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.
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."
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?
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.
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.
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|
|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.
We pointed out in an earlier post that LSU is already on their way to being oversigned in 2011 by having only 9 scholarship seniors on the team and 11 verbal commitments for 2011 already. Being that they no longer need to cut players in order to make room this year, anyone they cut from here on out will make room for what is considered to be a great year for talent in the state of Louisania. LSU averages 24 players per year and with only 9 seniors in the up coming class they have a long way to go in order to get to 24.
Today news came out that offensive lineman Stavion Lowe is leaving the program having never played a snap at LSU.
We have been accused of pulling numbers out of thin air, not being able to count to 85, and not knowing the difference between recruiting by-laws and the dollar menu at McDonald's, so every now and then we have to post something from a 3rd party source to verify that we are not making this up as we go.
The same source that published verification 1.0 has put out an update on Alabama's scholarship numbers. They have the magic number at 2, we have it 3, however, there seems to be some confusion regarding the status of 1 player's scholarship and whether or not his parents are paying his way. Given all the variables to the Alabama scholarship equation, which is nearly as complex as quantum field theory, we feel fairly satisfied with being within one scholarship, if not dead on the magic number.
(60 + 23) - 1 = 82
One has to wonder why it is so complicated and why there are so many back stories to Alabama's roster. Notre Dame doesn't have this problem - there is no need on June 27th for a 5,000 word explanation as to how Notre Dame is going to get to 85 by August. The explanation for Notre Dame's roster can be summed up in one sentence: Notre Dame had 60 players on scholarship on signing day, they signed 23 players, and they now have 83 players on scholarship. End of story. Oh wait, there is a need for another sentence, sadly, one of Notre Dame's recruits tragically fell from a balcony and died, so Notre Dame is at 82 scholarship players. Instead, with Alabama and other schools that oversign you have to sit down and go through something like this to get to the bottom of where their numbers are and how they are going to get down to 85.
This is the exact area that needs attention:
Before getting into the actual roster as it stands now, you also need to know exactly what has transpire since the Tide headed home from Pasadena.
On January 11, eleven new Tide players began their academic career at the Capstone:
Cade Foster, Jalston Fowler, John Fulton, Brandon Lewis, Chad Lindsay, Darius McKeller, DeMarcus Milliner, Anthony Orr, Austin Shepherd, Phillip Sims, Petey Smith
That saw Bama's number of scholarship athletes climb to 78.
Within one week of that, both Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson declared for the NFL Draft (and went on to be 1st round draft picks), dropping Bama's number to 76.
On February 3, 18 more student-athletes signed their national letter of intent to play for Alabama in the fall. Those guys don't count towards the scholarship limits until fall practice begins, so we won't add them into the mix quite yet.
Obviously, those 18, plus the 11 that enrolled early gives Bama a total of 29 new players. Since an incoming group can not exceed 25, something has to give.
The NCAA has got to recognize this as a problem (actually they are currently investigating and gathering research data on oversigning). With Alabama's scholarship numbers sitting at 76 on national signing day, Alabama accepted signed LOI from 18 more student-athletes. 76 + 18 = 94. That is just plum ridiculous, legal, yes for the time being, but ethical? Not hardly. The days are numbered on this practice - we just wonder why it has taken 40+ years for everyone to recognize it for what Bobby Dodd saw it as, a scam.
The solution is simple and it is one that we are sure the NCAA is going to adopt soon; before a LOI can be offered to a player to sign, the school has to prove that there is an opening for the scholarship at the time the LOI is signed - no opening, no LOI - period. If Nick Saban and others want to replace players that fall to the wayside because of "natural attrition" they can do it when the attrition happens. If a guy transfers in the spring and opens up a scholarship then Saban can go out and recruit a replacement or give the scholarship to a walk-on. We have got to put an end to coaches recruiting and signing these extra players 4-5 months before the scholarship becomes available.
Andy Staples, writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote an excellent article on oversigning last year in the wake of Huston Nutt's 37 player class and subsequent thumbing of his nose at those who criticized the number of players he signed, given that he had 64 scholarship players set to return to Ole Miss and there was no way he would have room for all 37 players.
Let's take a closer look at Andy's article.
First, regarding Nutt's position on his class of 37:
"I checked with [compliance director] David [Wells], and there's no rule that says that we can't sign 80," Nutt said at that Signing Day press conference. "All I know is we have to have 25 ready to go in August ready and eligible."
Is this the kind of coach with which you should entrust your child's signature on a letter of intent? Seriously. Fortunately, the SEC addressed the situation and placed a limit of 28 signed letters per class, but 28 * 4 != 85, so there is still room for improvement and further regulation.
