Ramogi Huma reached out to us a while back when he found our site, and since that time we have been communicating back and forth on the topic of oversigning. Just recently, Mr. Huma provided testimony in a legislative hearing in the state of Connecticut that included the proposal of Committee Bill No. 5415, AN ACT REQUIRING FULL DISCLOSURE TO PROSPECTIVE ATHLETES BEING RECRUITED TO INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION. From the NCPA website press release:
"In 1973, the NCAA made athletic scholarships renewable on a year-to-year basis," Sack said. "Four-year scholarships are a thing of the past."
The result, Sack said, is that high school students and their families often are unaware when and how a college can rescind a scholarship.
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."
The Bill also included an Article specific to oversigning:
(F) The policy of the institution of higher education regarding whether or not such institution may choose to sign more recruited student athletes than it has available athletic scholarships and the consequences to the athletic scholarship opportunities of recruited and current student athletes in such situations.
Upon receiving word from Mr. Huma that they included provisions for creating transparency relative to oversigning (c&p from his email):
"Your work bringing the oversigning issue to national discussion was crucial in addressing oversigning in the Connecticut legislation."
We asked Mr. Huma if he would answer a few questions and allow us to share his response with our readers. Keep in mind, while reading the Q&A session, Mr. Huma is the President of a non-profit organization with over 14,000 student-athlete members. Therefore, he is hearing from players and parents what very few of us hear in the national media. His comments are very telling in our opinion.
How long has oversigning been on your radar and when did it become a topic of concern?
"I bumped into oversigning.com last spring while doing research to support a bill that the NCPA sponsored in California, and the practice of oversigning immediately became a topic of concern."
The recent legislative proposal included an article that addresses oversigning and is calling for universities to disclose whether or not they engage in oversigning and what the consequences are for the student-athlete given that the institution engages in that practice. Obviously, the goal here is to help educate parents and players by forcing the universities to post their policy on oversigning on their athletic website. From your perspective, how aware of oversigning are parents and recruits?
"Parents and recruits have no idea that oversigning takes place. The only ones that eventually become aware are those that find out the hard way, which usually means that their school is forcing them to gray shirt or is not renewing their scholarship."
Many fans that support oversigning have a hard time believing that the practice really harms kids, we have tried change the way people think in that regard on the oversigning.com site, but yet there are still some that are not convinced. What would you say to those people?
"Typically when schools oversign, an incoming player is gray shirted or a player already on the roster loses a scholarship. I have personally fielded numerous calls from both categories of players from all sports who are informed that their scholarship will not be available upon arrival or will not be renewed. All have been devastated by not only the loss of their means to earn a degree, but the deep sense of betrayal by their coach/college. For the incoming players, many of them have to try to pay their own way through school without any guarantee that they will ever receive a scholarship. Many of these families have not prepared for such expenses since the schools had promised a scholarship. In addition, other previously interested schools lose interest because their rosters are already full.
For current players that lose their scholarship to make room for an incoming recruit, those fortunate enough to transfer to another school often suffer academically because many of their credits are not accepted by the new school, they have to change their major, and have to sit out a year before competition. Others drop out of school. Most of these players had been promised 4 years as long as they kept their grades up and abided by team rules. Players are not aware that a school can revoke a scholarship for any reason. Most of the players I've spoken to have been in good academic standing, have participated fully in mandatory and 'voluntary' workouts, and have not broken a team rule. Make no mistake, the young student-athletes and parents I have spoken are completely devastated. That's the first time I've heard the argument that players whose scholarships are taken away or are forced to grey shirt are not harmed. I hope its the last time. We should be focusing on ways to solve this problem not spending our energy debating whether or not a knife wound really hurts."
Outside of the proposed state legislation, what would you like to see the NCAA or the SEC conference do to address the issue? The Big 10 Conference addressed this issue back in 1954 and it appears that their rules, which were slightly relaxed in 2002 to allow occasional oversigning with the understanding that everything is transparent and processed through the conference office to ensure there is not player abuse taking place to make the roster numbers work, should the SEC and the rest of college football simply adopt those rules or is something more needed?
"While the NCPA believes in and is currently pushing for better transparency on this issue, I believe that there is a better solution. Schools should not be allowed to sign more players than they have scholarships."
And lastly, some have made the point that closing the oversigning loophole will simply move the attrition further upstream so that the number of openings that exist on NSD are greater, essentially meaning that roster purging would take place in Dec/Jan instead of after February and before August. A.) Do you think that closing the loophole will result in further abuses upstream, and B.) how would you address that if it happens?
A.) It is possible that some coaches would remove players from the rosters early unless 2 things happen (see B)
1. All scholarship non-seniors listed on the roster at the beginning of the season are counted toward the scholarship count on National Signing Day. Coaches wouldn't have an incentive to purge the roster before signing day because it wouldn't allow them to sign an excess number of players.
2. Schools should have a second signing period in July to fill scholarship openings due to players who transfer, become academically ineligible, suffer a career ending injury, etc.
With these two provisions, coaches can address natural attrition without the ability to deny a signee a scholarship or remove an existing player due to oversigning. If all of the colleges played by the same rules, none would have an unfair advantage and players' educational opportunities would not be sacrificed.