“We’ll see how it plays out down the road.”

If you wonder why I keep seeing shades of gray in the oversigning debate, meet Lorenzo Mauldin.  Chip Towers tells an involving story about Mauldin, a South Carolina recruit from Atlanta who’s overcome a rough life – he’s been a ward of the state most of his life and his mother has been incarcerated since he became a teen-ager – to be on the verge of going to college to play football.

South Carolina offered Mauldin last summer, he gave a verbal then and never wavered despite interest from other schools.  Except that he didn’t sign this month.  South Carolina ran into a numbers problem and pulled its offer.  And did so in a pretty classless way.

… But Mauldin didn’t end up signing with South Carolina as expected. He found out via a letter faxed to his school the day before national signing day that the Gamecocks would not have room for him in their Class of 2011. South Carolina signed 31 players on national signing day and added one more — Jadeveon Clowney, the nation’s No. 1 prospect — on Feb. 14th.  [Emphasis added.]

Terrible, right?

Well, yeah.  Except for one thing (there are a lot of “excepts” in Mauldin’s story):  as of National Signing Day, Mauldin hadn’t qualified academically.  Even Mauldin sounds conflicted about Spurrier’s call.

“I kind of feel like I’ve been shoved away,” Mauldin told me recently. “Then again, on the other hand, I realize that I wasn’t academically eligible and I understand that was on my part. And I can’t really use the times I’ve been through as an excuse for that. It’s all right.”

Except (see?) South Carolina signed other kids who to date haven’t qualified.  Which raises all sorts of questions about how Spurrier elected to pick and choose who got to sign and who didn’t, not to mention the awkward position the school finds itself in now as it waits to see what happens if all of these kids wind up qualifying by the summer.  It’s not a pretty picture.

And yet, with all that out there, Mauldin’s first choice – still – is to attend South Carolina.

“I’m pretty much set on South Carolina because of the fact that they will, if I don’t make the score that they need, they will put me into prep school for a semester and I will be there until early January,” said Mauldin, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end at Atlanta’s Maynard Jackson High School. “So I mean that’s pretty good. I’m used to making good decisions in life and to me that sounds like a pretty good decision.”

And that’s despite the fact that, as his high school coach makes abundantly clear, he’s got other viable options.

So what do you say here?  If a hard cap on signings were in place, it’s highly unlikely Mauldin would have a shot at his first choice.  Would that be better or worse for him?

***********************************************************************

UPDATE: Chris Low adds more details about Mauldin’s recruitment.

… Yes, the Gamecocks offered Mauldin a scholarship last July. And, yes, Mauldin accepted. But he was also told that there was a chance he might have to wait until January 2012 before enrolling on scholarship, which is more commonly referred to as grayshirting.

South Carolina coaches told him that possibility would only strengthen if he had not met NCAA entrance requirements prior to signing day.

Two weeks prior to signing day, South Carolina coaches reminded Mauldin that there might not be a scholarship available in this signing class.

If that’s how South Carolina handled things, I’m having a hard time seeing what’s wrong there.  Which leads to this point Low makes:

… The key is communication and being upfront with prospects and their families throughout the process and not springing a surprise on them at the last minute.

If a kid really wants to go to South Carolina or Alabama or LSU and is willing to wait it out and grayshirt, and that’s presented as a possibility all along, then maybe it’s not such an ugly practice after all.

What that suggests to me is that perhaps where Mike Slive ought to start the conversation in the June meetings is in setting meaningful disclosure standards which every coach in the conference has to comply with – and real penalties for those who don’t.

About these ads

38 Comments

Filed under Recruiting

38 responses to ““We’ll see how it plays out down the road.”

  1. mwo

    The kid sounds like he has a pretty good head on his shoulders. I hope he gets squared away and gets what he wants. He seems to be treating Carolina classier than they are treating him.

  2. TennesseeDawg

    Mauldin would still have a shot considering he could go the prep or JUCO route and be offered a ‘ship in next year’s class even with a hard cap. IMO the hard cap should be on the total number of ‘ships not yearly.

