Oversigning.com
27May/1192

Nick Saban Joins Houston Nutt in the Fight to Keep Oversigning

It appears the battle lines are taking shape as the SEC meetings draw near.  On one side we have the chronic oversigners clamouring to come up with excuses as to why oversigning should remain in tact, reasons such as “It’s a very difficult job to try to manage, to keep two, three deep at every position” (Houtson Nutt), or  "oversigning is 'helpful' because so many of the players in the state come from underprivileged backgrounds and may not qualify academically" (Steve Spurrier), or  "I don't see it as a bad thing unless you're being dishonest or waiting until the last minute, which eliminates their visit opportunities with other schools" (Bobby Petrino).

Nick Saban added his name to the list of coaches that will fight to keep oversigning alive and well in the SEC on Thursday.

"The innuendo out there is that all these things are being manipulated in a negative way," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "But nobody has ever really brought to the forefront the positives by doing it the right way. People hang onto all the situations that aren't done the right way and act like in every situation that somebody is getting screwed in some sort of way, and that's just not the case."

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=6593311

Shouldn't the situations like Elliott Porter, Chris Garrett, and Steven Wesley be the situations that everyone holds onto, not the positives?  Did he even mention any positives other than the competitive advantage aspect?  The stories of kids having their scholarship offers pulled the day before signing day by Spurrier and their High School coaches being irate about it, shouldn't that be what we hold on to? 

If just one kid gets screwed by oversigning, isn't it enough to seriously crack down on the practice?  Think about it in terms of the way the NCAA creates its rules.  Often times, an NCAA rule is created not because the area in question is nefarious, such as the rules regarding selling personal memorabilia, but rather because of the potential for abuse.  The rules regarding selling personal memorabilia are in place to prevent a booster from buying a jersey from a player for $100K, not because they don't want some kid selling his ring at a fraction of its value.  Even if you believe that oversigning only harms a few and only when not done right, shouldn't it be addressed in the same way as the rules regarding selling memorabilia?  What's more harmful, a kid getting a few extra bucks or some poor kid losing his scholarship at the last minute because a coach oversigned his class to bring in better talent so that he can keep making his millions of dollars?

Those positives that Saban refers to by the way are the competitive advantage that these coaches gain by exploiting this practice.  Nearly every coach that oversigns has stated that it provides them with an advantage.

"In my opinion, it would really affect the quality in our league," Saban said. "You can't know the attrition from signing day until August, which guys who're going to be fifth-year seniors that decide they don't want to come back and play football. Well, you can't count those guys. You're going to have to tell those guys they're going to have to decide in January.

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=6593311

This is where the competitive advantage issue comes into play.  By oversigning, coaches can bring in a few extra guys and work them through the spring while at the same time working the 5th year guys that have eligibility remaining, and then after spring training is over coaches can make a decision as to whether or not they want to renew a 5th year guy who may or may not have graduated yet, knowing all along they have an ace in the hole and will end up with the best 85.  The coaches want their cake and eat it too. 

Why is it that 5th year guys can't make a decision as to whether or not they want to come back in January, but Juniors leaving early for the NFL can?  Are Juniors that much more prepared to make a life-altering decision than 5th year seniors?

Furthermore, if the question is whether or not they want to come back, isn't their participation in spring practice an indication that they would like to come back?  Just recently Alabama had a 5th year RB Demetrius Goode participate in spring practice, indicating he hadn't given up on football, but then after spring practice decided he wanted to go to UNA instead.  Perhaps he wanted playing time, fine.  But can't that decision be made in January at the same time Juniors make decisions to go to the NFL? 

On the other side of the battle line you have Florida and Georgia who have both been very outspoken about the abuses of oversigning and greyshirting.  Mark Richt has been especially outspoken about the abuses taking place:

Georgia coach Mark Richt is in the opposite camp. He said that it was an "awful thing to do" to bring in players to participate in the summer strength program and then ask some to leave or wait until January to sign based on which ones performed the best.

He didn't stop there, either.

"These other coaches have been oversigning, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 number," Richt said earlier this month at a Georgia booster club speaking engagement in Greenville, S.C. "But in doing so, have they done it in an ethical way?

"I'd say the answer is probably not."

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=6593311

It has become extremely clear that the coaches that want to continue oversigning all want  you to believe that there is nothing wrong with the practice as long as it is done the right way.  Again, there is nothing wrong with selling your jersey for a few bucks, so long as you don't sell it to a booster for $100K, right?

At the end of the day it all comes back to the competitive advantage aspect of the argument and the pressure on these coaches to win.  These coaches are under more pressure to win than anywhere else in the country, so of course they want  you to believe their practice of oversigning is okay as long as it's done right, they can't afford to live without it based on the pressure to win.

Houston Nutt is already starting to feel the affects of the 28 rule, named in his honor, and he knows if further rules are passed that he could be in serious jeopardy of losing his multi-million dollar job, so of course he's fighting for the right to continue to exploit the spirit of the signing process and the loopholes inherent to the NCAA's 25/85 rule.

Quick Note Regarding the Medical Hardship Aspect of the new Legislation:

The new legislation that is on the table includes a proposal to address the issue of medical hardships and how those are being used to game the system and fudge the scholarship numbers.  As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Nick Saban's medical hardship numbers are way above the norm, and then when former players were asked about those medical hardships and whether or not they felt pressured to take them the players revealed that they were pressured and that they thought the medical hardship was loophole used to bring in better players.

Three Alabama players who've taken these exemptions say they believe the team uses the practice as a way to clear spots for better players by cutting players it no longer wants. These players said they believe Mr. Saban and his staff pressure some players to take these scholarships even though their injuries aren't serious enough to warrant keeping them off the field.

"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703384204575509901468451306.html

That is THREE former players coming out and saying they believed the team used the medical hardships to clear roster space for better players, one of which says he's still bitter about it calling it a business and a loophole.

Here is what Nick Saban had to say about it.

Saban is also quick to defend the charge that he pressures players into taking medical redshirts or dismisses players who aren't contributing on the field in order to open up more scholarship room each year.

"First of all, I've never gotten rid of a player who didn't create his own circumstances for why he had to leave the program, whether it was academic, whether it was behavior, whether it was drug-related, whatever," Saban said. "Really, I've always given guys more rope than they deserve, and I think the innuendo out there is that I'm just picking and choosing which guys to run off, and people bring it up that I've medical-ed more people. Well, yeah, I medical them so they can stay in school and graduate, where other people just get rid of them. I don't make those decisions, either. The doctors make them, and we have great doctors."

In one breath Saban says, "I medical them so they can stay in school," and in the next breath he says, "I don't make those decisions, either.  The doctors make them, and we have great doctors."  Which one is it?  Who is making the final decision to issue the medical hardship?  Hard to believe everything is on the up and up when you have 3 players claiming they were wrongly pressured to take those medical hardships to clear roster space and another player calling it a loophole.

The new proposal on the table includes a measure for medical hardship monitoring, but is it enough?

Giving the SEC league office more oversight concerning those players placed on medical scholarship. In other words, the league would be involved in reviewing outcomes. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.

http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/23199/proposed-sec-oversigning-legislation

The new legislation would require 3 people to sign off on the medical waiver, does anyone in their right mind believe that a trainer or an athletic director are going to go against the decision of a doctor?  And if what we read above from Saban is true, it appears that he has great influence on whether or not a medical is issued to a player.  The details are still unclear, but you have to believe the athletic director would only be signing off on whether or not to grant the medical hardship or to just not renew the player -- if coaches are allowed to continue oversigning and continue to be in a numbers crunch, is there an athletic director out there that is going to refuse to sign off on a medical hardship and have his school face NCAA violations for going over the 85 limit?

Unless there are more details regarding the medical hardship oversight, what we have on the table doesn't appear to be anything other than window dressing in reaction to the WSJ piece on Alabama's medical hardships. 

We have a couple of suggestions: 1. many of these medical hardships are the result of a numbers crunch because of oversigning, eliminate the oversigning and you would see a drastic decline in the number of medical hardships issued by schools that oversign, 2. have the NCAA conduct an exit interview with the kids placed on medical hardship so that guys like the 3 Alabama players who told the WSJ that they thought they were being pushed out to make room for better players can tell the NCAA and have the NCAA conduct an investigation.

Filed under: SEC 92 Comments
6Mar/1116

More on NCAA Football Issues Committee Monitoring Oversigning

We posted a quick link on this earlier in the week but would like to drill into it a little more here.  In the discussions lately in the comments section, there have been a few readers that have made the point that eliminating oversigning will only lead to abuses to players further upstream, meaning that instead of cutting players after signing day players would be cut in December and January.   It appears the NCAA is thinking along the same lines, which to be honest is very troubling because in order to subscribe to the notion that a rules change would only result in abuse further upstream you have to accept that player abuse is currently taking place with the use of oversigning, something many of you who have tried to defend oversigning have denied. 

Because the effect of the new rule may not be apparent immediately, the Football Issues Committee decided to remain diligent about monitoring it.

“This rule has only been in effect for one year, and we want to take some time to see if that’s the perfect number,” said committee chair Nick Carparelli. “Certainly, the committee will continue to monitor it, and we can re-evaluate to see if there is a more appropriate number if necessary.”

http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/resources/latest+news/2011/march/football+issues+committee+to+monitor+oversigning

The rule change that they are monitoring, in case you are unaware, is the recent additions of 13.9.2.3 and 15.5.1.1 from proposal 2009-48 which only limit the number of NLI's to 28 between NSD and May 31st.  Rules that Andy Staples said were not worth the paper they were written on.

We don't believe this is about finding the right number.  This is about a shift in the cultural mindset of the schools that abuse oversigning the most.  As we have mentioned a few times, the Big 10 Conference established its rules on oversigning back in the 1950's and it is our belief that over time the mindset of the member institutions has been shaped by those rules resulting in oversigning not being an issue in that conference.  As you can see by analyzing the numbers, the type of attrition that many think will be moved upstream by today's oversigners, such as this example from Huston Nutt, is not an issue in the Big 10; if it were you would see that the Big 10 would have a much higher number of players signed each year, and yet, of all the BCS schools the Big 10 ranks last in the average number of players signed.

So what is the solution?  Leadership.  When the SEC university presidents meet in June for their annual conference meetings, they absolutely must demand that their athletic departments stop oversigning and they must create a culture that does not accept the kind of roster attrition we see from the oversigning schools.  Maybe they find that in a number or in a set of rules, or maybe they find that by hiring coaches that are more known for their ethical treatment of players and ability to develop them instead of their ability to recruit or find loopholes in the NCAA by-laws. 

Grayshirting

Another area covered in the NCAA press release was the practice of grayshirting, which the NCAA is also going to start monitoring.  This too has become a controversial topic with Florida's President calling it morally reprehensible.