As long as programs keep their total at 85 scholarships and don't bring in more than 25 a year, the NCAA has no quarrel -- for now. The NCAA's Football Issues Committee discussed oversigning and grayshirting at its January meeting. The committee, which comprises coaches, athletic directors and conference administrators, agreed to monitor oversigning, but Sun Belt Conference commissioner Wright Waters, the committee's chair, said until the committee can get some hard data, it can't determine if oversigning is an issue that requires legislation.
"We don't know yet, because we don't know the numbers," Waters said. "If you look at it purely in principle, you're uncomfortable with it. But you've also got to ask if kids are being benefited by it. If they are, then you've got to find a way to not hurt those kids and at the same time make sure you maintain a level playing field."
As Waters noted, oversigning and grayshirting raise some ethical dilemmas. For instance, what happens when too many players have qualified academically and there is no scholarship available for a grayshirting player?
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We mentioned a while back that we would like to award the team with the most oversigned roster going into the fall with a special award, The Oversigning Cup. As it turns out, Matt Hinton (Dr. Saturday), has already done the legwork for the 2009 class. It appears the 2009 Cup goes to Alabama. It also appears as though they are working on back to back Cups, as they lead the 2010 race with yet again 10 players too many. Currently that number is down to 7 due to 2 players not returning for their last year of eligibility and 1 medical hardship scholarship.
Matt wrote a great piece on oversigning and hit the nail on the head.
"These numbers are always murky enough that they fall into the category of "best guess," but Alabama, North Carolina, Auburn and UCLA -- and probably some other schools that weren't part of the very small group I delved into -- are all far enough over the line here that, if the season started today, I'm confident they'd have to straight up cut some kids with whom they had a mutual commitment."
During our investigation into Alabama's attrition, codenamed "The March to 85," we have stumbled across two things that have really baffled the life out of us, medical hardship scholarships and the Bryant scholarship program. But before we dive off into the Bryant scholarship topic, we want to recap the medical hardship scholarship process that moves an injured football player from his football scholarship onto a "medical hardship" scholarship so that he can finish his education on scholarship but not have it count against the limit of 85 players. Plus we want to share the story of Zeke Knight.
To the best of our knowledge medical hardships are handled on a university by university basis, meaning that each school's medical team determines, on their own, which players are deemed medically eligible to play or not. This is not something that is regulated by the NCAA, and to the best of our knowledge a player can not hire a doctor on his own or challenge a medical ruling by the school's doctors.
Once the school's medical team deems you as medically ineligible that is pretty much it; it then becomes a decision by the head coach as to whether or not the player should be released from his football scholarship to free it up to be used on a new recruit or to allow the player to continue to contribute in whatever limited capacity for which he is medically cleared. In some cases there is no question that the coach has absolutely no say in the decision. However, as we pointed out earlier, Mike D'Andrea remained on football scholarship and continued to rehab and work with the team at Ohio State for 3 years after his initial injury - and although he never saw the field again, he graduated with his class and worked with the team in whatever capacity he was cleared to and given the nature of his injuries we can only imagine that at times he couldn't do much more than walk around on crutches and attend team meetings or film review sessions.
Alabama's Zeke Knight on the other hand was placed on medical hardship scholarship and released from his football scholarship, but didn't believe that he should have been removed and filed a request to transfer to a smaller school in hopes of continuing to play out his career.
"In a very heartfelt speech, Coach Saban thanked Zeke, but said he could no longer play at Alabama for medical reasons.
"Zeke is a fine young man and we appreciate all that he has done for this program. Zeke did a great job for us as a starter and, more importantly, is on track to graduate in August. I would like nothing more than to have him with us for one more season on the football field... I wish him and his family nothing but the best. Zeke Knight will always be a part of the Crimson Tide family."
With that, he graduated from Alabama and wasn't sure where to turn with eligibility left. He needed to figure out what it was he had and how to take care of himself. He took some time off to get well and regain medical clearance. Knight said, “I felt like I might as well go back for one more year and eliminate all the questions about me being able to play.” Knight said he considered several options. After a year away from football, a host of skeptical cardiologists, neurologists and other doctors examined him. After hours of testing Zeke to see if he was able to play the sport he loved again, on July 30, 2009, they completely cleared Zeke to play football. His APO was resolved and the clinical neurological examination did not reveal any localizing cranial, motor, sensory or reflex deficits.
What to do? “It kind of dawned on me a little bit, like maybe I was meant to finish my last year in Tuscaloosa,” Knight said. After all, he now bled Crimson and had so many friends in Tuscaloosa.