    • You’re assuming SC would still pursue him if a hard cap were in place. I’m not so sure that’s the case. I suspect that the brunt of the new regime will fall on the academically questionable – which would be good news for the Sun Belt Conference.

      • simpl_matter

        If the academically questionable suffer, so be it. The whole process reminds me of the US tax code. Greedy teams can game the system and oversign without fear of punishment (so, maybe it’s worse than the tax code).

        Kids suffer all the negatives, no one else. Hard limits on signings are needed. In way too simple terms, each team gets 25 signees (less any enrolled players lost as of the signing date); if a team wants to risk a scholly on someone like Mauldin (or Clowney), it’s a gamble with consequences.

  3. anon

    Lesson: Sometimes we don’t get our first choice.

    • DawgnAub

      exactly, and it would be good for him just as it often is for the rest of us, the first choice isn’t always the right or best choice for you…ah the fickle heart

      • mike

        But sometimes, a willingness to wait for what you want pays off in the end. It’s nice to see a kid like this that doesn’t just say” OK, screw you USC, I’ll go to Clempsun.” I hope he achieves great success in life…with the attitude he has now, chances are good.

  4. Macallanlover

    I give the young man major kudos for manning up to his shortfall, what a wonderful concept, personal accountability! At the same time, I agree with the Senator, I am not sure he would have made the cut at SC anyway. The oversigning abuse is a sad commentary on CFB and we shouldn’t have to wait on the NCAA to act. The SEC meetings should tell us a lot about the ethics of our decision makers.

    I feel there should be a cap slightly above the number of available scholarships (2-3 max) to allow for slippage/attrition. That should be a “hardline” for all schools, without exception.

    • Bryant Denny

      Actually, there’s already a “hardline” in place, without exception. You can have no more than 85 on scholarship. However, at this point, schools retr0fit in order to meet 85, rather than the signing cap you mention.

      BD

      • Macallanlover

        Come on BD, you know everyone is aware of the 85 max issue and adherence to that has never been in question. If, for some reason
        :), you don’t want to impose some hard rules for ethics violations in this oversigning controversy, that is your choice. My post was to allow a reasonable, set amount of oversigning that would level the playing field and provide some protection for true attrition.

        I don’t want to see CMR to ever become that callous to young men pursuing their dream, and I don’t think the majority of coaches/programs ever want that either. If Saban, Cheetzik, Nutt, etc., cannot bring themselves to be responsible then we have to help them by setting tighter guidelines. (I have no issue with a slight overage (1, 2, or 3)of the 85 for a 1 year period of time if there is no fallout. You would simply adjust the number of signees down for the next year to compensate for the edge they had the year before for recruiting good players and keeping them eligible.) We just cannot continue to give the edge to those who are abusing the recruits by getting a “free look” at them and “cutting” them NFL style.

        • Coastal Dawg

          That’s the whole rub. The hard 85 limit really creates the issue with the kids. In order to get to 85, schools will dump all over current athletes (because its only a 1 year scholorship after all) while oversigning and taking big risks with potential non qualifiers. Don’t cap the total scholorships, put a hard limit on each calendar year signees and make the LOI a four-year commitment from the school. With 23 players a year, each school should be able to stay at about 85 to 90 players on scholorship, with room for early NFL, injuries and red shirts staying for an extra year. The point is no one need be kicked out to make room for another empty promise and schools have to be more selctive about who they offer and sign.

          • Mike Sanders

            I can think of at least one conference whose schools don’t have problems working with a cap . Guess which conference.

            It CAN work, if the conference has the appropriate rules and it can enforce them. The SEC is strong enough to to it.

          • Macallanlover

            I could support a plan along those lines as well, it would reward those who recruited a higher quality student athlete/person as they would likely have more athletes on scholarship over a four year period. Sure, the early NFL departures would hurt some but many athletes don’t leave, and I still think insurance policies should be provided to encourage more players to stay longer.