Susan Peal, who administers the National Letter of Intent program, said the Collegiate Commissioners Association (the program’s governing body) doesn’t support grayshirting. The program has a policy that nullifies the National Letter of Intent if an institution or coach asks the student-athlete to grayshirt. However, if a student-athlete decides to delay enrollment, the national letter remains valid. Determining the instigator of the decision can be difficult.

http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/resources/latest+news/2011/march/football+issues+committee+to+monitor+oversigning

According to the press release, Susan Peal appears to agree with Florida's president, and although she doesn't call it morally reprehensible, it is clear that she does not support grayshirting due to the fact that it can nullify the NLI.  One area where this is a concern is that some coaches are purposely oversigning and telling many of the kids they recruit that there is a possibility that they MIGHT have to take a grayshirt if the numbers don't work out.  As August rolls around and the numbers begin to shake out, the coaches that have oversigned and told recruits that they MIGHT have to take a grayshirt can play their ace in the hole and attempt to avoid public backlash by stating that they told the recruit up front that a grayshirt might be POSSIBLE.  Our question is, did they also tell them that they are offering something that the NLI program does not support because of the risk it poses to the recruit or are they telling them that grayshirting is normal and there is nothing to worry about?  Based on the comments of the players and parents that have found themselves in a grayshirt situation it is clear that everyone is not on the same page.

Our position is that we are against coaches telling a handful of recruits that they MIGHT have to grayshirt if the numbers don't work out and we are against coaches oversigning knowing they have a handful of players they can push back if they need to via the grayshirt.  Grayshirt offers should only come after a school has filled all of their available openings, it should be petitioned for with transparency at the conference or NCAA level, and there should be something in writing that guarantees the recruit that they will have spot in the following class.  Grayshirt offers, if any, should be the last offers given out because all of the current openings in the class are taken.  It is unethical to go around giving out offers that come with a grayshirt clause.  NLI doesn't support the grayshirt practice and recruits that are being told by a football coach that they MIGHT have to take a greyshirt should be very cautious when considering that kind of offer.  Hopefully we will see some reform here and the grayshirt process with either go away or become heavily regulated.  We would hate to throw the baby out with the bath water just because you have a handful of coaches out there offering kids conditional grayshirt offers simply to keep them away from other schools.

Filed under: NCAA 16 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
12Feb/1184

The Worst Article Ever Written on Oversigning

We have read a lot of articles on oversigning and listened to a lot of people talk about the topic over the last year.  The vast majority of people writing or talking about this topic don't fully understand it and the complexities involved.  Some are too emotionally charged to think clearly long enough to fully understand what oversigning is and who is guilty of abusing the practice.  Others are in clear denial that it is an issue, such as the blog Bama Sports Report. 

http://www.bamasportsreport.com/2011-articles/february/oversigning-from-alabamas-perspective.html 

Nick Saban is everybody's favorite oversigning whipping boy. It's a role he's no doubt accustomed to - he's been the internet's number two villian (just behind Hitler) since he told reporters he wasn't leaving the Dolphins for Alabama. But here's the thing. There's really nothing to see here. No one has done anything wrong. Let's take a closer look at the rules and what Alabama has done.

Saban and Alabama have broken no rules. No one has even alleged that they have. The process is pretty clear. You put 85 (or fewer) student athletes on scholarship each year, and no more than 25 can be added in a year. You submit those lists to the NCAA and everyone goes on about their way.

Translated: no rules have been broken, there is nothing here to see, and you can put 85 on scholarship each year with no more than 25 being added each year.  Wow.  Really?  Let's continue.

Last year, the SEC changed the rules to allow member institutions to only bring in 28 student athletes per class. This was mostly in response to the class of 33 Houston Nutt inked at Ole Miss a few years earlier. Big Ten fans are up in arms because the Big Ten only allows member institutions to sign the exact number that they have available. 

Why does the Big Ten do this? Moral superiority? Past abuses? The warm fuzzy feeling of getting steamrolled in big bowls? I don't know. But the SEC (and many other conferences) have chosen not to follow their lead. That it disadvantages the Big Ten is a Big Ten problem.

Ugh.  The Huston Nutt Rule was in response to his class of 37, not 33.   The new SEC rule doesn't allow member institutions to bring 28 student-athletes per class, it limits SIGNING to 28 from February to May 31st.  It in no way addresses the real issue of keeping schools from being faced with having to get rid of players because all of their new recruits that signed a LOI qualified and to enroll them all would put them over the 85 limit.  The rule change was meaningless.

Big 10 fans are not the only ones "up in arms."  The University of Florida President, Bernie Machen, was a little bent on the topic, calling it and greyshirting morally reprehensible, Mark Richt has spoken out on the topic, and there is a Twitter account called Oversigning that is operated by a Georgia Bulldog fan who is absolutely furious about oversigning and has been relentless in pestering the national media.  And as a result, the entire national media has picked up on the topic and the court of public opinion has ruled that oversigning is a slime-ball tactic that needs to go.  The issue of oversigning is not a Big 10 problem it is a SEC problem, check that, it's a problem of schools that are abusing it, some SEC schools don't (Georgia, Florida, Vandy traditionally speaking) and some schools outside of the SEC do (Miami, Florida State, Troy) although not to the tune of the SEC schools that do, and even more of a problem for schools who are abusing it and then refusing to release their scholarship numbers to the general public. 

Let's continue...

Sadly, it's a fact that public schools in Alabama and Mississippi are occasionally lacking. See our national rankings in most test scores, etc. So, more frequently than in richer, more industrialized states, kids in the south fail to qualify. It's not a fact that those in the Big Ten don't know; it's frequently used as a convenient insult. But when it hurts their argument, it is ignored.

More industrialized states?  Really?  The bottom line on this BS is that there are plenty of kids that can qualify in the south; they might not run a 4.3 40 or have freakish talent, but with all of the population shifts there are plenty of good, quality kids that can get it done on the field and in the classroom.  Coaches just need to get better at finding them and better at coaching them up.  The reason we see so many guys not getting in is because coaches go after so many kids that they know won't qualify --  they do this for a couple of reasons: to keep competitors away from them and in hopes of signing and placing them in the JUCO farm system. 

And here's the bottom line. Since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, two student athletes have left the program without a "soft landing" - meaning fre school. Those two kids are Jimmy Johns and Jeremy Elder. They were both arrested for felonies.

Every other kid has received at least some sort of tacit nod to other programs. You can bet if Saban were poor-mouthing departures, less of them would be receiving free rides elsewhere. Either way, these are year to year scholarships. Something that isn't news to anyone. There's no obligation to renew the scholarship.

Soft landing.  Really?  Going from a 4-5 star recruit at one of the premier schools on track to get a quality degree from a great school to a spot on a FCS roster and degree from a lesser school is a soft landing, provided he even makes it that far...sounds more like a shattered dream.  To be fair this isn't all on the oversigning coaches; bogus recruiting services that attempt to rank these kids are just as guilty of contributing to the rise and fall of some of these student-athletes.

It appears that The Drake Group and the National College Players Association disagree with the Bama Sports Report in the assertion that everyone knows that scholarships are 1 year renewable contracts.  Both groups were in Hartford, Connecticut testifying at a legislative hearing.

Sack, who called the proposed bill the "Connecticut Student-Athletes' Right to Know Act," said he was attending the hearing as president-elect of The Drake Group. According to the organization's website, it has a national network of college faculty that lobbies for proposals that ensure a quality education for college athletes.

While NCAA rules state that athletic aid cannot be reduced or cancelled during the one-year period of the award because of athletic ability or injury, Sack said, "the rules are murky when it comes to conditions for the renewal and non-renewal of the scholarships in the subsequent year."

"Some universities renew scholarships for four years as long as athletes continue playing and adhere to team rules," said Sack. "Others cancel scholarships for poor athletic performance or for injury."

Sack, who called the proposed bill the "Connecticut Student-Athletes' Right to Know Act," said he was attending the hearing as president-elect of The Drake Group. According to the organization's website, it has a national network of college faculty that lobbies for proposals that ensure a quality education for college athletes.

Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and president of the National College Players Association — a California nonprofit made up of more than 14,000 Division 1 student athletes — also testified at the hearing and went one step further. He said the majority of high school recruits decide which college to attend based on "false information given to them by athletic recruiters."

Most recruits and their parents have no idea, Huma said, that colleges can "leave them with sports-related medical expenses, take away their scholarship for any reason, leave them with tens of thousands of dollars in educational-related expenses, and hold their eligibility and scholarship opportunities hostage when they try to transfer schools."

http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-college-sport-scholarships-0209-20110208,0,6085518.story

And for the grand finale...

I was on the debate team in college. It paid my way. I was well aware that if I didn't do what I needed to do, there'd be no scholarship next year. Whether that was a certain amount of research or practice or keeping my grades up, I knew that there were expectations. I knew if I failed to meet those, I'd have to pay my own way. Why is a football scholarship any different?

My final thought is really this. Oversigning is legal. No matter the scenario, kids are getting free college tuition (barring felony arrests). Oversigning does, unequivocally, give a competitive advantage.

If it's legal, and no kids are harmed in the process, then the guy who's getting paid upwards of $4 million dollars a year to win football games ought to be doing it. If he's not, he's not doing everything he can - within the rules - to win football games. And that's not acceptable. That's the cold, hard, unfeeling truth here.

Debate team.  Really?  Regardless, the comparison of a football scholarship to an academic scholarship is completely laughable.  Wonder if the coach of the debate team was being paid millions of dollars based on the performance of the writer of this article.   Wonder if the debate coach faced the same level of pressure to win as Saban or Miles do?  Wonder if the debate team coach was only allowed to give out X number of debate scholarships?  What if a new debate coach comes in and he wants to clear the roster?  If a debater wanted to go to another school to debate would he have to sit out a year?  Wonder if the writer of the article signed of LOI that bound him to the school in a one-way agreement?  And lastly, how many times does a debater put his life at risk debating so that the schools, coaches, and TV networks can make millions?

That last paragraph about sums it up: to not oversign is unacceptable in this guy's eyes.  Pretty sad state of affairs.  Saban has had 12 kids placed on medical hardship scholarship, a scholarship reserved for players that are so severely injured they can no longer play football.  If Alabama were a tax-paying, private sector business, OSHA would be camped out at the corporate headquarters asking why their employees were being injured at such a higher rate than other similar businesses.  Guess this guy would give them the finger too.

Filed under: SEC 84 Comments
6Feb/11285

Alabama’s Numbers

During his national signing day press conference, Nick Saban implied that no one outside of him knows Alabama's scholarship numbers.  He also seemed rather irritated at all of the talk about "oversigning" while reading the notes he prepared regarding the controversial topic.  Judging by the national response to his comments, his message fell on deaf ears

We started writing this last night but this morning Kevin Scarbinsky put out the following article which dovetails nicely with what we have prepared. 

