Sometimes, the devil’s in the details, as Seth Emerson tells us.
… But programs also accept early enrollments — such as Georgia did with Keith Marshall and two other recruits earlier this month. Under the old rules, teams had back-counted early enrollments toward the previous signing class, as a way of signing more players. That is still allowed.
But the programs were also allowed to not count players who signed but failed to qualify academically or didn’t enroll for whatever reason. The SEC clarified Monday that the new rules prevent teams from doing that anymore.
“If a player signs, he counts without regard to whether or not he actually enrolls,” SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said in an e-mail Monday. “ ‘Back counting’ is only permitted for mid-year enrollees who are able to be included as an initial counter for the academic year in which they enroll. ‘Back counting’ is an artificial term for this discussion and not accurate as the question is about the signing limit.”
So essentially under the old rules, what mattered most was who actually enrolled. But the SEC’s new rules are directed at who signs. [Emphasis added.]
If you’re a coach who takes chances with kids who haven’t qualified academically on signing day, that definitely makes the math trickier. If you guess wrong, you don’t get a mulligan. And even if you aren’t that aggressive, well… this stuff sorta sounds like rocket science:
The SEC rule — and the national rule next year — allows an annual exception for teams to sign more than 25. That is possible if one or more signees can be counted backward toward the previous year’s class. There must be spots available in the previous class to do so.
The maximum 25 new scholarship players who can enroll each academic year are called “initial counters.” Almost always, initial counters are players who were recruited to be put on scholarship upon enrolling for their first year.
How does counting backward work? If a team shows up in the fall and adds, for instance, 20 new initial counters to go with 65 returning players, it would be maxed out at the NCAA limit of 85 scholarships and there would be five initial counters the team didn’t use.
Come December and January, the team could add five mid-year enrollees who count back toward the previous class if there are at least five current players whose eligibility ended. The mid-year enrollees could be any combination of junior college and four-year college transfers or early graduates from high school.
If that team brought in a sixth mid-year enrollee, one of those six mid-year enrollees would have to be counted forward, reducing the size of the upcoming signing class from 25 to 24.
The new rule supposedly has its first poster child.
… Alabama’s handling of North Atlanta High School running back Justin Taylor, who committed to the Crimson Tide a year ago, is the most high-profile example of the signing cap working as intended. Taylor told reporters that Saban said he couldn’t sign with the 2012 class because of the new rule and Taylor’s torn ACL.
In the past, Taylor might have been a grayshirt who signed a National Letter of Intent and delayed enrollment. Alabama still has an offer to Taylor, who may eventually sign in 2013. But in the meantime, the SEC cap prevented Taylor from signing, which had he been able to do so would have taken away his leverage to still be recruited by other schools.
If Saban hasn’t figured an effective way to tap dance around the new cap, maybe it’s fair to say there’s something substantive to it.
As the article notes, this rule goes into effect nationally this August, so at least the conference won’t be at a competitive disadvantage with other conferences in the future. There’s also another roster management rule from the NCAA coming down the turnpike:
… The NCAA also adopted the SEC’s proposal to count summer enrollees on financial aid toward a team’s scholarship numbers for the next academic year. That gives universities less freedom to remove a scholarship from a player after he attends summer school simply because a different recruit gains eligibility late. The SEC has not yet adopted the summer-school rule, which goes into effect next summer.
If it’s an SEC proposal, you’d have to think it’ll be adopted in time. Grayshirting, while not prohibited, looks like it’s becoming more and more of a challenge. We’ll see how the coaches adapt.