I’ve said all along that my dislike of oversigning arises from the mistreatment of recruits and student-athletes. I’ve always believed the concern over competitive advantage to be a crock, basically, no matter what coaches might say. (Anybody really think Ole Miss is going to be a powerhouse program this season? Bueller? Bueller?)
So you can imagine my reaction to John Pennington’s analysis of exactly that point.
… Let’s sum all this up, shall we? Many Big Ten backers claim that oversigning is the work of the devil because it’s the only thing keeping the Big Ten from competing with the SEC.
However, when you look at the numbers, you find that the number of signees has very little to do with the number of wins a program rolls up. Is there some advantage? Sure. SEC teams from 2002 through 2010 averaged 3.42 signees per victory. Big Ten teams average 3.11 signees over the same period. Hardly the night and day difference one would expect.
But while oversigning isn’t the magic bullet Big Ten fans would want you to believe, things like local talent base, tradition and spending serve as tried and true differentiators.
We at MrSEC.com aren’t fans of oversigning. As noted above, we would have no problem if every school went to a hard cap at 25.
But the argument that oversigning is the difference between the SEC and the Big Ten? Well, that doesn’t hold water. And as you can see above, that argument doesn’t even hold water when you make comparisons within the same conference.
In theory, signing more players than your neighbor should be a big advantage. But in reality, it’s not.
In other words, there’s all kinds of competitive advantage out there in the world of college football, just not where the people screaming about oversigning believe them to be. Surprise, surprise.
The punchline is where Pennington sourced his data.
Using the numbers provided by the site Oversigning.com, we examine the 2002 through 2010 seasons in the SEC and Big Ten. If the theory is, “The SEC is better than the Big Ten because they sign more players each year,” then the same must hold true when applied at a smaller level. So, when looking at the SEC and Big Ten in those nine seasons, the teams that signed the most players should be the teams with the best records. After all, if oversigning is the difference between Alabama and Northwestern, then it should also prove to be the difference between Florida and Mississippi State and between Ohio State and Purdue.
Read the whole post.
UPDATE: Michael Elkon isn’t convinced by Pennington’s argument, but does make this point.
… The teams that have the greatest incentive to oversign are the middle class or lower class programs that struggle to recruit top players and therefore have to make up with quantity what they cannot acquire in quality. Thus, we would expect that the most successful teams in the conference would not oversign because they don’t have to do so.
Assuming for the sake of argument that such programs are handling their oversigning protocols ethically, the question I’ve got is why we should care about this. If Ole Miss makes its program more competitive against the rest of the conference and no student-athletes/recruits are harmed in the making of the film, so to speak, isn’t that a good thing?
I think Elkon concedes that when he writes,
Where Big Ten fans have a point is here: as between elite programs, oversigning is an advantage. It’s one thing for Ohio State to play Arkansas, a team with a limited recruiting base and a medium recruiting profile. Ohio State has numerous advantages over Arkansas, so all things being equal, Ohio State should expect to bring more talent to the table. It’s another thing for Ohio State to play LSU or Alabama – teams with similar profiles and recruiting bases – and then to have to deal with the Tide and Tigers having the extra advantage of their coaches having signed more players and cut guys who did not pan out. This has always been my point about oversigning: LSU and Alabama have no business engaging in the practice and they deserve the media criticism they get on the subject.
I don’t get why Les Miles oversigns either, but I don’t know how you can fashion a rule that says one thing’s okay for a middle-tier program and not for Nick Saban. And if you enact a blanket prohibition against oversigning, will Saban and Miles run programs which are any less dominating over the likes of Nutt’s? I doubt it.