According to Saban, those of us on the outside of the Alabama program can't criticize him for oversigning because we don't know the exact number of players he has on scholarship from year to year.Funny thing about that. Why don't we know? Alabama won't tell us, even though we ask every year.

Birmingham News colleague Jon Solomon requests a copy of the annual NCAA revenue and expense report from every Division I athletics department in the state. One of the categories on that report is number of student-athletes on scholarship in each varsity sport.

Every Division I public school in this state provides us a copy of those reports. Only Alabama blacks out the scholarship numbers for every sport.

We know from the latest form that Alabama reported spending $3,041,356 on football scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year. We don't know how many players Alabama reported having on scholarship that year.

The News has asked Alabama several times to explain why it withholds information we believe is a public record. The heart of the explanation, from university spokesperson Deborah Lane: "Federal privacy laws prevent the University from providing the media with personally identifiable information related to its students."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/scarbinsky_alabamas_dont-tell.html

If there are federal privacy laws that prevent them from saying who is on scholarship, then why does Alabama have a fax machine cam that displays the names of the recruits signing a national letter of intent to accept a GIA for a football scholarship?  Further, no one is asking for NAMES, they are simply asking for NUMBERS.  This is severely weakening his position that everything is on the up and up.  No one else is hiding their numbers, why is Alabama?

We tracked Alabama's scholarship numbers last year and shortly after National Signing Day last year we determined that Alabama was projected to be 10 recruits over the 85 cap and would need to shed 10 student-athletes in order to come into compliance before the August 1st deadline.  To ensure the general public that we were not being biased and that we were not pulling numbers out of thin air, we provided a link to an Alabama sports blog that provided the most detailed roster break down available anywhere on the Internet - surely the guys that cover Alabama like a blanket 24/7/365 knew what was going on with the roster, right?  Well, in light of the recent comments from Saban and Jon Solomon's request for the exact numbers...who knows. 

There are people that follow college football all day and all night, they know every name on their team's roster, what high school they went to, who they are dating, their favorite color, what position they play, where they are on the depth chart, and so and so forth.  With recruiting being such a hot topic, everyone wants to know how many openings they have for the up coming class.  We're willing to concede that perhaps the general public is off by one or two, but in order for what Nick Saban is telling us to be true everyone, including the most dedicated Alabama fans that watch the roster numbers, has to be off by double digits.  That's hard to believe unless there is a secret scholarship society at Alabama that no one knows about.

Over the next 6 months we followed Alabama's football program and tracked the attrition in an effort to see if they would lose exactly 10 student-athletes by the deadline.  We dubbed this effort the March to 85.  The following list is the attrition that took place on Alabama's roster after national signing day and before the August deadline.

2010 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Terry Grant Running Back Scholarship not renewed
Travis Sikes Wide Receiver Scholarship not renewed
Rod Woodson Safety Scholarship not renewed
Star Jackson Quarterback Transfer, Georgia State Div 1AA.
Deion Belue Defensive Back Academically Ineligible; headed to JUCO
Alfy Hill Linebacker Academically Ineligible; future unknown
Taylor Pharr Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Milton Talbert Linebacker Medical Hardship
Darius McKeller Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Ronnie Carswell Wide Receiver Greyshirt
Wilson Love Defensive End Greyshirt


On the day before deadline, Saban announced that 1 student-athlete would be transferring and 2 new recruits would be accepting a greyshirt.

With that announcement, Alabama was magically at the 85 number, or so everyone thought, including all of the Alabama media that follow the numbers.  Shortly after that announcement, the NCAA would rule that Alfy Hill would be academically ineligible (which was total BS on the NCAA's part with regards to how they handled that poor kid - he had already taken classes at Alabama but was ruled ineligible after the fact).  

Read more on Alabama getting down to 85 on the last day here: http://oversigning.com/testing/index.php/2010/08/04/saban-gets-down-to-85-on-the-last-day/

The two players taking the grayshirts on the last day appeared to be indication that there wasn't room for them in the current class. In his press conference this year, Saban had this to say about grayshirting:

"We have never, ever grayshirted a guy here who when he decided to come here didn't know ... that he was going to be a grayshirt whenever he committed," Saban said.

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/saban_defends_practices_of_ove.html

Read that very carefully.  If a recruit knows he is going to be a grayshirt when he commits, then why it is not announced on National Signing Day that he will be taking a grayshirt and enrolling in the following January?  We are not doubting that Saban is telling guys that a grayshirt is possible, that much has been reported already, but his comments above in conjunction with the announcement of two players accepting a grayshirt on July 31st last year sure makes it look like he was oversigned and was waiting until the last minute to see how it was going to play out before using his ace in the hole, the grayshirt.  Perhaps those grayshirts were not cast in stone on the front end, instead, perhaps they are a safety valve for the back end should everyone qualify or roster management dictate that someone has to go in order to stay under the 85 cap.

What we are seeing from some schools in the SEC is a mad scramble to wrangle in as many players as possible in order to try and keep them away from other schools, a recruiting tactic as old as the SEC itself, and the grayshirt process has turned into a safety valve for getting back down to 85 if necessary.  This is what Bernie Machen was referring to as morally reprehensible and what Mark Richt was referring to when he said that schools are 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?"

Saban comments on this at the 4:15 mark in this video, where he says that recruiting is largely a numbers game and that if they want to get 30 guys they have to put 90 guys on the board.  We're not going to comment on that because Tony Gerdeman has already said all there is to say about that kind of an approach. 

Now back to the numbers.

Saban implied that this year's class of 21 (now 22) new recruits and 2 grayshirt players that carry over from last year was all they were allowed to take.  Further implying that they are currently full and that the 24 new additions now bring them to the 85 limit.  He went on to say that there might be wiggle room to get 1 more guy.

Saban said Alabama has signed the number of players that it could.

"We could add one or so to that, if the opportunity presents itself in the future," he said, presumably referring to defensive end Jadaveon Clowney, the nation's No. 1 prospect from Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe High School), and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio of Hyattsville, Md. (DeMatha Catholic High School).

"We have some people who could not finish the season who will probably not be able to continue to play that can be replaced, and we have several (redshirted) players who can graduate and may not come back for the fifth year."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/02/saban_defends_practices_of_ove.html

In breaking that down, he is saying that right now they are at 85 and the only way there would be room for future additions would be for future attrition.  This means two things:

1. We shouldn't see any attrition this year to free up space and get down to 85, and if we do see attrition and no new recruits are added, Alabama will operate below the 85 limit by the number of players that "create their own situation for leaving."

2. If Alabama truly had room for 24 scholarship additions, where the hell did they come from?  They had 14 seniors listed on their roster, 6 of which were listed as SQ for scout team.  They had 3 Juniors leave for the NFL draft and they had 1 player announce he was going to transfer prior to signing day, BJ Scott.  That is 12 scholarship players (8 seniors + 3 juniors to the NFL + 1 transfer).  Saban said they were not at 85 total last year, so were they 12 under the 85?  And if so, why the grayshirt announcements on the last day before the deadline.

The math just doesn't add up and it's not even close.  Compare this to Northwestern's roster situation and look at the difference in how everything is handled.

Pat Fitzgerald: "We have 85 scholarships, we had 17 to give, and we’re at 85 right now." 

Nick Saban: "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."

The SEC and the NCAA need to create transparency in the numbers and how they are managed.  As we have said all along, schools should have to report their number of openings immediately after the January 15th deadline for Juniors to declare for the draft and they should be restricted to those numbers - if there is not an opening then there shouldn't be a scholarship offer unless it is a grayshirt situation that is documented and cleared with the conference office.  Schools should be limited in the number of LOI they can send out/accept in accordance with their openings under the 85 rule, not the 25 or 28 rule, and if there needs to be an exception for up to three extra, fine, but everyone wants transparency.  Fans want it, parents and recruits need it, the coaches need it and there is no reason the numbers shouldn't be made available.  In fact, the only reason to not make them available is because you have something to hide.  The Big 10 has had this transparency since 1954, it's time for the SEC to do the same.

Filed under: SEC 285 Comments
15Jan/1133

Big Recruiting Weekend

Nick Saban and Alabama, despite already being on tract to having one of the most oversigned classes in the country is having one of its biggest recruiting weekends this weekend.

"The Crimson Tide will welcome 11 recruits to campus trying to land deals with some of the nation's elite high school athletes."

Wonder what kind of "deals" the writer is talking about here?

"This might be the biggest weekend since (Alabama coach Nick Saban) and his staff have been there," Bamaonline.com recruiting editor Tim Watts said. "It's certainly the biggest I remember in the last 10 years or so. Whenever you see the No. 1 player in the country coming in on a visit it's always a big deal."

So despite the fact that they have 21 verbal commitments and 2 greyshirts that count towards this class, and given Alabama has one of the smallest senior classes in the country, Nick Saban and Alabama are hosting 11 recruits this weekend.  Granted some of them are probably just taking a free trip and there is no way on earth they sign all 11 of them, but why are they even bringing anyone in when they have already exceeded their projected scholarship limit based on the same guidelines the Big 10 Conference office would use to determine if they had room for more recruits?  Why?  Because SEC Commissioner, Mike Slive, is a puppet that serves at the pleasure of the SEC University Presidents and the President at the University of Alabama does not have the guts to stand up to Nick Saban and tell him what he is doing is wrong, unethical, and would not be tolerated anywhere in the Big 10 and at several universities around the country.

Alabama also will welcome a handful of players who already have verbally committed, including Vigor wide receiver Marvin Shinn.

According to Watts and Bone, the Tide has done a good job of filling its needs. But if Alabama can add a few more commitments it could reclaim its place at the nation's overall top signing class for 2011.

We don't have a problem with bringing in guys who have already verbally committed elsewhere, that is common practice and generally accepted, but the issue is that Alabama is so far over the limit and they are hell bent on signing 25-28 and sorting it out during spring camp and summer workouts.  Chances are, the guys that are verbally committed to other schools are committed to schools that have legitimate room for them; yet here is Nick Saban and Alabama, who by Big 10 Conference recruiting rules does not have any room and would be reprimanded, still bringing in recruits and still trying to get players.

The problem is that there is so much talent available now all over the country that the recruiting game is just as much about keeping players away from rivals as it is about filling your roster needs.

The only thing that can stop Nick Saban is the NCAA and the only way to get the NCAA to stop Nick Saban is to continue to spread the word about this practice and to shame the NCAA, Mike Slive, and the University Presidents into putting an end to oversigning.

While they are at it they might want to consider monitoring coaching hires as well...

Alabama may have improved its chances to land Clowney after it hired former Clemson assistant Chris Rumph to coach the defensive line.