His new Coach, said it best, “People had doubts that he could play anymore. It was a life-threatening situation for him. He made it through, and we got one more (year of eligibility by the NCAA)... I take my hat off to the young man.” After seeing him play, his coach bragged, "It helps us to get Ezekial Knight. He’s a real experienced linebacker that’s going to really bring something to the table for me... I’m very impressed with him. I can see why he played at the University of Alabama. That guy, to me, is a top-round draft choice. He’s an amazing football player... Zeke is a quiet leader. He doesn’t say very much on the field, but he’s always working to get better.” Stats were not well tracked at Stillman, but Zeke had around 8.5 sacks, second in the nation in Division II. He had around 42 tackles, 3 forced fumbles (2 returned by teammates for touchdowns), and 1 interception.
He finished well and now Zeke Knight is looking towards proving that, like Tedy Bruschi, he has the (healed) heart... and courage of a Knight. He is ready for the next level, with only his past as his present obstacle."
This is an emotional topic and an emotional story, no question. There is also no question that anyone could argue that the University of Alabama was simply doing what they thought was best for Zeke Knight given his health condition, and after all, if something were to happen to Zeke, the University doctors could be liable for putting him at risk. You could walk that argument into a court of law (or public opinion) and win every single time without breaking a sweat.
There is, however, another side to this story, one that is going to sound like we are trying to spin Zeke's story into a tale of blatant player abuse, one that probably makes it sound like Nick Saban has no heart and is a ruthless, cold-blooded killer. We don't believe any of those things. Nick Saban at his worst is only guilty of being a high-paid coach who is being paid millions of dollars to win football games, championships specifically, nothing more, nothing less. It's up to each individual to determine whether or not they think that Saban will win at any cost or whether or not he discards players in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage. We happen to think he does by the way, but that is just our opinion.
The other side of Zeke Knight's story is that the year he was released from his football scholarship and placed on a medical hardship scholarship was also the same year that Nick Saban signed 32 new recruits to Alabama and was facing a tremendous numbers crunch in order to get his roster down to 85 players or face penalties from the NCAA. Nick Saban and Alabama were also coming off of a dismal 7-6 season and it was imperative that Saban improve the team immediately to justify his salary, which at the time was one of the highest in college football.
Zeke Knight was not alone in the list of players that were removed from football scholarships in order to get the roster down to 85, several others were removed for various reasons as shown above.
In addition to Alabama being in a numbers crunch, it probably didn't help Knight's case any that Saban had signed 4 linebackers that year, 1 five star and 3 four star, and freshman linebacker Rolando McClain was bursting onto the scene as a future star.
Honestly, if not the for the oversigning and the mandatory roster cuts as a result of oversigning, we probably wouldn't scrutinize things like this so much, but when you have a coach and program that are habitual abusers of oversigning one can't help but find situations like Zeke Knight's extremely intriguing or suspicious. Let's put it this way, if Saban took regular numbers and didn't need to cut players in order to get his roster down to 85 and avoid NCAA violations, and Zeke Knight was still released from his football scholarship, we would be much more inclined to think that Knight's departure had nothing to do with roster cuts. In fact, we would probably be writing a piece on what a stand up guy Saban was for protecting Knight at the risk of roster shortfalls and depth problems at his position - we would be commending Saban for recruiting by the numbers in the spirit of maintaining a level playing field and not abusing loopholes, and for putting his own career at risk in order to do the right thing both by the game of college football and by Zeke Knight. But that's not what happened, instead Saban over-stuffed his roster with scholarship commitments and had no choice but to pick 8-10 guys to cut from the team. It is that simple.
Moving players to a medical scholarship, in legitimate cases, is a win win scenario, the player gets to continue his education for free and it lessens the likelihood of APR penalties for the school because as long as the player continues his education and graduates the school is in the clear; it also frees up the player's football scholarship so that it can be given to a new recruit. Seems harmless.
We found several cases of legitimate medical hardship cases, but for some reason, medical hardship scholarships and oversigning seem to go hand in had at Alabama, and other schools such as North Carolina; whereas you just don't see or hear about it anywhere else around the country. We did some digging on Ohio State's medical hardship cases and found about 4 or 5 over the last ten years; Saban has that many in 2 or 3.
The only thing we know to do is to somehow get oversigning removed (for real) and then let's see if the medical hardships continue, and if they do then we know they were legit; the only downside, for guys like Saban, is that once you do away with oversigning, the medical hardships become holes in the roster that lead to depth problems.