  5. TimRankine

    Word is that USCe has four or five recruits who may not make the grade (and one of the best in-state players, Dexter Staley, wasn’t offered because he was almost a lock to fall short). My guess is that the coaches know the likelihood of each player becoming eligible, and that Mauldin is one of the longer shots. He does seem like a good kid and I hope he gets to the D1 level sooner rather than later.

  6. W Cobb Dawg

    Seems like the kid’s heart is in the right place. Not so sure about his head. He should listen to his coach and explore/exploit his other options. SOS is giving him the shaft, maybe in a way that Mauldin convinced himself is courteous, but he’s still out in the cold. Options tend to diminish as time goes by and inaction sets in.

  7. Texas_Dawg

    Here’s some background on the story including how I and some others caught the story and alerted Towers to the issue.

    About Mauldin choosing to stay at South Carolina:

    He is a barely literate ward of the State. South Carolina coaches found him and exploited his situation. They got him to commit very early to them and quit talking to other schools. They then helped him build a family of friends among players and students at South Carolina, all while telling him they were committed to him and that he would be getting an offer. So he quit talking to other schools and with his public commitment most moved their efforts elsewhere.

    South Carolina coaches then, as they knew they would all along, after Mauldin’s commitment for months had been used to help building recruiting numbers at the major websites, to help pressure other recruits on the fence, to have him as a back-up plan had recruiting not gone well, to get their hooks into him early before his likely JUCO route, to get him talking only to them so they could help steer and spin that JUCO placement, and so on… FAXED a letter to his school the day before Signing Day.

    But the kid is a shy, poorly educated teenager, with no parents and limited guidance from poorly paid and overworked state social workers, and the few friends he has beyond his impoverished, marginalized world are all students at South Carolina. I’m sorry, but what in the hell else is he going to say when a reporter calls, Senator?

    Do you think millionaire pros like Steve Spurrier don’t realize what a slam dunk this game is?

    So now, after he’d been lied to right up until the safety of Signing Day with its quickly closed roster spots, maybe Mauldin gets some calls from other schools. Maybe he academically qualifies and decides to go to one of those schools where he currently knows no one. Or he qualifies but no better options come along, so, figuring that this is just how life goes as a poor black kid in an industry and region run largely by powerful white men, and realizing his only friends are at South Carolina, he just sucks it up, as Elliott Porter did, and goes to join his friends, despite all the dishonesty and shady-dealing. At which point South Carolina, still being 5 players oversigned, has to either grayshirt him, grayshirt some other poor sap, or call Terry Bowden to come take some other kid off their hands.

    Really. Stay on the fence about this, Senator. Please. It’s all just so gray.

    Yes, the top officials at the University of Georgia and Mark Richt could not scream any louder about how repugnant and morally reprehensible this stuff is without being called whiners and losers and whatever else. Yes, they would obviously greatly appreciate it if their fans and top bloggers would back them strongly on this, given that those people can speak a lot more openly on the matter. Yes, this disgusting behavior is seriously cheating our school’s employees and players at something they dedicate much of their lives to doing. Yes, the behavior is greatly tarnishing our university’s name by being lumped in with what a large number of media members, academic officials, and fans are increasingly condemning as highly unethical behavior committed generally by “the same old SEC.” Yes, the practice largely victimizes young black adults and their families; in the heart of the Deep South. Yes, conscientious white Southerners probably shouldn’t really care about such details. Yes, yes, yes…

    Stay on the fence, bro. Stay on the fence.

    It’s all just so impossibly gray.

    Roll Tide, dude. Jim Delany sucks.

    • TimRankine

      Geezus I’m stupider for reading that…thanks a billion buddy. Kudos on your cracker-jack investiporting though.

    • Travis Haney is, in your words, a fraud, and you can’t discuss the topic with me without being condescending or outright insulting. With an approach like that, I’m kind of surprised that more bloggers and media types haven’t flocked to your banner.

      By the way, I notice that you avoided answering my question: why would Mauldin be better off right now if there were a hard signing cap?