For those that don't know, Clowney is a once-in-a-lifetime player.  He is a game changer with raw physical ability rarely seen, even at a school like Alabama that is used to having players like Julio Jones.  Simply put, this kid is a freak and the kind of player with which you win championships.  We're sure hiring Clowney's favorite coach had nothing to do with his recruitment.  This doesn't have anything to do with oversigning, it just wreaks, but then again what doesn't about a school and coach that are habitual abusers of something that an entire conference banned and the reason Georgia Tech left the SEC back in the 1960's.

Filed under: SEC 33 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
1Dec/1021

Reason 735,378,987,506 to End Oversigning

This is a follow up on the BJ Scott transfer story.  By allowing teams to oversign, the NCAA and the SEC office are allowing these kind of scenarios to play out. 

"Nevertheless, while he never put it together on the field, in many ways Scott served his purpose. His commitment to Alabama in July of 2007 played a major role in our re-taking of the recruiting hotbed of Mobile, and his commitment also helped us sign several other heavily recruited players because he helped our recruiting efforts tremendously down the stretch. Scott never did anything as a player, but he helped push a lot of other kids to Tuscaloosa who have done very well."

http://www.rollbamaroll.com/2010/11/30/1847613/b-j-scott-transferring#comments

If Nick Saban was bound to tighter recruiting parameters and was only allowed to take what he had room for, do you think he would take a chance on a kid like BJ Scott?

Filed under: SEC 21 Comments
26Oct/1024

Joseph Agnew Sues the NCAA

It is being reported that former Rice Football player, Joseph Agnew, through the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, is suing the NCAA regarding its prohibition on multi-year scholarships.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-25/ncaa-accused-in-rice-player-s-suit-of-antitrust-violations-on-scholarships.html

The suit was filed in California on behalf of former Rice football player Joseph Agnew. It claims that Agnew lost his scholarship after he underwent shoulder and ankle surgeries prior to his junior year in 2008. Rice changed coaching staffs after Agnew's freshman season, when he played in all 13 of the school's games. He appealed and had his scholarship reinstated for his junior year, but he did not play football.

Agnew's suit asks to represent other former players whose scholarships were not renewed.

The suit claims that the prohibition of multi-year scholarships, along with limits on the number of scholarships each school can give out, drives up the cost of an education for student athletes. It claims a violation of federal antitrust laws.

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=5727755&campaign=rss&source=NCFHeadlines

There has been a lot of argument on this site regarding the renewal of athletic scholarships.  Some feel as though the coaches have every right to pull a scholarship and not renew solely on the grounds of poor performance on the field--most of those people are also in favor of oversigning.  Others, meanwhile, perfer that the student-athlete get a 4 year scholarship agreement and as long as the student-athlete meets certain, clearly explained criteria, he is able to remain on the scholarship for the duration.

Many have argued that athletic scholarships should be handled like academic scholarships, but there are several flaws in that argument.

1. Academic scholarships typical spell out the requirements in plain English and the recipient knows exactly what he/she has to do in order to continue to receive financial aid.  These requirements are typically the same for all persons receiving the same scholarship, and typically the requirements are based on maintaining a certain baseline GPA, course-load, etc.  Athletic scholarships on the other hand, specifically the renewal of these scholarships, are very subjective.  Furthermore, we have seen that some athletic scholarships have not been renewed because of the limitation on the number that can be given out and the coaches desire to bring in someone he thinks is more talented.

2.   The person determining (typically the head coach) who gets a scholarship or who gets renewed has a tremendous amount riding on the decision and vested interest in the renewal process.  In comparison, there is no one issuing academic scholarships with their multi-million dollar career hanging in the balance.  Coaches have a vested interest in the decision in the renewal process, something that doesn't exist on the academic side. 

Regardless, Agnew's lawyers are claiming that the NCAA is violating anti-trust laws by limiting the number of scholarships, which in turn they claim drives up the cost of a 4 year education for student-athletes. 

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association alleging the NCAA has conspired with colleges and universities to impose artificial limits on sports scholarships, actions the suit claims violate federal antitrust laws.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a student-athlete who lost his scholarship after a series of injuries and a coaching change, alleges the NCAA and its member institutions forbid member schools from offering multi-year scholarships and illegally limit the number of scholarships in large part to maintain the profitability of the institutions’ sports programs, a violation of the Sherman Act’s antitrust laws.

The NCAA, whose member institutions number nearly every major college or university in the country, sets limits on the number of scholarships those institutions can grant, and prohibits schools from granting multi-year scholarships. The suit claims these limitations drive up the cost of a four-year education for student-athletes.

The prohibition on multi-year scholarships leaves student-athletes who lose their scholarships through injury or coaching fiat with two difficult options: paying tuition out of pocket or finding another college or university that will give them a scholarship, or abandon their education, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks to represent anyone who, while enrolled at an NCAA member institution, received an athletics-based scholarship for at least one year and had their scholarship reduced or not renewed, forcing them to pay tuition at a college, university or other institution of higher learning. If you have information you believe is important to the case, please contact Hagens Berman at 206-623-7292 or by e-mail at ncaa_antitrust@hbsslaw.com.

http://www.hbsslaw.com/cases-and-investigations/ncaa-antitrust 

Filed under: Off Topic 24 Comments
10Oct/1016

Interview with Tim Hyland

A few months back, oversigning.com was approached by Tim Hyland at about.com to do a question and answer session on the topic of oversigning and about the creation of this website.  This interview was prior to the Wall Street Journal's piece on Alabama's players admitting they felt a little bitter about being pressured into taking medical hardship scholarships to free up roster space for oversigned recruiting classes.  Had that story broke prior to our interview session with Tim Hyland, it probably would have been included in one of the answers.

Be that as it may, here is the link to the interview. 

http://collegefootball.about.com/od/rulesofthegame/a/Oversigning-College-Footballs-Hidden-Problem.htm

 If we had to summarize the interview and give a bulleted list of the points we were trying to make it would look something like this:

  • Nick Saban's comments about the fans not needing to know about his recruiting numbers or how he plans to get down to the 85 limit is what really sparked our interest in this entire topic.  This article is what started it all.
  • SEC by far signs the most players and abuses the oversigning loophole the most.  When you see one team from one conference sign 15, 20, 17, and 19, and then another team from another conference sign 32, 23, 25, and 32, something is wrong with the system.  To be clear, this is an SEC issue with the exception of a few other programs throughout the entire country.
  • The purpose of this site is to raise awareness to the topic of oversigning and hopefully help get it removed from college football.  
  • Oversigning is not a rules violation, which is part of the problem.  It is a by-product of the NCAA's 25/85 scholarship limits and their recruiting by-laws.  Oversigning is a loophole that is being exploited.
  • Oversigning creates a competitive advantage by allowing coaches access to a larger pool of players, hedge against academic and medical attrition, and ensure that they maximize the full 85 scholarships by forcing out lesser players to transfer to lesser schools or pressure kids into taking medical hardship scholarships to free up roster space, much of which we saw at alarming rates this preseason.
  • It is our opinion that no coach should have to "get down" to 85 scholarships after national signing day.  They should sign what they have room for and encourage who they have to stay and get better (unless the kid is a criminal or not making the grades) by coaching them up and making men out of them instead of just throwing them off on another coach - after all they thought enough of them when they signed them.  Coaches are paid millions of dollars to evaluate talent, why should we give them an out if they miss on a guy? Why should we allow them to get rid of student-athlete simply because they don't pan out to be as good as a coach thought they would be?  If a coach has a shortfall due to unexpected attrition, then he can give those scholarships to deserving walk-on players in their 4th or 5 th year as a reward for all their hard work.
  • Lastly, we hope the NCAA takes a long hard look at the oversigning issue and revamps some of their recruiting by-laws to include a lot more transparency in roster management.  The LOI should be a two way binding agreement.  Perhaps scholarships need to go back to being 4 year deals instead of one.  Each school should only be able to sign what they have room for on National Signing Day.  There needs to be an exit interview for all players transferring and especially all players placed on medical hardship scholarship in order to determine if they felt like they were wrongly pushed in that direction. We will know when this problem has been solved when we see teams like Alabama and LSU, who both have very, very small senior classes on scholarship and are only losing roughly 8-12 scholarship guys next year, sign classes in the 8-12 range  - as it stands right now they are both on track to sign 20+, and you can rest assured that we will see all kinds of crazy stories next spring between signing day and August when both teams shove guys off in order to make room for the new load of recruits.  

Thanks again to Tim Hyland for his interest in the topic of oversigning and for reaching out and giving us the opportunity to answer some questions.  If you haven't visited his blog, we encourage you to - Tim does a great job covering college football.

Filed under: Feedback 16 Comments
5Oct/1044

Don’t Blame the Coaches

Here is a decent column written by Gary Laney, sportswriter for The Advocate, and although the overall tone of the column is one that excuses the actions of the coaches, Laney does admit oversigning is an issue in the SEC. 

http://www.2theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/100504484.html

He basically acknowledges that oversigning creates a competitive edge and that it's a problem specifically in the SEC, but he says don't blame the coaches in the SEC, blame the NCAA rules.

Increased costs come with increased expectations and increased pressure to win.

If Miles doesn’t oversign, Nick Saban will (and he does) and LSU will lose some competitive edge in the process. You can’t let that happen, not when 9-4 doesn’t do the trick.

That’s not an ethical defense of oversigning, nor is it a defense of how LSU handles oversigned players. The point is when you look at the context in which it happened — high pressure to win and rules that allow it — you should only be surprised if it doesn’t happen..

So I guess we should be surprised that it doesn't happen in the rest of the country?  Or should we not be surprised that it is happening in the SEC?

He's right about it being an advantage, and we are seeing it on the field with Alabama over the last few year and we saw it at LSU and other places, but not all the blame should go to the NCAA.  The athletic directors, university presidents, and the mighty Mike Slive are just as much to blame as anyone at the NCAA office -- this is happening under their watch and they could stop it completely.  That won't happen though.  This is a problem that dates back to the 1960's with the SEC and it would take extreme pressure for them to address it on their own without being forced by the NCAA.

As it has been mentioned here before, this (oversigning) was the reason behind Georgia Tech leaving the SEC.

From the book Dodd's Luck written in part by former Geogria Tech head coach Bobby 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.

A vote was to be taken by the presidents of the colleges on the issue, and Dodd made it clear, Tech would have to leave the SEC unless the rule was changed. Dodd said he would live with 10, 20, 30, 40, or even 50 recruits per year as long as he did not have to chase any of his players off.

The presidents were split six for Dodd’s position and six against. Bear had promised Dodd he would get his president to vote for Dodd’s position, which would have changed the rule. When the meeting was held, Bryant did not show up and the Alabama president voted against Dodd’s position and the 140 Rule was upheld. Tech’s president immediately walked to the podium and announced Tech was withdrawing from the SEC. Bryant never told Dodd why he reneged on his promise.