It is our belief that when the NCAA set the scholarship restrictions to 25 new players per year and 85 total on the roster they knew that it would be almost impossible for every school/team/coach to sign the exact number of players needed every year so that everyone comes out at 85 total scholarship players in August. This is probably why they allowed walk-on programs continue so that schools/teams/coaches could allow X number of players to walk on (pay their own way) to the football team and if they work hard enough or become good enough they can be awarded with a scholarship. This is what the NCAA would consider the buffer between recruiting new players and not over-committing and maintaining a roster of 85 scholarship players. That is the true spirit of college football recruiting as laid out by the NCAA.
However, we believe that this is as far as the NCAA is willing to take it in terms of trying to come up with numbers and rules that can apply to every region of the country. Let's call that the NCAA baseline. Given the baseline, conference commissioners and university presidents are free to establish additional rules and criteria with regards to recruiting numbers that help further shape and mold the overall mission or goal of their conference or university. For example, in addition to the 85/25 rule, the Big 10 conference has established that no more than 28 recruits total be signed in a single class (meaning 3 can count back to the previous year if the recruit enrolls early and their is room in the previous class and 25 count to the current class which meets the NCAA rule of no more than 25 per class). They also require that the additional 3 scholarships/LOI's have to be petitioned for and proof must be given that there is room for the 3 additional players without pushing anyone out. Other conferences do not have these additional rules. Therefore we have two drastically different method of roster management in college football:
Oversigning to gain a competitive advantage or subsidize future known and unknown attrition
Undersigning to avoid unnecessary roster cuts and operate within the spirit of recruiting and retaining student athletes
It doesn't get any more cut and dry than these two diagrams. They are, as the title says, Night and Day. In the case of oversigning, the incoming pool of players are quit often more talented, uninjured, and have much more upside than the pool of players in the attrition bucket. Whereas in the undersigning diagram, we have smaller pool of more talented players and instead of dumping the less talented, we add those who have proven that although they might not have the athletic ability to be a 4 year scholarship player, they have the willingness to be a team player and have contributed to the team in other ways worthy of a scholarship reward at the end of their career. Quite often, what those players do in the classroom and in the community mean just as much to the coach as what they do on the field, thus the reward.
Rewarding a walk-on player doesn't always happen though. Sometimes coaches will bank those extra scholarships if there is not a worthy candidate in the walk on pool of players and use them next year. This results in a shortfall of scholarship players.
When you look at the oversigning diagram, specifically the "attrition" bucket, you see a list of things that no university president, educator, parent, or player really wants to go through or be associated with. Conversely, when you look at the "addition" bucket in the undersigning diagram you have a situation where everything is positive; a player being rewarded for hard work. There is also no question that the oversigning model is the easiest and fastest pathway to stacking a roster full of 85 scholarship players, of the variety that were recruited and sought after by other schools.
So the next time someone asks you to explain oversigning or to compare and contrast it to normal recruiting practices, send them a copy of these diagrams or a link to this site. There needs to be more awareness of oversigning and a higher level of understanding with regards to how teams are built through oversigning.
After doing a little more homework on this story we have updated the entire entry below...apologies for the confusion.
Gary Brown was recently arrested for slapping a woman at a party on campus and was dismissed shortly after; Edwin Herbert was a JUCO transfer who played in 1 game in 2009 and has transferred to a division II school. By Herbert transferring Florida avoids APR penalties, but given that Brown has not graduated, his departure could hurt Florida's APR score in the future.
The departure of these two players is timely to say the least as Florida was facing a numbers crunch (surprise, surprise) to stay within the 85 player limit. Damn it, either SEC coaches have the ability to see into the future or they just know its coming, attrition that is. And what a luxury it must be to be able to oversign ahead of time to account for the attrition they don't know about yet, such as Brown.
Here's the deal. Brown's arrest came after signing day, which means that Florida did not know Brown would be leaving due to his arrest when Florida finished its recruiting class and was two over the limit. Sound familiar? Saban did the same thing at Alabama when he oversigned by 10-11 and then had a string of off-season arrests which magically enabled him to stay under the 85 roster limit.
This is where Brian Cook's proposed rule of proving where a scholarship is coming from before signing a letter of intent would come in handy. Right now coaches have all the cards. They can sit back and wait and see who they are able to land in recruiting first and then if necessary cut a lesser player to make room for a better one. Coaches that do this need to be called on the carpet for it. And don't even think about giving us this BS about the one-year renewable scholarship deal - that is a one-sided agreement at best. If you are going to play that card and attempt to justify cutting players because scholarships are only good for one year, then you have to be willing to swallow the fact that players do not have the same option - they are not able to leave after one year with no strings attached. If a player wants to leave on his own he has to sit out a year, period. And if you are so in favor of the one year rule and have no problem cutting players, then why not endorse players being able to act as free-agents and play wherever they want whenever they want?