      • Texas_Dawg

        With an approach like that, I’m kind of surprised that more bloggers and media types haven’t flocked to your banner.

        Numerous media members and officials have strongly come out condemning oversigning in the past few months. In fact, in remaining on the fence about this, you appear to be in a quickly shrinking minority on the subject.

        The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, ESPN’s Outside the Lines, CNN/Sports Illustrated (Andy Staples and Stewart Mandel), and countless other major bloggers and regional media members have unequivocally condemned the practice in the past few months. None of these people, for whatever reasons, are finding all the gray in these stories that you keep finding.

        Again, University of Georgia officials have echoed Bernie Machen (whose condemnation of the practice you chose to spin as hypocritical) in rejecting your gray and condemning the practice strongly and directly. You continue to remain at strong odds with Mark Richt and Greg McGarity on the topic, taking a stance that is much closer to that of the schools screwing Georgia over in this. Nick Saban and Mal Moore no doubt approve of your help.

        By the way, I notice that you avoided answering my question: why would Mauldin be better off right now if there were a hard signing cap?

        I don’t simply want a hard signing cap. I want a cap and schools forced to be transparent with their scholarship totals at all times. Were that in place already, it would have given more transparency to recruits considering South Carolina. So as the number of their commits reached their limit, media and fan questions would have been directed at the coaches, and thus recruits would have had much greater awareness of a possible squeeze situation growing, sending a signal to them and their advisors that they needed to be much more cautious and keep their options open.

        Most likely, South Carolina never would have offered Mauldin, knowing that he wouldn’t qualify. They would no longer have the ability to gamble with numbers and purge when needed.

        Mauldin would still end up having to go to prep school without qualifying, but he would not have been lied to and had his commitment exploited by South Carolina coaches.

        But anyway, you have no good arguments for any of this stuff, Senator. You dug yourself a huge hole for a couple years in dismissing this as Big 10 whining, but it has turned out that it’s not that at all. Rather, it’s what the University of Georgia publicly condemns as morally reprehensible behavior. So here we are.

        • Most likely, South Carolina never would have offered Mauldin, knowing that he wouldn’t qualify. They would no longer have the ability to gamble with numbers and purge when needed.

          Mauldin would still end up having to go to prep school without qualifying, but he would not have been lied to and had his commitment exploited by South Carolina coaches.

          I agree with you that Mauldin would likely never be a Gamecock were a hard signing cap in place. If he qualified, he’d be at some school like Troy; if he didn’t, he’d be away from D-1 football for at least a year anyway. You see that process as a plus for Mauldin. I wonder if he would agree with you.

          • Texas_Dawg

            I agree with you that Mauldin would likely never be a Gamecock were a hard signing cap in place. If he qualified, he’d be at some school like Troy; if he didn’t, he’d be away from D-1 football for at least a year anyway. You see that process as a plus for Mauldin. I wonder if he would agree with you.

            Why would Troy risk their limited numbers on him either? I want oversigning banned in the entire sport. They would be taking just as much of a risk in signing him as any other school.

            Each team has 85 spots. The same number of players will get scholarships when oversigning is banned. If Mauldin didn’t get offers because he wasn’t qualified, he could go to JUCO then come back to those schools. The scholarship numbers wouldn’t change, so I’m not really sure what your argument is.

            • Except Troy winds up with the leftover pool, which will become much larger. Troy won’t oversign to get a Mauldin. If he qualifies, he’ll simply be available because schools like South Carolina won’t take a chance on him.

              So the question is, do you think Mauldin would prefer a grayshirt at South Carolina to a scholarship offer at Troy? Judging from what I’ve read, I think he’d pick the former. You would deny him the choice.

              • Texas_Dawg

                That makes no sense.

                Players that are qualified before Signing Day would get scholarships from the schools willing to give them scholarships now. Players that qualified after Signing Day would still get scholarships from schools willing to hold openings for them until they qualified, just as now.