Perhaps we need a modern day Bobby Dodd to step in and put his foot down.  Mark Richt would be our choice given that he does not oversign players -- maybe Urban Meyer has enough pull to get it done, he doesn't oversign any where near the level of Saban and Miles.

Filed under: SEC 44 Comments
26Sep/109

Paul Finebaum Interviews WSJ’s Darren Everson

Those of you who are really passionate about the topic of oversigning and interested in hearing more about the Wall Street Journal article Alabama's Unhappy Castoffs should find Paul Finebaum's (a sports talk show host on Sirius Satellite Radio) interview with the author of the article, Darren Everson, interesting. 

The Darren Everson interview comes around the 20 minute mark in the link below.

 http://www.finebaum.com/media/archives/show/20100924_PFRN_Hour4.mp3

One thing that we found interesting was that it was Phil Steele's list of "players lost for the year" that triggered Everson to do a little more investigative work on the specific topic of medical hardships.  Everson states in the interview that Alabama's numbers, and a couple of other teams, really stood out; Alabama having 3 medical hardships in one year and roughly 12 since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa stood out to him and prompted him to take a closer look.

Obviously, Everson was well aware of the numbers crunch for Alabama over the last couple of recruiting seasons, and he mentions that he was interested to see if there was a connection between the medical hardships and the roster crunch. 

Everson made a couple of phone calls to players and as it turns out some of the guys he interviewed, not all of them willing to go on record out of fear of possible backlash from what they have to say, said that they feel as though they were pushed in the direction of taking a medical hardship to free up a scholarship for a new recruit, AND that they thought that not only did it happen to them, but that they thought it was something the coaching staff did to other players as well.  It's important to note that a few players did go public with their comments, but it would really be interesting to hear what those who wouldn't go public had to say - sure wish the NCAA could interview those players and find out their side of the story. 

Part of the problem here is that the by-laws and the process for handling medical hardships are somewhat of a grey area, even the NCAA by-laws are a little vague.

15.5.1.3 Counter Who Becomes Injured or Ill.  A counter who becomes injured or ill to the point that he or she apparently never again will be able to participate in intercollegiate athletics shall not be considered a counter beginning with the academic year following the incapacitating injury or illness.

15.5.1.3.1 Incapacitating Injury or Illness. If an incapacitating injury or illness occurs prior to a prospective student-athlete’s or a student-athlete’s participation in athletically related activities and
results in the student-athlete’s inability to compete ever again, the student-athlete shall not be counted within the institution’s maximum financial aid award limitations for the current, as well as later academic
years.

One key word for us is the word PARTICIPATE.  What do you define as participation?  To us it could be defined as doing everything with the team except contact drills, scrimmages, or playing, which would leave individual drill work, film study, team meetings, etc.  There are ways to participate in intercollegiate athletics without actually playing on the field on game days...walk-ons and scout team guys do it every week.

This is yet another example of the NCAA writing vague by-laws that speak to the spirit of the rules instead of the factual details that need to be monitored and regulated.  No different than the by-laws for signing players.  The NCAA is trying to give schools and players enough room to protect the student-athlete, but they leave enough room for crass coaches interested in winning above all else to exploit the loopholes and gain a competitive advantage, use youngsters like pieces of meat, and lower the overall ethical standards of the game.

Solutions:

There are a couple of solutions to this problem (abusing medical hardships and pushing kids to accept them in order to get an oversigned roster down to 85, which is clearly what Alabama, LSU, and UNC have done over the last 4 years). 

1. The NCAA should hire a third-party medical team to provide a final exit examination so that some of these mysterious medical conditions can be investigated.

2. The NCAA should create an exit interview for players who transfer or who are asked to take a medical hardship scholarship.  An exit interview, where players can speak freely about what they were told or asked of by the coaching staff would have revealed that there are players at Alabama that have been pushed into taking a medical hardship in order to free up room and avoid NCAA penalties for going over the 85 scholarship limit.

3. Make the medical hardship scholarships count towards the 85 limit and make guys continue to earn their financial aid.  Unless a student-athlete is paralyzed from the waist down, there are plenty of things they can do to earn their scholarship and help the team. 

4. Eliminate the motivation to use this loophole.  If you eliminate oversigning then you can drastically cut down or eliminate all together situations where coaches are looking to push innocent players off the football team in order to make room for better players.

Common Arguments and More from the Paul Finebaum Radio Show: 

1. This happens everywhere, what's the problem?  No. This does not happen everywhere, according to Darren Everson there were 25 Medical Hardships in the SEC and 12 of them were Alabama's.  But that's not the real issue, it's the combination of three things that makes it an issue, and those of you that want to argue against this to really pay attention here:  A.) It's the higher than average number of medical hardships, B.) combined with a motive to issue those hardships (being oversigned and needed to cut players to get down to 85, and most importantly, C.) combined with the FACT that you have ALABAMA players ON RECORD stating that they think they were pushed into the medical hardship IN AN EFFORT TO WORK THE RECRUITING NUMBERS OUT and BRING IN BETTER PLAYERS.

If you take away those 3 factors then there is nothing wrong with the medical hardship, in fact, it is great and should be preserved.

2. This is just another example of northern media out to put down the SEC.  No, it's not.  This is a widely recognized issue that has been addressed by media outlets around the country.  That is nothing more than a lame excuse.

The sports editor of the Tuscaloosa News, Cecil Hurt, tried to use that as an excuse or a reason as to why this is an issue, he even went so far as to say that this is all coming from the Big 10 in response to losing to the SEC all the time.  Cecil Hurt is very well respected, but he is slightly off in his comments.  If anyone has been affected by oversigning in terms of competitive advantage it has been the ACC who signs the fewest number of players of any BCS conference and has a miserable record against the SEC.   His comments are at 32:20 in the link below.

http://www.finebaum.com/media/archives/show/20100924_PFRN_Hour2.mp3

3. This is all not true.  Typical argument from a delusional fan that is willing to do whatever it takes to defend his team or coach.  Finebaum actually had a guy call in and take this position with him, to which Finebaum responds with the following...go to the 3:45 mark in this link and listen to this argument.  

http://www.finebaum.com/media/archives/show/20100924_PFRN_Hour2.mp3

4. This freaking article is a bunch of crap - you could write this article about any of the 119 teams.  Another insane argument posed to Finebaum in the link above at the 21:00 minute mark.

5. This is not against the rules. Yes, medical hardships are not against the rules, but does anyone like the idea of a school abuse them to gain an advantage?  Probably not.

Note: The site to the links for the audio is temporarily down; will probably be up again soon.  Be sure to come back and check out the audio, it's well worth it if you enjoy discussing this topic.

Filed under: SEC 9 Comments
2Sep/104

NCAA Ruling Based on the Spirit of the Rules?

The NCAA felt that Jeremiah Masoli's application to transfer from Oregon, where he was kicked off of the team for violation of team rules, violated the "spirit" of the NCAA transfer rules and thus they denied his application and are preventing him from playing at Ole Miss.

The spirit of the rules, huh.  Interesting.

So who over at the NCAA is in charge of determining violations of the spirit of the signing process?  Just wondering because clearly someone over at the NCAA headquarters tasked with monitoring the spirit of the signing process has been asleep at the wheel while schools like LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Miami, UNC and others rape the spirit of the signing process by constantly signing way more players than they have room for when they sign them, which ultimately leads to a laundry list of transfers, medical hardships, and players flat out getting screwed.

This shouldn't be surprise anyone as this is just the latest indicator that the NCAA is an overgrown, bureaucratic organization that is not capable of regulating college athletics or delivering on their stated mission of maintaining competitive equality while ensuring that the academic experience of the student-athlete is paramount in the integration of athletic competition to the college environment.

Filed under: Rants 4 Comments
21Aug/1039

NCAA Gives Alfy Hill the Les Miles Treatment

The sole purpose of this site has been to expose the oversigning loophole in the NCAA rule book to the masses, identify the coaches that abuse it the most, and follow the stories of the kids that get screwed in the process.  As we near 3 million hits since this site was created in February, it is pretty clear to anyone who can type the word "oversigning" into a google search box that we have delivered on those three objectives. 

For the last several months, we have closely followed Alabama and LSU as they were both identified as teams guilty of gross oversigning of their rosters.  During that time we were able to predict with a reasonable amount of certainty the number of players LSU and Alabama would have to lose in order to remain under the 85 scholarship limit by the August 1st deadline.   The main problem we have with LSU and Alabama oversigning is that nearly all of the attrition and roster movement below took place after they already accepted over 25 signed letters of intent from new recruits.  When schools accept those signed letters of intent the recruits that sign them are bound to the school but the school is not bound to the recruit.  As we saw with Elliott Porter, LSU screwed up the signing process so badly that they had to just pull the rug out from underneath Porter, who was already on campus, and send him packing because they didn't have scholarship room for him.  Simply put when you accept more signed letters of intent than you have room for when you accept them it's inevitable that someone is going to get screwed.

2010 The March to 85 - Alabama

Player Position Reason for leaving after NSD
Terry Grant Running Back Scholarship not renewed
Travis Sikes Wide Receiver Scholarship not renewed
Rod Woodson Safety Scholarship not renewed
Star Jackson Quarterback Transfer, Georgia State Div 1AA.
Deion Belue Defensive Back Academically Ineligible; headed to JUCO
Alfy Hill Linebacker Academically Ineligible; future unknown
Taylor Pharr Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Milton Talbert Linebacker Medical Hardship
Darius McKeller Offensive Lineman Medical Hardship
Ronnie Carswell Wide Receiver Greyshirt
Wilson Love Defensive End Greyshirt


With Alfy Hill's departure it opens a scholarship spot for Harrison Jones who just a couple of weeks ago was on the short end of the stick with regards to the scholarship numbers.  Jones was going to accept being greyshirted until January because due to Nick Saban's oversigning and the unknown status of so many of the players on Alabama's roster it appeared that there wasn't going to be room for Jones.   We'll have more on Alfy Hill in a minute.

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


This is in sharp contrast to how a lot of other schools manage their scholarship numbers and the signing process.  As we have mentioned several times, the Big 10 Conference does not allow oversigning, even by 1, much less 8-10 every year.  The practice has not been banned by the ACC but in looking at their numbers it is clear that the coaches and schools in the ACC exercise constraint with the regards to the signing process and outside of North Carolina (Butch Davis) and Miami (Randy Shannon), the ACC has some of the lowest number of signed players in the country.  Same with the Pac 10+2, their numbers are consistently low. 

Outside of looking to get a competitive advantage by moving out lesser players for new recruits, fans of schools that oversign often site that one of the reasons for oversigning is that coaches often don't know who is going to be eligible and they use oversigning as a way to hedge their bets against the NCAA clearinghouse, after all the loophole in the NCAA rule book allows them to do so.