Florida signed 27 recruits this year, some of which enrolled early and counted towards last year's numbers. However, Florida must have had 60 players returning on scholarship on signing day because 60+27=87, which = 2 over the 85 limit; we're working to confirm their roster numbers now and will update this when we have those numbers. Most likely it wasn't the 25 per year limit that forced Florida to drop players, it was the 85 roster limit.
A confirmation tweet from Palm Beach Post writer, Ben Volin.
"The Gators were 2 over the scholarship limit after Signing Day, but that problem has been resolved. DTs Gary Brown & Edwin Herbert are gone."
It also just so happens that Florida signed 3 stud defensive linemen in 5 stars Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, and 4 star Leon Orr. So the writing was on the wall for Herbert. But we have to ask, which one is it, dumb luck or calculated future planning? Florida either got lucky to have, by sheer coincidence, signed 3 mega recruits at a position they were going to have attrition at but didn't know it at the time of signing the new recruits, or they just said the hell with it and signed all they could get away with and figured there would be a few months to sort the bodies out.
Either way, the whole damn thing stinks if you ask us. Unless we are blind or just ignorant, this appears to be a system that depends on a certain number of players failing in order for the coaches and universities to succeed. By coaches constantly oversigning they are putting extra undo pressure on their rosters and putting themselves in a position to have to cut players. The math here is simple. If Florida takes the 25 recruits they had room for on signing day and Brown gets arrested and Herbert decides on his own that he wants to transfer, then Florida should be left with two open slots for next year and they will just have to get by until then. But by oversigning, there is no real impact by the loss of these two players, instead, Florida actually avoids penalties for going over the 85 limit.
The real frustrating part is that it has already been proven that oversigning is completely unnecessary - Texas, USC, and Ohio State, just to name a few, have all won National Championships without once oversigning and cutting players or subsidizing attrition by taking extra recruits ahead of time. If they can do it, damn it, so can Florida, Alabama, LSU, and the rest of the SEC teams. Or can they? Could it really be that without oversigning players every year SEC team rosters would be such that they would not be able to remain as competitive? Look at Auburn's numbers. From 2002-2010 they signed 83 more players than their last bowl opponent, Northwestern. What if they took the same number of players as Northwestern over that time period (170 instead of 253) and instead of signing 83 more, they lost 83 to academic ineligibility or off the field character issues...how in the world would they field a team, seriously?
Of course in the eyes of some all of this can be explained and there is nothing here to see, so move along please.
"This case illustrates the fact that quality coaches are always going to have a plan for making it under the cap. There is little doubt that Meyer would've kept these guys if he could. Florida, like most other major football programs, budgets to give out 85 scholarships every year, and it really does them very little good to save the money. If the player is not causing problems and there is even an outside shot he could turn into a contributor, you might as well keep him around. The limit changes that, though, because once you hit the cap, those guys who might turn into something by their senior year are keeping you from having the younger kids who could be something right away or in a year or two with a couple left on scholarship.
Meyer had a plan. Pursue a certain number of players and, depending on how many of them he got, some cuts might have to be made. It would have been suicide for him to offer a single scholarship before he had a prioritized list of which players were on the chopping block and how many commits he'd need before he had to start throwing off dead weight.
As has been true throughout this over-signing debate, the math is immutable: if the limit is 85 and your current roster plus the new scholarships you promise exceeds that number, someone has to get cut. The faulty reasoning, however, is in assuming that cutting a player is somehow immoral or unacceptable.
The idea that a player is owed 5 years worth of free tuition and a spot on a roster because he, at one point, signed a letter of intent is laughable, and this is an example of how stories like this should play out: a few relatively unsurprising roster moves drawing little in the way of commentary or righteous indignation.
Brown and Herbert might have gotten five full years of free education, but they got more than most folks get and, just like with Academic scholarships, these grants don't come no-strings-attached. "
The comments and justification for oversigning and cutting of players by Pete Holiday are so ignorant that they don't even warrant a response. This is college athletics, or at least it was, not professional sports.
This article is a couple years old, back before we really latched on to the topic of oversigning and started keeping up with it, but it speaks to the very heart and soul of this website. Written by a very well-known blogger, Matt Hinton, who used to run the blog Sunday Morning Quarterback, the article is laser focused on Nick Saban's recruiting practices and abuse of the oversigning loophole. Matt now writes for Rivals and can be found here.
