Is the SEC’s new 25-man cap having an impact?

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.


Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football

20 responses to “Is the SEC’s new 25-man cap having an impact?

  1. Adam

    I think the statement “The SEC rule — and the national rule next year — allows an annual exception for teams to sign more than 25.” is an interesting perspective.

    It’s not like this is a new rule for most schools outside of the SEC – and would make more sense to actually go with a number that matches, ya know, the scholarship limit of 85… This rule basically says “Hi Nick, you can oversign by 15 every 4 years instead of an unlimited number.”

    The reason this rule matters to the SEC west? Because they’re the only ones egregiously breaking signing limit rules. I mean, the Big Ten has had oversigning rules for 50+ years.

    I shouldn’t be such a pessimist; it’s still progress, so I can’t complain about that.


    • TarheelTiger

      Thanks for giving us the morality perspective from the Big 10.

      In reality you are signing 85 (or whatever number) each year because schollies are one year. A novel idea might be that if there are “x” number of open slots on the roster then that’s how many you are allowed to sign. That also “matches, ya know, the scholarship limit of 85.”

      Yes, we’re so glad you’re pleased with the progress we’re making down here. /mdwm


      • Adam

        Not even a Big Ten fan, but you’re welcome.

        Don’t sign more than the total scholarships available at the time and don’t force kids out of your program that are doing the right things.

        It’s not a moral or novel idea. It’s literally the mission of collegiate sports.


        • South FL Dawg

          You need to recognize a couple of things. For one thing the rule wasn’t a problem before certain coaches came along. For another thing, the problem isn’t signing but rather cutting players.

          IOW, who cares if you sign 30 as long as you had 30 that graduated or left the program willingly. But it would be wrong if you only signed say 15, but you had to cut some guys out to make room.

          I would say that a moral issue is exactly what this is.


      • Adam

        One more thing from my previous post – this site has a Georgia Bulldog focus.

        If I were a Georgia (or Florida) fan, I’d be pissed that everyone else is getting away with this and we’re doing things with integrity.

        Just as I said I’m not a Big Ten fan, I’m not an SEC fan, either. Just a Blutarski blog fan, so maybe this stuff shouldn’t matter to me.

        It does because it’s a terrible thing to do to a young person.


        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          I am generally against oversigning and have said so before on this blog. That said, I disagree that “it is a terrible thing to do to a young person.” Where does it say in the constitution that if you sign a scholarship for one year that means you are entitled to that scholarship for 4 years? Are you entitled to keep your job if you do not perform? I’m not. Frankly, one of the problems which some have perceived as being behind the less successful seasons of ’09 and ’10 was the sense of entitlement that some on those teams had re: entitlement to a scholarship. Specifically, they were not afraid that they would lose it for bad performance and therefor did not work as hard as they should have particularly in the weight room during the off-season. Saban has no problem with effort because a certain percentage of Tide team members are going to be gone for underachievement every year and nobody wants to be in that group–so they all bust their asses. Does carrying a non-performer on your team thereby using a scholarship that could go to a performer teach any life lesson to the non-performers about the real world? No, it actually sends the message so many of the younger generation have now come to believe–that the world owes them something ( a living, a job, a scholarship, an education, etc.) just for being there. Worse, what sort of message does that send to the performers on the team? And if other teams oversign, thereby gaining an advantage over your team because you will not do so, is that fair to the majority of team members who do perform who are being placed at a competitive disadvantage because deadwood is being carried? Have we become communists now? If the rules get fixed so that nobody can effectively oversign—great. However, if the ones who are doing it now still can do so we better start rethinking UGA’s position against oversigning or else forget about ever winning the SECCG again, not to mention the BCSNCG.


  2. Alphadawg

    It seems to me they make this more complicated than it needs to be. Simply allow each shool to sign 25 kids every year. No more no less. If you don’t sign 25, you loss those scholarships. They don’t rollover, they cannot be counted toward next year. If kids who are offered(sign on signing day) fail to enroll or fail to qualify you give those scholarships as rewards to walkons (So, Jr, Sr) but the limit is still 25 total per year.

    And allow an early signing period, with binding commitments from both the school and the player, that can only be voided if the Head Coach leaves the school prior to signing day.


    • W Cobb Dawg

      Agreed. If we’re going to have a strict 85 scholarship limit, we should also have a strict 25 recruit limit. Need to remove all the b.s. and keep it simple.

      I enjoy following the recruiting buildup, but the gymnastics employed by the likes of saban are taking the fun out of following this aspect of the game. It’s akin to banksters coming up with new ways to game the system to the detriment of everyone except themselves.