                Troy wouldn’t be any different than South Carolina in this system. They would have to fill their 85 in the exact same ways any other schools would fill their 85.

                Mauldin has no grayshirt offer from South Carolina. He has nothing from them. If he qualifies, maybe they will given him an offer. Or maybe they won’t. Same goes for any other school.

                I get your attempt here to try to somehow turn the moral tables here, but it doesn’t even make any sense.

                Your struggles to somehow find a moral stance that supports or is ambiguous about oversigning should show you why Georgia officials and so many others that know this topic well have no problem completely condemning it.

                • Players that are qualified before Signing Day would get scholarships from the schools willing to give them scholarships now. Players that qualified after Signing Day would still get scholarships from schools willing to hold openings for them until they qualified, just as now.

                  How could it be the same if the numbers are hard? Schools won’t be able to hold openings “just as now”. That’s the whole point of this, isn’t it?

                  Of course, they could just run SAs off in order to preserve their options with the Mauldins of the world. At least they wouldn’t be guilty of oversigning.

                  • Texas_Dawg

                    The scholarship numbers would be the exact same. South Carolina would be just as free to offer Mauldin a scholarship that doesn’t start until the following year, just as they can now. They just wouldn’t be able to grayshirt him after he was locked into an LOI a year in advance of his receiving his scholarship, as they can now.

                    Oversigned schools aren’t holding scholarship openings for players. They are just locking players into LOIs that limit the players’ options, after which the schools can decide to push the players to another class, kick other players off the team, or whatever.

                    You may think you found something here, but you didn’t. Your argument makes no sense.

                    Give up the game, Senator. You went down the wrong path and dug yourself a hole. Admit you were wrong and quit opposing the University of Georgia’s officials on something where UGA is getting screwed.

                    • They just wouldn’t be able to grayshirt him after he was locked into an LOI a year in advance of his receiving his scholarship, as they can now.

                      Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought that was my point.

                    • crapsandwich

                      Senator, you cannot find anything reprehensible about South Carolina’s actions? Sounds like you just pissed about one of your pal’s Travis Henry getting called out.

                      On so many levels this situation with Mauldin is deplorable example of what is wrong with oversigning and the using and abusing of players for asses like Spurrier.

    • Macallanlover

      As much as I support your position on why this issue must be addressed immediately, and firmly, you lose major credibility with a ridiculous attempt to play the race card. Time people started getting laughed at and heckled for that. Are there both blacks and whites involved? Yes, beyond that race isn’t a factor in how that plays out. Since all of society has elements of blacks and whites let’s just all say racism can always be alledged. Throw out the obvious, and weak, point, now find the real issue.

    • Even if oversigning stopped tomorrow, the University of Georgia is still going to be stuck in “a region run largely by powerful white men”. Of course, it is also a region with the greatest concentration of black wealth and power in the United States (and possibly the non-African world), but don’t let that stop you from attempting to clothe yourself in the moral superiority of a civil rights crusader while simultaneously implying that the minority recruit in question is so ignorant he needs you to swoop in and protect him from exercising his own free will.

      The only reason I am barely restraining myself from telling you my true opinion of your character is respect for Blutarsky and his blog, but that description would begin with an uncouth version of the South Carolina mascot and conclude with the Southern name for a popular children’s candy.

  8. Meg

    So, no one has commented on what I find to be a rather screamingly loud red flag. The supposed greyshirt offer. Exactly WHO will be paying this kid’s tuition that semester? Sure there are govt loans and such, but I just find the whole situation even more suggestive of boosters providing the money for greyshirt tuition at USC and every other school that offers them. In my opinion, the greyshirt issue is the most damning in CFB because it is a (wink, wink) obvious circumvention of the 85 SCHOLARSHIP rule. I also think Bama has been using the Bryant scholarship in the same capacity to increase its “scholarship” players. Not to mention all these players who signed a LOI at Bama are now supposedly not on scholarship because their parents can afford the tuition ( the Loves). Is it just me, or wasn’t there a rule that said if you signed a LOI, you couldn’t be a walk-on at that school?