We are linking this for a couple of reasons: A.) because Matt put together version 1.0 of the Saban Cup and probably didn't even realize it at the time (see below), B.) to show that we are not the only ones aware of this or who have blogged about it - there are others out there who have figured it out as well and are against it, and C.) because Matt cites a suggestion made by Brian Cook, another well-known blogger who runs MGoBlog and writes for the Sporting Blog, regarding what the NCAA should do to address the oversigning issue.
"Brian's laid out a sensible policy proposal on this front: players don't have the option to break their obligation to schools; make the obligation a two-way street. When a kid signs a letter of intent, the school should be bound to show where his scholarship is coming from under the limit. If it can't, at least within two or three positions, no letter. If they anticipate a veteran also-ran or likely medical liability on the team will be willing to give up his slot, make him sign a waiver saying so before that scholarship goes up for grabs.
Coaches can hide answers from reporters, but they have to be accountable to their own players, no matter who recruited them."
Brian's solution is a little more lenient than our solution, whereas we we suggested that coaches be required to report their recruiting budget by a certain date (prior to signing day) and that becomes the number of letters of intent they can sign (maybe you throw in a petition policy where a coach could be granted x number of extra letters - maybe something like 1 per year - but it has to be absolutely clear that the extra guy signed was signed to cover the loss of another guy in the same recruiting class that didn't make it academically - a coach would not be able to get an extra letter if it meant having to take a scholarship from one of the players he claimed when he announced his budget number).
Therefore, if Saban reports 66 players on scholarship by the deadline date then he gets 19 letters of intent to work with. Gone are the days of signing and placing, gone are the days of oversigning and culling the rosters, and gone are the days of subsidizing academic and athletic attrition. And don't tell us it can't be done because programs all over the country are already doing it, just look at the bottom half of our big board. Furthermore, if you want to play the "academically impoverished" card we don't want to hear that either.
Regardless of the solution, the problem is clear, oversigning is an issue that is yet to be completely dealt with and it needs to be addressed.
Quick recap: We addressed Alabama's recruiting numbers and the situation they are in this year (same as the last two years and the same as almost every year while Saban has been in the SEC) in an earlier post, here. Basically, Alabama had 66 players returning on scholarship on signing day and they signed 29 recruits to LOI's. 66 + 29 = 95. 11 of the 29 enrolled early and counted towards last year putting the roster at 77, thus leaving 18 in this class but only enough room for 8 to stay under the 85 limit. Therefore, 10 players have to hit the bricks. With the loss of Grant and Spikes, that number is now down to 8. Robby Green, previously thought to have been booted from the team for rules violations, is still on the roster for now. He is awaiting due process...
Details on Sikes and Grant here:
The loss of Sikes is a complete non-issue. Hey was a greyshirt signee from several years back under Mike Shula, and never made any impact whatsoever. He never caught a single pass in his career, nor did he ever play a meaningful snap. The height of his career was playing special teams in a few games in 2007, but he redshirted in 2006 and did not play in a single game in 2008. This past year in the Crimson Tide's national championship run, the only playing time he saw was some mop-up duty against Chattanooga. He was a good kid and it is certainly good to see him get his degree -- both for him personally and for us (APR purposes) -- but he was just never a meaningful contributor in any real sense, and frankly I'm not even sure that he was still on scholarship towards the end.
With Terry Grant, however, it was a different story. He was the highly-touted tailback signee in 2006 out of Lumberton, Mississippi -- though in hindsight, it was clear that Rivals dramatically overrated him -- and at one time he seemed to have a relatively bright career in front of him. Of course, though, that was before surgeries for a sports hernia, and it was also before the arrival and emergence of players like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Glen Coffee, Eddie Lacy, and Jeramie Griffin. You hate to see it for the young man, but as I mentioned yesterday, it is simply the harsh reality for some by having a roster so loaded with talent and depth.
Interestingly enough, though, it seems that Grant didn't necessarily just give up football, but instead is probably looking to go out the way of the medical scholarship.
The article above mentions having a roster loaded with talent and depth, but neglects to mention that it is also a roster that is oversigned.
Saban comments on Grant:
"He's been injured two years in a row," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Grant, who had two surgeries for a sports hernia.
"He decided because of injuries -- he's already graduated -- that he would not come back for his fifth year. He does qualify for a medical, if we need to do that, so he can continue academically. ..."
We're not exactly sure what "qualifying for a medical" means, but we assume that it is some sort of hardship case that enables players to remain in school on some sort of scholarship, but it frees up a scholarship for football--we would like to know more about this. Also, not sure what "if we need to do that" means either; does that mean if Grant is unhappy about being cut and wants to stay in school they will give him the "medical?"