      • Alphadawg

        Do away with the 85 limit, and give each school 25 scholarships to award each year. If you sign 25 kids each year, they all enroll and stay in good standing and out of trouble then its possible that in 4 years you can have 100 kids on scholarships.


        • The other Doug

          With redshirts the total would balloon from 85 to as many as 125 under your scenario. A number closer to 20 is probably more practical.


  3. Dawgaholic

    The rule as it is now is fine as to how it back-counts. It does not take a genius to figure out that you can sign 25 on signing day and the 360 days or so before the next signing day.

    The rule should also allow you to exceed 25 when the current number of enrolled spring semester scholarship players with remaining eligibility is less than 60. This rule would effectively be that you can exceed 25 in a year if your current scholarship players with eligibility remaining plus your new signees will not exceed 85. Further, teams would have the ability to declare any scholarship for a player that first joined the team as a walk-on to be a one year scholarship that would not count toward the 85.


  4. Hogbody Spradlin

    “[T]he SEC cap prevented Taylor from signing,”

    Baloney. Alabama had room the day the Justin Taylor story broke. Once Nick Saban figured out Taylor couldn’t be meat on the hoof this fall, he jerked the offer faster than you can say ‘tough enchiladas kid.’


  5. Russ

    I blame Bobo.


  6. Always Someone Else's Fault

    Different conferences have different calendars for this sort of stuff. The basic effect of the B1G rules, for example, simply pushes player attrition forward into December and January. Why sending a kid looking for a new home over Christmas break or even a week or two into the spring semester somehow trumps doing it in July, I have no idea.

    To be clear, I think both situations stink, and I am not going to split hairs over which is the lesser evil of the two.

    All of this — ALL of it — stems from the decision that keeping scholarship counts between Georgia and Indiana equal in both basketball and football is more important than anything else. If Indiana’s boosters are willing to fund 20 basketball scholarships, and Georgia’s boosters are willing to fund 125 football scholarships, more power to them. Problems eliminated.

    Kids chase playing time. They have an intimate familiarity with depth charts. If you’re THAT worried about hoarding, relax transfer rules for the bottom chunk of the roster, which takes care of the other NCAA issue which bothers me most.


  7. Macallanlover

    I think the Big 10/11/12 should crow about there adherence to the moral scholarship line. There is very little that is better in that conference but kudos to them for not acting like scumbags in this case. Coaches should not play with the lives and future of young men just because the rule isn’t written tightly enough. They know it is wrong, they simply put their personal goals ahead of what is ethical. Let Big 10/11/12 fans crow if they like, I will be happy when the SEC adopts similar rules. Until them, they hold the high ground. It makes no sense for the SEC office to have allowed this to go as far as it has.


  8. Always Someone Else's Fault

    I’ll take a few over-signers over the B1G’s recent ethical lapses any day of the week, if we have to start comparing and contrasting. We’re talking about kids playing football for a specific program, not a generic opportunity to go to college. Those are two separate things. It stinks when a kid loses his scholarship, and they do need more protection – but the rhetoric gets entirely overheated and overblown, and as a result the issues get lost in the invective. B1G crowing both misses the point and clowds the issue.


    • Macallanlover

      They are entirely different issues, I think you are the only one bringing oranges to an apple-festival. Big 10/11/12 has no other claim for superiority that I can think of, but they deserve credit for taking a stance the SEC is unwilling to take. They have been made to look like idiots for claiming to be clean in all things sorts regarding rules violations. In fact, they are pretty much the laughing stock of CFB now.


      • Macallanlover

        “sports” not sorts.


      • Always Someone Else's Fault

        No – not laughingstocks to anyone but you, Adam and a few hyperbolic tweeters.

        I didn’t bring the apples and oranges. I’m just pointing them out on the debate table.

        Someone spent a lot of time trying to make those two inseparable. The end result: the SEC now makes the NCAA rules on this issue, and everyone else is laughing at the guys who spent so much time arguing that college football needs to look a lot more like Tressel’s and Paterno’s programs.

        Focus on the kids – even the ones in the Big 10 – and stop pretending that only SEC West teams do this sort of thing. You might actually get somewhere with your ideas.


  9. Macallanlover

    Perhaps you don’t find it humorous that tosu and “we are” ‘s recent problems fly in the face of sanctimonious Big 10/11/12 fans who acted like all the problems were elsewhere. Not funny for the athletes involved, but put pie on the face of the alums who acted as if all the behavior issues were in the SEC. You won’t find any post where I don’t include the welfare of the athletes in my thinking, thus I have always been against any “oversigning” by schools whether it is in the SEC, or other conferences. If the NCAA doesn’t have the gonads to implement rules on this, conference leadership should step up.