recruits. But you can bet UT fans are going to be wishing they had signed 30-32; they are going to need the extra players if they have any hope whatsoever in competing with someone like Alabama who still needs to shed players in order to get down to 85.
We need your help! If any Volunteer fans know of a site that offers an updated roster break down, similar to this one for Notre Dame, please pass along a link. In case you can't read the numbers, the ND chart shows that they have 5 fifth year seniors, 15 seniors, 22 juniors, 18 sophomores, and 23 freshmen. The 23 freshmen come from Brian Kelly's first recruiting class. Important note here, ND only has 83 total scholarship players going into fall camp - not 95 like Alabama the last couple of years. But back to the topic at hand...we need help getting solid numbers for Tennessee.
Where are we going with this??? We are trying to show you what happens when you don't oversign and then suffer unexpected attrition after signing day. In Alabama's case, the loss of two players like Brown and Douglas would hurt, but it wouldn't hurt nearly as bad as it is going to hurt Tennessee. They are going to have to wait until next year to fill those holes, unless they can find a JUCO transfer at the last minute. This is why guys like Saban oversign on signing day...they don't wait until the attrition happens and then seek out additional recruits to fill in for the losses because the only thing left after signing day is table scraps.
Dooley is a disciple of the Saban coaching tree having coached under Saban while at LSU and Miami, but he obviously skipped the course on oversigning. In his time at La Tech (2007-2009), Dooley signed, 22, 22, and 26 players; those numbers were lower than his predecessor at La Tech so without doing a full-blown investigation it appears on the surface that Dooley is not a coach that is going to consistently oversign every year like Saban. If nothing else, Mark Richt should enjoy some company in the non-oversigning category of coaches in the SEC.
We admit it, we like Mark Richt, a lot.
"Georgia coach Mark Richt refuses to oversign for two reasons. First, he wouldn't want to run out of scholarships for qualified players. Second, he would not want to run off current players who have eligibility remaining to keep the Bulldogs under the 85-scholarship limit. "We could always get into a situation where we oversign, but there's no way I could look at a kid and his parents and say, 'We had some room, but now we really don't.' I just think you have to be careful," Richt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Signing Day. "I don't want to oversign, then tell one of the kids we've already got, 'You've got no value to us' and toss him aside. I'm not going to do that."