Case and point, Alfy Hill.  Hill was part of Alabama's oversigned class of 2010.  He was cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse, admitted onto campus, completed 3 courses of work, and is now being told that he is not eligible because after reviewing his high school transcript a second time, the NCAA has determined that a couple of his high school courses did not meet their requirements for eligibility.  Hill has now been released from his scholarship at Alabama and will have to go to JUCO or pay his own way. 

This is one of the most bizarre situations we have seen since we really started following oversigning.  Alfy Hill is getting screwed, as is Alabama, and it is completely the NCAA's fault.  The level of ineptitude and the lackadaisical nature of the NCAA is sickening.  The entire signing and scholarship management process that is under the care of the NCAA needs to be thrown out the window and there needs to be drastic reform in order to prevent more kids like Elliott Porter and Alfy Hill from getting screwed over.  The NCAA has managed to create a system so flawed and screwed up that potential student-athletes can get screwed from either side of the equation (Porter by LSU and Les Miles and Alfy Hill by the NCAA clearinghouse).

Between coaches like Les Miles and the NCAA does anyone know what the **** they are doing?  You have coaches signing more players than they have room for and then having to cut players in order to make room and you have a governing body who cannot accurately determine if a player is academically eligible in a timely manner and leaves a loophole in their bylaws that allows coaches to hedge their bets against their ineptitude.   It is almost like the NCAA is telling coaches, "since we are not efficient enough to tell you who is academically eligible in a timely manner so you know exactly how many players to sign or who to sign, just go ahead and sign as many as you want and sort it out later."  WTF???

The combination of coaches willing to oversign and ineptitude of the NCAA is a lethal combination that results in guys like Porter and Hill getting screwed.

This by no means excuses coaches that oversign.  They know the deal and they should at least keep their side of the street clean and some do - shame on the others that don't (Les Miles, Nick Saban, Houston Nutt, Randy Shannon, Butch Davis).  After all, it is these coaches and not the NCAA that are in the living rooms of recruits promising them and their parents that they will take care of them for the next 4 years. 

The bottom line is that the entire recruiting and signing process needs to be thrown out the window and replaced with a system that permanently closes the oversigning loophole and determines academic eligibility in an accurate and timely manner.   The new system should provide coaches with the exact number of players they can sign without going over their limit (which means the number for each team will be different every year based on who each team has graduating and leaving for the NFL early) and it should provide them with a list of players cleared to be signed.  They also need to make the letter of intent a two-way binding agreement, not a one-way agreement that only binds the recruit to the school.

Filed under: NCAA, SEC 39 Comments
15Aug/1020

The Machine

In a story ESPN The Magazine published on the birth of Georgia State's football program, they interviewed recent Alabama transfer Star Jackson, and when we read the following quote the first thought we had was William Bradford Huie said this 69 years ago.

"Bama is a machine. You do it like this, and if you don't -- your ass isn't playing."

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2010/08/bill_curry_star_jackson_was_al.html

Star Jackson's transfer to Georgia State has drawn a lot of attention, primarily because of when it occurred (which was after Saban accepted more signed letters of intent then he had room for when he accepted them AND after Jackson spent the summer competing against a new QB recruit 5* Sims for a spot on the roster) and the circumstances surrounding his transfer.

His comment regarding Alabama and calling it a machine rings a bell for us because one of the first posts on this site was about a man named William Bradford Huie.  Huie wrote a spectacular piece on his Alma Mater in 1941 called  How to Keep Football Stars in College, and in his piece he refers to Alabama as a machine.

"Three thousand hopeful young men have entered the University of Alabama to play football during the fifteen years I have been close to that machine. Fifteen hundred fell out by the end of the first semester. All of these initial casualties had played football in high school and had learned little else. When the athletic department dropped them, what could they do? Even if their parents could afford to send them to classes, they were not prepared. They had come to college prepared only to play football. Had football not robbed them of their opportunities in high school some of them might have worked out successful college careers." 

More from his piece here.  The problem back in the old days at Alabama was not the scholarship limit, but the 5-year eligibility rule.

"The Red Shirts composed the "suspension" squad. They were the fifty or more prospects who had already served their time on the freshman squad but had not yet been chosen for the varsity. You see, under the five-year eligibility rule in the Southeastern Conference a boy can play a year on the freshman squad, a year on some intermediate squad, and still play out his full three-year varsity career. Thus in the spring the coaches look over the varsity and see what is needed to fill the holes resulting from what the sports writers politely call "graduation." They look over the Red Shirts first since they are older and better developed. Then they pick up a few from the freshman squad. Next they consign the rest of the freshmen to the Red Shirt pool to grow and develop another year. The chaff portion of the Red Shirt squad is then fired off the pay roll, and the brain trust promptly allows them to flunk and fall out of school. This fate will already have caught up with more than a hundred freshmen before the end of the first semester." 

We highly recommend you read our previous post on his piece and read his entire article yourself. 

Things have changed a great deal since Huie's time, or have they?  Sure there are scholarship limits now and the sheer numbers have changed, but based on Star Jackson's story and his calling Alabama a machine, how much has really changed?  Guys are still trying out for scholarship spots against oversigned rosters and fighting an uphill battle against numbers, just like back in the day.  Things were a lot more brutal back in those days, guys nowadays are at least getting medical hardship scholarships and opportunities to transfer to other schools. 

In the end, the bottom line is that institutions of higher learning are not supposed to be football "machines."  And according to the NCAA mission statement they exist to ensure that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount, not the sports experience.

Filed under: SEC 20 Comments
13Aug/1030

Tony Gerdeman Got It, Few Others Did (Including Us!)

We attempted to correct some of the wrongs the "real" media has been putting out lately with its coverage of oversigning and reaction to Elliott Porter's story, but Tony Gerdeman has shown us that we too missed the mark.

Our general theme with regards to the Elliott Porter story and the media's coverage of it has been that most people are missing the point with regards to the numbers - most media outlets are focused on the fact that Les Miles signed 27 and it was 2 over the single year 25 limit, completely missing the bigger issue which was that LSU was over the 85 limit based on what they lost from graduation/early entry into the NFL and what they signed (27).  They should have signed 18 recruits, not 27.  18 was all they had room for under the 85 limit and had LSU resided in the Big 10 Conference and not the SEC they would have been required to sign 18 and would not have been allowed to sign 27.

However, in our haste to point out that everyone missed the boat with regards to the numbers, we glossed over how the mainstream media missed the target and the real root of the problem all together, OVERSIGNING.

Eagle-eyed Tony Gerdeman didn't miss it though.  Gerdeman has been on the right side of this topic from the very beginning.  He knows the deal and he understands what is really going on with these coaches in the SEC that exploit the oversigning loophole.  In his weekly installment of The Week that Was, Gerdeman comments on the article we mentioned above and adds a really great point that we totally missed.

The gist of the article is detailing the way Miles told incoming freshman offensive lineman Elliott Porter that he needed him to grayshirt—and this was after he was already moved into his dorms, which then forced Porter to ask for his release and try to find somewhere else to go to college.

But that's not what really bothered me about the article. We all know Les Miles has character issues—he went to Michigan for crying out loud, so I don't really feel the need to stoke that tire fire anymore than it's already burning.

My issue is with the way the practice of oversigning was just glossed over in the article, and how perhaps the most ethical way of dealing with oversigning was actually vilified.

Yeah, offering a grayshirt is a jerk move that late in the deal, but it very much beats getting cut. At least the student athlete was given a choice in the matter. Normally in the SEC, they aren't.

Maybe I'm mistaken, but I don't recall the Big Ten ever outlawing grayshirting as the article indicated. You just never hear about it because it isn't used to fitting 27 players into 24 slots.

And it certainly isn't discussed half a year after national signing day.

We wrote a piece on greyshirting being okay, but we really missed the point that greyshirting was vilified more than the oversigning - the focus should be on the oversigning because without it there is no greyshirting of players.  This is like a drunk driver hitting another car and the victim dying on the way to the hospital because of a bumpy ambulance ride and everyone vilifies the medical staff and the ambulance driver while the drunk driver slides under the radar. 

Sounds crazy doesn't it? 

But that's kind of what happened.  Everyone was too busy looking at what Les Miles did with the greyshirt process and vilifying it, while the real culprit (oversigning) slid out the backdoor barely even noticed.   Heck, even oversigning.com, the only blog on the entire Internet dedicated solely to oversigning missed it because we were too busy correcting everyone for missing the real point behind the numbers (that it wasn't the 25 per year rule that was the problem it was the 85 total that was the problem).

Great work Tony!

In the end, the Elliott Porter story and how Les Miles handled everything should have taught everyone the following:

1. Oversigning is the real problem - if the SEC had a ban on oversigning this would never happen.

2. The greyshirt process is not the issue and is not the villian here.  When handled correctly and in the right situations, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a greyshirt opportunity.  We would like to see the NCAA add a few rules to further regulate the practice and create transparency, but in the end greyshirting is not to blame - oversigning is.

3. The main issue with LSU and Les Miles (outside of the piss poor way he pulled Porter's scholarship away from him at the last minute) was not that he went 2 over the 25 limit in a single class, but rather that he went 9 over the 85 limit on National Signing day when he accepted signed letters of intent that bound 27 new recruits to LSU in a ONE-WAY agreement that they can't get out of and at the time he only had 18 openings.  That is the core of the issue and that is oversigning.  LSU had room for 18 recruits, not 27, and had they signed 21 instead of 27 they would have still had a problem, despite not being over the 25 per year rule.

4. Oversigning causes kids to get screwed and it has got to stop.  This is the very reason why the Big 10 banned oversigning all together decades ago.

Filed under: Quick Links, Rants, SEC 30 Comments
12Aug/1011

There is nothing wrong with Greyshirting, Les Miles

It appears that Les Miles has not taken the criticism he has received, which he was rightfully given, for the Elliott Porter debacle well and he has taken to defending the practice of Greyshirting players.   Here are a few of his comments...

He noted that Porter’s scholarship offer was still good, just postponed a semester. He said if somebody made the same offer to one of his sons, they would “certainly be disappointed that day, but recognize that, long-term, it’s not a bad thing.”

Miles said grayshirting can benefit players who could use time to allow their bodies to mature.

“He might take his time to come in shape and to benefit his body and compete,” he said.

The practice is common in the Southeastern Conference, but not allowed in other conferences, like the Big 10. CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel was particularly harsh with his critique in a column Sunday, calling Miles “a bad guy.” He had similar descriptions for others who oversign, calling Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt “despicable” and Alabama’s Nick Saban “two evolutionary stages below a lizard.”

Miles said he had not read the Doyel column but “I did get bits and pieces of that.”