    • Texas_Dawg

      Absolutely.

      Were Mauldin to qualify and South Carolina to choose to then give him an offer, some other player would likely be grayshirted. Or South Carolina would just grayshirt him. Either way, some other poor, black teenager is suddenly forced to find something to do with his time from June till next January. Maybe he gets government loans (did he know he was going to have to be doing that?) or maybe he doesn’t and just has to find something to do with his time from June till next January. Maybe he has parents (Mauldin doesn’t) and maybe those parents have enough money to support him till next January, or maybe he has to get a job (if he can) to pay his way till then. Maybe he’ll also have the guidance and support to maintain a steady workout and training program in addition to working his job, so that he won’t fall much farther behind the players that will be training regularly till then.

      And so on…

      This is all what Greg McGarity was talking about when he basically said that these heavily grayshirting programs are lying if they are saying these recruits fully understand what they are getting into:

      “It’s a head-scratcher,” McGarity said. “I think the thing you focus on is, ‘What kind of conversation are you having with these young men and their parents up front? Are you making them aware of all the dynamics that could occur?’ I think the majority of the time that’s probably not the case.”

      Grayshirting is a morally reprehensible joke. Name the last SEC star that was grayshirted.

      The point of it is to oversign and thus enable all the other benefits that oversigning brings. It is to exploit borderline prospects to build recruiting numbers, pressure the undecided real targets, provide emergency back-up plans should the real targets all go elsewhere, etc., etc.

  9. Texas_Dawg

    Senator,

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought that was my point.

    They are still completely free to give him a scholarship offer that starts in Jan. 2012. Had Mauldin been given an LOI when SC was oversigned, nothing would have changed but that Mauldin would have been more restricted in his options. South Carolina would not have to honor the LOI with a scholarship just as they didn’t have to honor their verbal offer.

  10. Texas_Dawg

    Senator,

    Did you read my post?

    I don’t know if crapsandwich read your post, but I did, and in it you said this:

    If that’s how South Carolina handled things, I’m having a hard time seeing what’s wrong there.

    So I don’t see the problem with his question.

  11. Hunkering Hank

    Friend of mine brought this up – what about UGA’s undersigning? Don’t we have one or two more scholarships to give before next season? Assuming the information I’ve seen online is correct, why is UGA self-limiting its scholarship numbers? I don’t follow recruiting like crazy, so maybe we signed all we could sign in a given year – I honestly don’t know… Maybe my numbers are wrong, but it doesn’t seem like a good way to try to win.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      +1 HH, you are right on the money with that. UGA had fewer football signees over the previous 5 years than anyone else in the SEC except Vandy. Not only do we not oversign, we do not even use all our scholarships to sign real recruits. Rather at least 3-4 a year end up being given to walk-ons, most of whom never really get any playing time, as a reward. Everybody loves the story of the guy who was overlooked, walked on and became a star. Just doesn’t happen, at least not very often. That is one reason why there always seems to be a crisis at some position when somebody gets injured. Regarding oversigning, I am against the practice and do not want my alma mater doing it. That said, if it is not illegal and the teams we compete against do it UGA then is put at a disadvantage by not doing it. Personally I would like the cheaters and oversigners (read: Bama and Auburn) to get the hell out of the SEC. The conference will never be legitimate as long as those crooked programs are allowed to continue doing what they do with the league office looking the other way. Why don’t the law-abiding schools just get together and kick them out? It’s a mystery to me why we all just put up with it.

  12. Meg

    Pt. 1: There will always be attrition over the Spring and Summer at every school. If you don’t actively oversign, you will more than likely have 1-2 scholarships to give out.

    pt.2: Having not already accepted more commits than they could handle, when prospects with spots were being held for them committed to other schools, the staff made a choice between offering that spot to another or just keeping it open for the following year, especially if EEs need it. They can give this scholarship to a walk-on at that point and still have it free for an EE if they need it to be.