The oversigning is dead! Long live the oversigning!

Somewhat to my skeptical surprise, General Zod Mike Slive rolled the likes of Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier yesterday.  SEC coaches had taken a unanimous position against lowering the class signing limit from 28 to 25, yet their presidents, following Slive’s lead, took a unanimous position mandating just that.

Clearly, Slive won on the optics.  The message has been sent that the presidents aren’t beholden to their head coaches.  The question is, what exactly have the presidents accomplished with their vote?  The answer to that isn’t as clear.

Here’s a summary of what passed:

(1) Eliminated the one-year graduate student exception adopted just last year. A student-athlete who transfers in to have two years of eligibility remaining in order to participate in athletics. However, this won’t be implemented the 2012 season.

(2) Will not permit an SEC institution to sign a prospect to a financial aid agreement until that prospect is enrolled and is a full-time student attending classes. It applies to a prospect who intends to enroll prior to the projected high school graduation date (aka early enrollment).

(3) Established legislation specifying that the conference office will oversee the administration of medical scholarship exemptions. The SEC will have a role in reviewing and deciding the outcome of each medically-related exemption.

(4) Reduced the permissible number of signees from 28 to 25 and moves back the start date for the window for counting date back to Dec. 1. Allow signees to be exempt from the 25 limit if they can be counted as an initial counter in the current year. Establish an oversight process involving a review of roster management issues by the conference office and the presidents and by the ADs. It will require written reports from all 12 institutions.  In addition going to propose this legislation nationally. Will write to Dr. Emmert in the next few weeks to advise him that the conference has submitted this proposal we have adopted and we have an expectation that the NCAA should and will adopt the same proposal. It’s in the best interest of prospects, not only here but in the nation.

(5) A prospective student-athlete who attends summer school will count against that year’s scholarship total.

While there’s no question the new rules have tightened what coaches can do, there are still plenty of areas where the coaches maintain a fair degree of flexibility in managing their rosters.  For example, the new rules say nothing at all about grayshirting.  And, as Chris Low explains, a certain amount of back-counting is still possible:

… So if a school signs 25 players one year and four of those players fail to qualify academically, you could hypothetically place those four players in prep school for the fall, get them back in January and still sign 25 other players in that February class.

When you add it all up, the total number of new players joining the team that August would be 29. The catch is that the four enrollees from prep school in this particular scenario would count against the previous class.

There’s also the talk you’ve likely heard about hard caps and soft caps.  Again Low explains:

Here’s the other thing: If a school only has 18 scholarships to give that February, what’s keeping it from signing 22 or 23 players?

That’s still oversigning. It’s just not signing more than what is now the maximum number of 25.

The Big Ten has a hard cap, meaning schools can sign no more than three players over the 85-scholarship limit.

The SEC’s new policy is more of a soft cap.

Is that a big deal?  Eh, I’m not sure it’s as big as some make it out to be, at least in a conference where roster evaluations like the one we recently saw take place at Arkansas are part and parcel of how some coaches clear space for new recruits.  What a hard cap accomplishes with that sort of roster pruning is to accelerate the timing of the cuts, but the cuts could come all the same.  If you want to insure that coaches can’t act with impunity in running off kids, the only way I know of to prevent that would be to convert the athletic scholarship into a four-year commitment.  I don’t see that happening any time soon.

That’s not to say the new rules are toothless.  It’s good that the conference will attempt to enforce a more uniform standard when it comes to medical scholarships.  And preventing recruits from signing financial aid agreements (which has the result of locking the kid away from any other SEC program which might be interested in signing him) until they’re enrolled full-time and actually attending class is the best proposal adopted in terms of doing something for the kids.

Still, Low’s sense of things in the aftermath of the vote is that this isn’t as earth-shattering a development as some would have us believe.

After talking with several coaches and administrators in the league following the presidents’ vote, the general feeling is that this new legislation doesn’t have quite the bite that maybe some have portrayed it as having.

I have the same general feeling.  The rules will have an impact in a couple of ways, mainly having to do with how coaches assess the chances of the academically marginal, and we can expect that the upper tier of class size will shrink from the low thirties to the upper twenties, but I don’t see Nick Saban slitting his wrists over this.

And contrary to the back patting“No one, no one wants to win more than I do,” Slive said, “but we don’t want to win at the expense of young people. We want to win for them.” – I don’t see this as being as big a win for recruits as Slive and his presidents do.  As I mentioned before, they took a pass on grayshirting; a rule prohibiting the practice shortly before national signing day or after a recruit has committed to a program wouldn’t be hard to implement and would stop the unfortunate stuff we saw at South Carolina this year.