“I can tell you no one is more critical of how I operate than me,” Miles said. “I can tell you the guys I visited with and I told, for the team, it might well be the best thing for you physically and might well be best for you and your health and by the count of numbers and scholarships, you might benefit the most by postponing your entrance into school."

http://www.2theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/100425914.html

Allows us to put on our Miles decoder and see if we can decipher what he said -- not sure we'll be able to make anything out of that last quote, though. 

First let us clear up some errors in Laney's original article.

1. The Big 10 has not banned greyshirting players; it is something that is watched very closely but it has not been banned.  Oversigning is not allowed, but greyshirting is allowed in the Big 10.

2. You'll have to read the entire article for this one, but in the original article the general tone is that the issue with Les Miles was the 25 scholarships per year rule and that by signing 27 he was two over the limit, hence the greyshirt offer.  While Laney is right, 25 per year is the limit and LSU was over with 27 eligible, the real issue here is the 85 limit and what took place prior to August deadline.  If you examine LSU's recruiting budget at signing day you can see that by signing 27 they were projected to be 9 over the 85 limit.  Therefore, in addition to the greyshirt offers that were declined there were a handful of other players that were removed in order to make room for 25 of the 27.  We happen to have a list handy.

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


When you step back and look at the entire body of work in this recruiting class you can see just poorly Miles has managed the entire process.  The only conclusion you can draw about the series of events is that Les Miles simply signs the 25 max every year and sorts the bodies out later, and until this point it really hasn't bitten him in the ass.   We have a list handy for that as well.  This is every recruiting class for Miles since 2002; some of the numbers came from his time at Oklahoma State.  Roughly a 24 average with as many as 31 in a single class.  And for just about every one of those years there are handful of BS stories about how Les got the roster down either to the 25 for the year or 85 overall.

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

Based on LSU's numbers at National Signing Day they should have signed 18 new recruits, not 27.  Had all 18 made it academically, like all 27 did, they would have all had a spot, Chris Garrett would be at LSU not Northeastern State or wherever he landed, and Elliott Porter, since he was an early verbal commitment, would be living on LSU campus partaking in LSU spring ball.  But then again, we all know the deal, you know, it's just business and all.  Plus, if Miles only signs the 18 he has room for he might miss out on a new recruit and another SEC school might get him, plus he won't have any extra players to hedge against unexpected injuries, where's the fun in that?

The Les Miles decoder tells us the following:

1. He only cares about the athlete portion of student-athletes.

2. He only reads bits and pieces of Doyel's columns.

3. He is a man with enough money to pay for his son's education and having to greyshirt would not be an issue for him.  Nothing like screwing a kid over and then telling the world that it wouldn't be a problem for him if it happen to his kids - no kidding Les, your son could go to any school in the country and you could stroke a check for the full 4 years and never even blink.  A four year education is rounding error on your balance sheet.  For the rest of the working stiffs and the underprivileged in this country who don't make $3MM  a year being a coach, having to pay for 1 semester of college can be an issue.

4. He told his players something about scholarship numbers and greyshirts, but we don't think he had any idea what he told them, when he told them, or who he told.  Reminds us so much of his explanation of the time out at the end of the LSU - Ole Miss game last year.

How can you seriously believe that he knows what is going on with regards to recruiting numbers after something like this: http://ballhype.com/video/les-miles-calling-for-spike-and-lying-against-ole-miss/

The problem wasn't that he offered a greyshirt to Porter, it was how it was offered and when it was offered, and for Miles to come out and take exception with the criticism further proves that he has no clue that he did anything wrong.  Perhaps that empty suit Mike Slive should have a talk with him about managing scholarship offers and proper etiquette when dealing with potential student-athletes.

Now let us address the greyshirting and scholarship numbers for next year.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with greyshirting a player provided there is an understanding between the school and the player way in advance.  Obviously, we want the NCAA to do something about oversigning and our hope is that by closing the oversigning loophole we create transparency in the entire signing process, especially the greyshirt process.

So here is a scenario that we would like to see happen:

A school has 18 openings that can be filled on National Signing Day because that is their established recruiting budget for the year based on who they have graduating and who they have leaving early for the NFL.  Given the 18 LOI limit, the school is given the option to sign up to a certain number of greyshirt prospects (let's say 3 per year).  These three extra players are signed to a different type of LOI that explicitly states that the school has to honor their scholarship offer the following year but the players are free to accept scholarship offers from other schools and are not bound to the school offering the greyshirt. 

This keeps the school at or under the 85 scholarship limit, allows them to sign a few greyshirts for the next year to accommodate players that are willing and able to pay their own way until the next year and obviously really want to go to a certain school, and it eliminates the Elliott Porter scenario, which absolutely has to stop.

Now for the scholarship numbers next year.

Greyshirting creates a scenario where you are counting scholarships forward.  Let's take Alabama for instance; it appears that they have 3 potential greyshirt candidates this year that will join the team next year and count to next year's numbers.  Looking at Alabama's scholarship roster it also appears that they only have 9 scholarship seniors and 5th year guys who will be freeing up scholarship room for the next recruiting class (feel free to correct us on that Bama fans).  When you subtract the 3 greyshirt players from the number of scholarship seniors for next year the number of openings looks something more like 6).  According to Rivals Alabama already has 17 verbal commitments.  Let's say there are a 5 Juniors who jump to the league, that's only 14 scholarship openings.  Does anyone think that Saban is done recruiting for the year??? 

LSU is in the exact same situation, small senior class and already over committed (verbally at least) in terms of having verbal commitments from more recruits then they have room for next year.

And come next year we'll see all kinds of transfers and hear all kinds of stories attached to them, but at the end of the day it's all garbage because regardless of how many "mutual agreements to leave" we hear the bottom line is that in the business of college football, especially in the SEC, it's out with the old, injured, and less than, and in with the new.  After all, fans care just about as much about winning the recruiting national championship as they do about the BCS national championship.

Filed under: Rants, SEC 11 Comments
8Aug/1060

Most Common Arguing Points

Here are some of the most common arguing points people have tried to use in defense of the practice of oversigning (in random order):

1. The SEC banned oversigning when it created the Houston Nutt rule and set the limit to 28 signees per recruiting class, oversigning is no longer an issue.

Wrong.  The SEC did not ban oversigning with the Houston Nutt rule; it simply put a cap on the number of players that can be signed at 28.  Obviously, only 25 can be assigned to a single class per NCAA rules, which allows them to either back count 3 recruits to the previous year if they didn't take a full 25 the previous year or they can greyshirt 3 recruits and have them delay their enrollment until the following January and count towards the next year.  The problem is that 28 x 4 = 112 and you can only have 85 on a roster at a time.  The SEC rule lacks the supplemental rule of requiring coaches to prove that they have room for every signee they take at the time they accept a signed letter of intent that binds the player to the school and prevents them from going elsewhere until the school releases them.  This is the fundamental problem with oversigning -- coaches are binding players to their schools before they truly know if they have room for them or not.  If they knew that they would have room then we wouldn't have to wait until the last day before fall camp to see who is being cut. 

In the Big 10 conference, coaches are encouraged to establish their recruiting budget (number of openings for new signees) ahead of National Signing Day and stay within those limits; Big 10 coaches are allowed to sign up to 28 players to a single class, but they are required to petition the Big 10 office and prove that they have room for the 3 extra players and that signing the 3 extra players will not results in the removal of anyone currently on the roster with eligibility remaining.  They are also not allowed to accept a signed letter of intent for numbers 26, 27, and 28 until they receive permission from the Big 10 office and it is our understanding that the Big 10 office reviews the roster in question to make sure that there is room for those players before giving the coaches permission to accept those LOI.  And it is also our understanding that this is not the case with the SEC.

Prior to the Huston Nutt rule, teams in the SEC as a collective group averaged signing 29 recruits per year, which is off the charts high.  The new rule drops that number by 1.  For the conference with the biggest problem of oversigning, setting the limit to 28 helps, but it doesn't come close to solving the problem, and we saw that play out this year with LSU and Alabama who clearly oversigned their rosters and had to work until the last day before fall camp in order to get down to the 85 number.  LSU ended up removing/releasing 9 players between signing day and fall camp and Alabama 10.

Conference Comparisons 2002 - 2010

Comparisons SEC Big 12 BigEast PAC10 Big10 ACC
Average # of Total Recruits Signed Per School: 227 219 215 208 199 199
Total Players Signed: 2,727 2,629 1,737 2,084 2,196 2,394
Highest Single School Total: 253 243 235 235 218 225
Lowest Single School Total: 191 192 201 170 170 174
# of Times Over 25 in Single Class: 54 37 23 28 18 22
# of Times 28 or More in Single Class: 33 24 14 14 5 10
# of Back to Back Classes of 25 or More: 35 24 11 8 6 5


2. There is no law or rule against oversigning so therefore no one is doing anything wrong.

There is no law against adultery either, doesn't mean that it is not wrong.  Stupid argument and as irresponsible as Les Miles saying that his only obligation is to get his number down to 25 every year.

“I coach the team that I get here,” Miles said when asked if a signee would not be on scholarship this semester. “Scholarship is certainly a great inducement. I don’t mean to minimize that. But I don’t know that it’s my responsibility to determine publicly who is and who isn’t on scholarship. It’s my responsibility to be within the 25 number, which we are.”

http://www.2theadvocate.com/sports/100007164.html

3. Oversigning gives more people a shot at a scholarship - if you take it away you are robbing kids of an opportunity to get an education.

This might be the most laughable of all the arguments in favor of oversigning.  First of all, we live in a society and a country where we are blessed with opportunity, and if there is someone who is driven enough to want to get an education they can get an education, without having to be a football star.  There are federal grant programs, student loan programs, academic scholarship programs, and a ton of companies that offer tuition reimbursement programs.  Anyone with enough physical ability to play football could go work at Walmart, McDonald's, or a number of other places and get their education partially paid for and take out student loans or a pell grant for the rest. 

When you oversign your roster that means that players have to leave in order to get the new players in.  There are only 85 scholarships that can be given out each year and very few coaches waste them.  As we explained earlier, there are two models of signing recruits, oversigning and undersigning.  In the undersigning model the "leftover" scholarships (usually 1 or 2, sometimes maybe more) are given to deserving walk-on players who have earned a scholarship through hard work both on and off the field.  In the oversigning model, the same amount of scholarships are given out by a single school, but instead of signing within your budget and giving the leftovers to the walk-ons, coaches pushout  guys on the roster with eligibility remaining and bring in new, often times more talented players with more potential.  At the end of the day, the same number of players are being educated (85), but with the oversigning you have to shove out players and interrupt their education in order to educate someone else. 

