If you haven’t read the Wall Street Journal’s latest article on oversigning, by all means do so. Although the authors have an agenda (scare quotes come fast and furious), they still do a good job of illustrating a number of troubling issues on both sides of the matter.
- Oversigning has a new poster boy, and his name is Steve Spurrier. I don’t know what the Ole Ball Coach thought he was doing by agreeing to the interview, but it wasn’t the smartest decision he’s made. From advising the Big Ten that its oversigning policy is a mistake to admitting that he did a poor job of managing the number of commitments in this year’s class, he sounds like a man stubbornly pursuing a policy he knows isn’t quite right. It’s hard to come off sounding worse on an ethical subject than Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino, but Spurrier manages it.
- What we got here is… failure to communicate. One reason Nutt and Petrino come off relatively better is that they’re both aware enough of the consequences of not letting the recruits know how the numbers game was shaping up. Spurrier either didn’t know or didn’t care, which is how you wind up with a recruit’s coach saying the following: “I told them this was foul. I didn’t have a clue until 18 hours before signing day, and if they say anything else, they’re lying.” Note that Spurrier didn’t rebut that. It may be that he’s getting close enough to the end of his career that pissing off high school coaches doesn’t matter to him (compare that to how Richt responded when the coach at Carver Columbus banned Georgia in the wake of a recruiting snafu), but it’s not a smart tactic over the recruiting long haul.
- How ’bout them Southern high schools! It gets somewhat brushed over and hinted around – Spurrier makes the only quasi-direct observation – but it’s plain that one of the big engines driving oversigning is the poor education that many, many recruits receive in high school. Take a look at education rankings for the 50 states; it’s not a place where the South shines particularly. Petrino may come off as a cold, calculating SOB with his class signing formula, but, sadly, it’s a formula born from experience.
- “If they’re adamant about going to that school, they’re gonna go anyway.” The authors try to soft sell it, but it’s apparent from the recruits’ quotes that most coaches are informing recruits and their parents when numbers are tight and what the results from that could be. It takes two to tango. If a recruit knows the risks and still wants to commit, where should the conference or the NCAA draw the line?
- It’s gonna be a fight. Three coaches are willing to go on record to defend a practice which they know will be portrayed in an unfavorable light. That should give you some indication about how strongly they feel about maintaining the opportunity to oversign. Somehow I doubt they’re going to back down at the SEC Spring Meetings. Or that they’re the only three who support the practice. It’s going to be bruising and the press will be watching. Mike Slive will have his hands full.
UPDATE: Chip Towers, who’s done an excellent job with the Lorenzo Mauldin story, has a follow up that illustrates Point #4 perfectly.
Lorenzo Mauldin is still not sure what he’s going to do, but he’s starting to feel better about his options. The Maynard Jackson High defensive end and longtime South Carolina commitment, who was stuck without a scholarship after the Gamecocks oversigned on national signing day, is now heavily considering an offer from Louisville.
Cardinals’ second-year coach Charlie Strong has offered to bring in the 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end as a non-qualifer if he continues to come up short on his test scores, according to Mauldin. That means Mauldin would have to pay his own way the first year but would have three years of eligibility remaining and a qualify for a fourth if he’s on track to graduate.
“That’s a pretty good option for me,” Mauldin said Monday. “I believe it’s better than prep school. I’ll already be there with the team and I could be playing football the next fall.”
He thinks he’s got the money to cover tuition, too. But, guess what? He’d rather wait and see if he can qualify so that… well, you can probably figure out the rest of the story.
… Meanwhile, Miami and Troy continue to recruit Mauldin and prep school remains a possibility. But clearly he would prefer to stick with his first option, which is to meet freshman eligibility requirements by spring and force the Gamecocks to find room for him…
Except, par for the course with Mauldin’s tale, that’s not the whole story.
“It’s all based on the score,” said Mauldin, who said he is awaiting an ACT score and will take the test at least one more time. “I see that I’m so close on these scores, I feel sure I’m going to get it. If I do get the score I hope [South Carolina's] word is good and I get the scholarship.”
South Carolina signed 32 players in its 2011 football recruiting class. Four of those recruits enrolled in January and will count toward the 2010 class. But that still leaves them three over the NCAA maximum of 25 that can be added to the scholarship roll this fall.
Mauldin said Gamecocks assistant coach Lorenzo Ward promised him the football program would find room if he qualified.
“He said if I get the score I will get the scholarship from one of the other boys who won’t academically qualify,” Mauldin said. “He tells me that’s his word. A man’s word is his bond, so I’m hoping that will be carried out.”
What’s that old expression about writing checks with your mouth that your ass can’t cash? If all three of those recruits qualify, I can’t wait to see what Ward comes up with.