Grant and Spikes both used red-shirts already and still have 1 year of football eligibility left, despite already finishing their undergraduate degrees. The bottom line here is that although they both have eligibility left it is clear that they will not see the field due to the depth at their positions, and the fact remains that due to Saban's oversigning, 10 players have to leave the team.
The fact that both players have graduated eliminates any APR implications for Alabama and makes the story a little less egregious; but it now raises another interesting point. Schools avoid APR penalties by making sure players don't leave the team with either not graduating or not transferring to another school. We find it very interesting that Alabama's graduation rate was the second highest of any BCS Bowl team this year. You see where we are going here, don't you. With a higher rate of graduation you have a larger pool of players to "cut" without facing APR penalties. Probably a bit of a stretch on our part, but it should be noted that Alabama traditionally hasn't had high graduation rates.
What is the issue here? The issue is that without oversigning Saban would not have 10 extra new recruits (from a top 5 recruiting class mind you) to squeeze into his roster and guys like Grant and Sikes would probably still be on the team. Does anyone really believe that Grant and Sikes walked into Nick Saban's office, unaware of the numbers crunch, and told the coach they just decided not to return? If Saban had not oversigned then we would believe a scenario like that, but given the fact that players have to go or Alabama will face NCAA penalties, it is highly unlikely that these two guys just happened to quit football on their own accord. Also, without the extra 10 players in this recruiting class, would Saban be so willingly to let a player like Grant leave the team or would he encourage him to use the last year of his eligibility?
"Spring is a time where we're going to fiddle around with the roster a little bit," Saban said. "Depth chart means nothing in the spring. Mostly it's for organizational purposes."
What a luxury to have several extra guys in the bank during spring evaluations and practice. Saban calls it "fiddling" we call it oversigning, but of course he makes $4 Million a year and we write this blog for free; guess the joke's on us.
Here's what would have happened if Saban was required to announce his recruiting budget before signing day and had been permitted to only take enough recruits to stay within his budget. Saban would have announced 66 returning scholarship players and he would have been given 19 scholarships to offer, not 29. In addition, had Saban announced 66 and signed 19 AND Grant and Sikes still left, then Saban would have been faced with a scholarship shortfall, similar to the kind of shortfall Lloyd Carr was talking about here:
"I think it's a positive change from the standpoint of being able to be on the same playing field with a lot of the teams in other conferences," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "Especially when you look at our bowl hookup with the SEC in the Citrus and Outback Bowl, it's an important rule. I can remember going to bowl games with 77, 76 guys on scholarship against a team with 85 ... In bowl games against conferences that have an advantage of doing that, Big Ten teams were at a severe disadvantage."
We've posted this before, but it is the perfect example of how recruiting classes should be managed and bears repeating here. Tressel's recruiting method is in sharp contrast to Saban's approach. In the video below, Tressel is upfront about the number of vacancies and explains the importance of not going over the limit, or even to the limit. His method rewards walk-on players for sticking it out 4 or 5 years, whereas Saban's method simply discards those that are not able to produce anymore to make room for new players.
Both methods are within the NCAA rules, but Tressel's method is also within Big Ten Conference rules which do not allow gross oversigning, whereas Saban, residing in the SEC, does not face those same rules. There is no way a coach in the Big 10 would get away with signing 10 players more than they have room for on signing day, but in the SEC it's just another day at the office because like it or not attrition is simply a way of life.
More on Tressel's class: At the time of this video (National Signing Day) Tressel was still waiting to hear from Seantrel Henderson, the #1 player in the country and the 2nd OL that he hoped to sign in the class, and Ohio State was sitting at 18 players signed to fill their 20 vacancies. Shortly after this video, Henderson opted to go with USC and Tressel was left with very little or no options at the OL position they wanted to fill with two prospects. Therefore, with 20 vacancies and 18 players signed, Tressel's class was done - 2 short of 85. A week or so later Tressel awards a scholarship to Archie Griffin's son, a relatively unknown prospect who originally wanted to walk on. This leaves Tressel with 1 scholarship in the bank either for another walk-on or for next year; this is a total night and day difference from Saban's situation where he has 10 players too many and needs to start dropping bodies to avoid NCAA rule violations.