The reason we say this is the most laughable argument is because the people that make this argument are clearly more concerned about losing the oversigning advantage than they are about educating young people.  This is nothing more than a feeble attempt to tug at the heartstrings of parents and policy makers, and the people that make this argument about oversigning enabling more kids to get an education are all about protecting oversigning and the clear advantages it has produced; they are worried about losing out a potential future star recruit, nothing more.  College football is a system where future stars are the lifeblood of the program because kids will only be around for 4-5 years; it is becoming more important to focus on the new incoming stars than it is developing the more senior players because by the time they develop they are gone.

4. Scholarships are 1-Year Renewable Contracts; we can cut whoever we want to cut and we are not doing anything wrong.

That is correct, scholarships are 1-year renewable contracts.  These contracts are set to be automatically renewed unless the coaching staff files paperwork to stop the renewal process. This was not always the case with scholarships, as up until 1973 scholarships were 4 year scholarships, not 1 year renewable agreements.

The one-year renewable scholarship, with a limit of five years of athletic aid, has been in place since 1973. Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president for academic and membership affairs, said the 37-year-old policy has not been a frequent topic of concern among member schools. He noted that NCAA rules require colleges to provide athletes who lose scholarships with an appeals option, typically consisting of a campus panel formed from outside the athletics department. But such arbitration is not common, he acknowledged.

Requiring Division I transfers to sit out a year before competing for a new school prevents coaches from recruiting players away from other schools, said Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/2010-05-24-revoked-scholarships_N.htm

Basically, coaches want it both ways.  They want to be able to cut guys that are not living up to their expectations or to make room for someone new that has come along that has more promise, but they don't want the recruits to be able to leave on their own (hence the one-way binding letter of intent agreement) and they don't want other coaches to recruit kids away from their program (hence the rule that requires players to sit out a year if they transfer).  Sounds real fair.  It is our opinion that these changes are lockstep with the increase in coaching salaries and the revenue generated by the sport. 

The people that argue that scholarships are a one-year renewable contract and nothing is wrong are basically agreeing that the coaches should have all of the power to treat players like pieces of meat for their own personal financial gain.  We don't agree. These coaches are paid millions of dollars, the least they can do is not abuse loopholes like oversigning and exploit kids in the process.  If a coach is good enough he should be able to win without having to oversign players.

5. You don't know what you are talking about, coaches know ahead of time which players are going to transfer and that is why they oversign.

We got this argument with regards to Star Jackson.  The argument was that Saban knew that Jackson was going to transfer and that's why he signed Sims.  Our position is that if Saban (or any other coach in this situation) knew that Jackson was going to transfer, then why in the world was he out there competing for a roster spot in the Spring game?  If his replacement or another guy was signed to his scholarship and his transfer was a foregone conclusion, then why was he out there working so hard for a spot on the depth chart?  It just doesn't add up.  The truth of the matter is that these coaches are signing a handful of extra players because they know they have some wiggle room and they always have the upper hand in that they can simply elect to not renew a scholarship or in Les Miles' case just tell a kid there isn't room and he can greyshirt.  That is a problem, but it is not a problem that will be solved without legislation because regardless of how much Les Miles screws a kid over (Elliott Porter) there will always be more players that want to come to LSU then he has room for and there will always be the allure of coming to a division 1 school in hopes of making it to the NFL and making MILLIONS of dollars.  This will almost always override any reservations or concerns about getting screwed over during the recruiting process, therefore more legislation is needed to prevent these coaches from exploiting the oversigning loophole. 

Those are probably the 5 most common arguments that we encounter here on the site in our conversations elsewhere on the topic.  It should be noted that almost always these arguments come from people who are fans of teams that oversign.  Very seldom, maybe only a couple of times, have we heard any of these arguments come from fans of teams that don't oversign.  That in and of itself is pretty telling.  Just look at the comments here on our site and you can count the number of comments on one or two hands that advocate oversigning and are not fans or supporters of a school or conference that oversigns. 

Update: We left out one other very common arguing point, apologies.

6. Oversigning doesn't create a competitive advantage so what's the big deal.

This couldn't be any further from the truth, especially within the last several years.  Over the last several years the ability for coaches to evaluate players has decreased; the NCAA continues to decrease the amount of contact coaches can have with players (mainly out of fear of recruiting violations) which is making it hard for them to evaluate talent.  In addition, the NCAA continues to place more and more restrictions on the amount of time coaches can spend with players during spring and fall training camps and during the off season.  The  net result is college football has become less about developing talent and more about mining for the next "sure thing" 5 star recruit. 

When you oversign you have access to more opportunities to find that "sure thing" whether it be from landing a 5 star recruit or taking a chance on a borderline guy who turns out to be a stud.  It's a numbers game and obviously, given that most of the top tier schools can attract top tier talent, the more of it that you can go through to find the ones you really want the better you will be.

Nick Saban and Les Miles have used oversigning as the backbone of building National Championship teams over the last decade.  If you look at the chart below and look at the number of players signed by Saban (who had the highest average) and Tressel (who had the lowest average), in the years that Saban was in college football he signed roughly 193 recruits; Tressel signed roughly 142 in those same years.  That is a difference of 51 recruiting opportunities over the same period of time.  Any change there might be a couple more good players in that list of 51?  If the difference were 5-10 I don't think we could point at this being an issue, but 51?

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


Some people will say that this doesn't add up because if you look at Huston Nutt and how many he has signed he should be the greatest coach of all time.  Our response is that oversigning is masking just how bad of a coach he really is and that we could only imagine how bad his teams would be if he weren't running through players trying to find stud players like McFadden.  Oversigning makes average to below average coaches look pretty good and average to above average coaches great or National Champions.

Filed under: Rants 60 Comments
5Aug/101

Mike Slive, Empty Suit

The year before last when Huston Nutt signed 500 recruits to letters of intent and then rubbed the NCAA's and the SEC's nose in it by saying that there wasn't a rule that said he couldn't, Mike Slive and the SEC university presidents decided to take a hard stand on the practice of oversigning and banned it in the SEC, or at least that was the spin at the time.

SEC ADs had wanted the cap at 30. The presidents had other ideas. Coaches tend to oversign classes for two reasons: 1) To protect themselves against academic casualties; and 2) To stockpile players by placing signees into prep schools or junior colleges, with a good likelihood those players will come back to them.

"The presidents and chancellors view signing the letter of intent as a commitment to the institution for a student-athlete that is academically capable of being admitted and contributing athletically," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "From their point of view, there aren't other reasons to sign a kid. Obviously, coaches have their own reasons for doing things, and there's a litany of those."

http://blog.al.com/solomon/2009/05/sec_passes_limit_on_football_s.html

In light of that the SEC limit was set at 28 signees per class and the Huston Nutt rule was born.  28 x 4 = 112 but we'll come back to that later. 

So did the new rule instituted by the SEC chancellors, presidents, and commissioner make any difference in oversigning this year?  Well, Houston Nutt didn't sign 37 recruits and his farm system is dead, but a number of schools signed more than they have room for: Alabama had 10 more than they had room for and LSU had 9 more than they had room for when the accepted the signed letter of intent.  Both schools managed to get down to 85 before the deadline in order to avoid NCAA penalties.

Mike Slive's new rule lacks teeth.  The Houston Nutt rule was nothing more than window dressing to quiet the masses and enable the practice to continue.  Mike Slive, as the SEC commissioner, should required that each of his institutions prove where every accepted LOI has an available scholarship tied to it before it is accepted.  And he should prohibit schools from accepting signed letters of intent that bind a player to the school if the school can not show him on paper at the time the LOI is accepted that there is already room for that ONE-WAY COMMITMENT to the school.  By allowing his institutions to exploit the oversigning loophole he allowed guys like Les Miles to screw an innocent kid like Elliott Porter.  And that is why this site exists.

In the end, however, it is obvious that Mike Slive cannot do that; he serves at the pleasure of the SEC university presidents.  Hence the empty suit.  He wears it well though.

Filed under: SEC 1 Comment
5Aug/101

For the 1,000,000,000 Time

We have never claimed that anyone is violating NCAA rules by oversigning - that is not the issue.  It has never been the issue here.  The rules are not being broken.  The issue is that some schools/coaches have found a loophole in the NCAA by-laws that allows them to accept more letters of intent, which binds the recruit to the school in a ONE-WAY agreement, than they would have room for under the 85 scholarship limit should they honor all of those ONE-WAY commitments.

The schools and the coaches then have the option to not honor that agreement and at any time they can release a recruit from their LOI and the school is not obligated to honor the LOI.

Classic example, a school has 65 scholarship players set to return and they accept 29 signed letters of intent.  Those 29 kids are bound to their commitment to the school and have no options once they sign on the dotted line; well they do have the option to just not enroll and in which case the school that holds the LOI can prevent the recruit from going to another school on scholarship until the 1-year scholarship period expires.  Therefore, the numbers look like this 65+29 = 94, which is 9 more than the 85 limit.  So in order for a coach to get down to 85 something has to happen.  9 players either with eligibility remaining or with a commitment to the school via the LOI have to be removed.   Often times we see players suddenly transfer out of the program, injured players will get placed on medical hardships scholarships, or in the case of Elliott Porter they get completely screwed by the coach and the school and are asked to greyshirt at the last minute because the coaching staff, athletic director, and the university president are reluctant to place oversigning restrictions on their coaches and the coaches they hire are complete morons when it comes to managing roster numbers.

This is completely unnecessary and the only reason this ever happens is because the coach/school that accepts more signed LOI than they have room for is trying to get a competitive advantage and there is nothing in place (no gentleman's agreement or conference rule) to prohibit these coaches from exploiting the loophole.

It would be one thing if the LOI could be broken at any time by the recruits, then maybe you could find some justification for the schools to oversign in order to protect themselves from a recruit leaving.  That is not the case - the recruits cannot break the LOI.  Therefore, it is on the school to do the right thing on the honor system and keep their commitment and not push someone else out in order to keep their commitment.  Obviously there are certain schools that do not know how to operate on the honor system, they simply take the baseline rules and exploit every single loophole they can find. 

The Big 10 has been out front on this issue for decades and have been competing against the rest of college football without the benefit of oversigning and playing games with the roster numbers, and so have a number of other schools such as Notre Dame.  The Big 10 Conference is a working example of the solution to the oversigning loophole and there is no reason why the rest of college football cannot operate the same way.  There is simply no place for oversigning and playing games with the numbers and the lives of the kids like Elliott Porter and numerous others that have been affected by the greed and self-interests of coaches that exercise oversigning.

For those of you who continue to argue that no one is breaking the NCAA rules so nothing is wrong, please stop making that argument, 1. no one is saying anyone is breaking the rules, 2. the practice is wrong and everyone around the country besides those benefiting from oversigning is starting to see the light and agree that something needs to be done about it.

Filed under: SEC 1 Comment