As a result, it comes off more as a feel-good move, tempered by concerns about competitive advantage, than it does about stopping abuse of recruits and student-athletes.  It’s admittedly more than window dressing, which before the meetings is all I thought we’d see, but they’re kidding themselves if they think the coaches won’t largely be able to pursue their vision of roster management as they have.  The means will change, that’s all.

To be fair, the one proposal of Slive’s which didn’t pass isn’t being flushed down the toilet completely.  It’s being sent on to the NCAA:

… Presidents did not adopt, but instead are sponsoring NCAA legislation making football signees who attend summer school on athletic aid before the fall semester count against a school’s scholarship numbers for that academic year.

Slive said that wasn’t adopted by the conference because of a new rule that will require players to pass nine hours of academic credit in the fall to be eligible the following year. Players who don’t earn nine credits would be suspended for four games the next season unless the player earns 27 credit hours during the first year enrolled.

I’m not sure how they’re going to resolve that one.  The plus in Slive’s proposal is that it would stop some late grayshirting because a kid in summer school would have to count against the class he came in with.  To preserve a coach’s roster flexibility, that would likely result in some signees being steered away from enrolling for the summer.  But with the new credit hours requirement, programs probably feel like they need every opportunity to give their less academically talented student-athletes a chance to succeed, which would make summer enrollment almost a necessity.  Tough call there.

Actually, if you’re cynical enough, you know how they’re going to resolve that one.



Filed under SEC Football

22 responses to “The oversigning is dead! Long live the oversigning!

  1. Senator, this only problem I see with this solution is that it doesn’t appear to deal with the real problem. It doesn’t deal with the last minute grayshirt and doesn’t deal with roster management as practiced by Petrino and Saban. As long as there’s not a hard cap of 85 (or whatever arbitrary number the idiots at the NCAA come up with) and teams can sign more than 21 per year, we’ll have the challenges that exist today. The only ways I see today’s environment working for the athlete are a 4-year commitment by the school (not going to happen) or looser transfer rules by allowing an athlete released by the school to transfer to another 1-A school without sitting out a year (coaches will never allow this to happen).

    We say this is an amateur sport, but let’s be real about it – there’s nothing amateur about big-time college football or basketball any more.


  2. NotImpressed

    25+25+25+25+25(redshirt)=125 scholarships to offer every five years.
    Roster limit=85

    40 slots available for attrition and yes, oversigning.

    This does almost nothing.


  3. lrgk9

    So – SEC reduced Auburn from 119 and Alabama from 113 over a 4 year period to 100?
    UGA stays around its 95.

    So now we have legitimized the ability of Chizik and Saban and Spurrier and Nutt and Petrino to ‘Runoff’ or ‘Castoff’ 4 a year rather than 7-8 a year?

    Oh – but the SEC – the babysitter who let this go on in the first place is Really-Really (Valley Girl accent) going to watch them now…

    Bluto – here’s another column title for you –
    ‘SEC – Pissing in the ocean and expecting the water to rise’


    • GreenDawg

      I’ve got no love for Auburn, but to be fair they could have signed 30 and still been under the cap this year. Tuberville liked to recruit marginal kids academically speaking that no one else in the conference would touch. As a result they have been under the 85-player cap for years. Chizik is just trying to catch up. So while they’re number looks big, they really haven’t oversigned yet at all.


  4. CDB

    A friend’s first thought was this could help ACC schools like Tech, FSU and Clemson. Anything to that?


  5. ChicagoDawg

    I confessed my cynicism on this prior to the meeting. Credit is due to Slive for doing something — I guess. My fear was and remains that this would be a grand gesture that purposely leaves a gaping hole so to further facilitate the same ‘ol shenanigans. Slive even got the benefit of Saban’s manufactured tantrum and Spurrier’s grandstanding empty proposal to complete the picture that he was enacting something that pissed off the oversigning cohort. I guess this is something, but will likely turn out to be a whole lot about nothing.


    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      It’s a PR stunt and never was really intended to fix the problem. That is why all the SEC Presidents voted for it. Some (like that idiot Mike Adams) probably think it will help somewhat. Others, like the Auburn and Bama Presidents, who would never really go against their coaches’ wishes because they’d be run out of town if they did, understand it doesn’t hurt them and maybe even helps them. The truth is that this new legislation does nothing to stop the practice and maybe is worse than what we had before because it legitimizes oversigning below a certain number. UGA, FLA and Vanderbilt still won’t do it at all. The bad actors will do it to the limit (now with the SEC’s blessing) and also try to find other ways around the limitations (blueshirting perhaps). It’s like trying to work out a peace treaty with Adolph Hitler. You make concessions you have to actually live with (like giving away part of Czechoslovakia) and he grabs Poland anyway. The Bammers and Barners, et al are going to continue to cheat whatever the rules say. We just legalized some of it for them.