Essentially, when you look at the 19th scholarship in Tressel's class, he traded the #1 player in the country for a walk-on, but he almost had to - he didn't have three other OL signed because had they all made it academically that would have put him over the limit and he would have to cut players to make room, players like Garrett Hummel and Ryan Schuck who will never see the field at WR with all the depth at that position or a guy like Tyler Moeller who suffered a possible career-ending head injury off the field (Moeller's career story is almost identical to Terry Grant's, both red-shirted and both had a lot of potential, the difference is that Moeller will get his shot to come back and use his last year of eligibility, whereas Grant, due to Saban's oversigning and need to shed players will not); conversely, with the departure of Grant and Sikes, Saban just traded out two spots with new recruits from a top 5 recruiting class for two guys that would have never seen the field this year. That is a drastic difference.
Nevertheless, the march continues and the number is at 8. We're waiting for the announcement of a gray shirt or academic casualty next.
If you care at all about this topic then you need to watch this video.
Having watched the video, there is no question that ESPN could have done the exact same story on Nick Saban and Alabama. The parallels are eerily similar. Big name coach, long-term 35 million dollar contract, coach comes in and oversigns recruits and start gutting the roster, etc., etc. All of those things are fine when you are dealing with professional athletes, but when you are dealing with unpaid, college athletes it's a different story.
Ramogi Huma, President of the NCPA, is leading the charge on NCAA rules reform. Go check out the website!
This project was originally dubbed "The Saban Cup" and you guys can call it that if you like, but we'll refer to it as "The Oversigning Cup" in an attempt to remain neutral and unbiased. It could have very easily been named "The Nutt Cup" in honor of Houston Nutt's 37 player class of 2009. Maybe we'll rename it every year using the name of the previous winner. Who knows, but for now, it's The Oversigning Cup.
One of our goals here at oversigning.com is to track the annual recruiting budgets of as many schools as possible to see which schools are abusing oversigning the most.
Really, the only data we need to do this is the number of players currently on scholarship on signing day and the number of players signed (we have been using Rivals.com as our source for the number of players signed - if you have a source that disputes their numbers, please send it in). Below are just a few examples. The problem is that it is a lot of work to track these numbers down for every school. Therefore, we're asking for some help from you, the loyal readers of oversigning.com. You can either submit the numbers for your school, or if you think your rival school is abusing the numbers, send in their numbers. All we ask is that you include a link to where you found the numbers so that we can at least appear to be on the up and up here.
In the end, Cup Points are actually the number of players certain schools/coaches will have to get rid of in order to stay within the NCAA's 85/25 rule. Once we know which schools have gone over we can begin to keep an eye out for the attrition and document how the coaches were able to get their numbers down to 85/25. Along the way, we should run into kids transferring, such as Auburn's Tyrik Roll, or kids running afoul of unspecified team rules like Alabama's Robby Green.
The Oversigning Cup
|Rank||School||Current Scholarships||Budget||Commits||Cup Points|
Here is a link to Notre Dame's roster which makes it very clear how many they had before signing day and how many they signed. It would be great if we could find something like this for every school. Maybe we'll dedicate a page for all the links we gather.
Click on the Roster Chart tab.
Please leave your numbers and links in the comments section. We will update the board as we get more numbers.
Before we go any further, we want to make something crystal clear, when we refer to Recruiting Budgets on this site it has absolutely NOTHING to do with money. Please see our definitions page for a detailed explanation of what we are referring to when we say "recruiting budget."
Seems as though someone has already misunderstood what we are talking about:
"The biggest issue I have with oversigning.com is that they play on the recruiting budget as if the money comes from tax dollars (they don't say it, but they imply the money is misappropriated)."
Clearly someone didn't take the time to read the entire site and grasp an understanding of what we are talking about.
Somewhere Mark Richt and Randy Edsall (who we fricking love for his stance on recruiting services) are watching this and shaking their heads in agreement that you have to stay within your recruiting budget.
Nick Saban on the other hand, not so much.
Alabama had roughly the same amount of slots open as Ohio State (with 66 returning players, Alabama has room for 19 new recruits before they hit the 85 limit). Instead of signing 19 (or less for fear of going over as Tressel expressed), Nick Saban and Alabama elected to sign 29 commitments on national signing day. As we've already mentioned, they will back count a few to last year's class in order to stay under the 25 limit this year, but they are going to have to shed 10 players in order to get under 85. 66 + 29 = 95. A few recruits will not qualify academically, others will take a medical hardship, and some will just quit or transfer.
The interesting part is that when asked about his numbers by the local media, Saban immediately gets upset:
"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."
Then when asked if he was worried about his numbers and the fact that players would need to be shed in order to get down to 85, Saban had this response:
"I'm not worried about them. It'll all work out. I mean, the whole thing has a solution to every issue. You don't put yourself in a position where you don't know what's coming, then have to take it in the chops."
There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that depends on kids to fail or suffer a career-ending injury in order to get the numbers where they need to be.