  6. Derek

    First the cynics said that the conference would fail to act on the proposal and now it doesn’t go far enough. I guess that’s why saban was so accommodating to the proposal.

    Personally I think conference review of medical hardship schollys is big. Saban had more than the whole nation un his first couple of seasons. Now we’ll see his luck improve dramatically I suspect.

    While they can still be dicks to their players and recruits the competitive advantage of doing so has been substantially marginalized. A 15 player margin over 4 years is not that big at all. That’s under 4 guys a year who may quit, go pro, get hurt or get kicked off or a dirty urine or an arrest. Not a lot of room to run folks off to get in the next recruit. A 3.75 player margin per year plus real life is pretty damn close to a “hard cap.”


    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      In spite of what I posted above I do agree with you Derek about the conference review of medical hardship. Just the threat of having an independent set of medical eyes looking at what is going on probably is enough to stop how Saban was abusing that. The conference medical review may be the only really constructive thing to come out of this.


  7. Dog in Fla

    Global War on Presidents (GWOP): “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (extended version)

    Whitney Hotel Presidential Suite, Columbia
    Brunch, 4 June 2011

    After receiving word earlier this morning on the golf course of the Presidents’ Neville Chamberlain imitation yesterday, when they rejected Steve’s count and amount proposal, Steve tells intern to get that band to serenade the Presidents with this to get them to rethink their mistake about the Sudetenland that is the SEC West and South Carolina

    Intern reminds Steve that the band broke up. Steve asks how long ago and intern says recently. Steve tells intern to book this chick band then

    When told that those were guys, Steve tells intern to get this one if by land, two if by bus chick – at least everyone is pretty sure is a chick – to remind the Presidents of warning shots and bells

    Meanwhile, the other SEC West Head Coaches race to see who can get resume to tOSU the fastest but Gee, who is standing in for Gene Smith and intercepting his communications because Gee eliminated Gene Smith’s position but hasn’t told Gene or issued a press release yet, reminds the SEC West coaches that The Ohio State University job is not first come first serve, that it is payback time for Gordon for the SEC coaches for tightening his bowtie when he nullified the AD position at Vanderbilt and, last but not least, that you can’t oversign too much in the Big 10 either.

    Nutt goes into full people-helping Houston mode. Bobby Petrino remains preoccupied with how better players beat his in the Sugar Bowl. Les is in Grand Isle hat shopping. Mullen is in Philly negotiating to rent the Liberty Bell for use as a cowbell during the one year stay of execution. Gene is off on another photo shoot getting booed somewhere with these chicks
    while his OC is trying to sign someone who used to be the quarterback at NC State to be this year’s new Masioli.

    The other SEC East coaches are a little more relaxed, but still not as relaxed as Steve. Mark, as usual, is blessed no matter what, win, lose or draw. Muschamp says Florida is so good nothing anybody else does matters to them. The Vanderbilt new guy is trying to get back to the ACC and Joker is still at a basketball school although having Ashley and Calipari around as the big celebrities makes it all worthwhile.

    Elsewhere, Nick – the brains of the group and formerly the Mother Teresa of waiving “injured” players who can’t be healed – has his intern, his agent’s intern and Mal Moore investigate the procedural requirements for recalling the Presidents and the Commissioner.

    Then Nick, as usual of course, is the first to realize arithmetically that the number 25 can be treated just like the number 23

    so it could just as easily treated like the number 27 which is pretty close to the number 28, which means they can still oversign but just not quite as obviously. When Nick releases this info to his comrades, much hilarity ensues, which is the way Nick likes it.


  8. TennesseeDawg

    Would this qualify as a minor incident to you, Senator?


  9. Macallanlover

    Without firm closure of the loophole this is an insignificant achievement. I wish I had more confidence in the NCAA, that is the only way the SEC will be made to act ethically on this issue. Slime does his usual half-arse job, we agree prostitution is wrong but under $30 transactions get a pass.) Groovy.


  10. Dave

    Name me a college program that doesn’t suffer a minimum of 25% attrition per signing class in the first 3 years on campus. One. Anywhere.


  11. Cojones

    Baseball. UGA wins, 7-3.


  12. Texas_Dawg



  13. Texas_Dawg

    The new rules are progress… but will require revisiting to further tighten them after a few more years of Saban/Chizik/Petrino/etc. roster purging.

    It’s really sad the SEC can’t just implement rules that have been in place in the Big 10 for decades and have eliminated the practice there.


    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      What’s really sad is that the NCAA doesn’t make everybody follow the same rules and just eliminate the practice in college football.