The road to oversigning

Here’s a “the more things change, the more they stay the same” quote for you:

“If athletic programs were forced to operate on their own merits like any other formal college activity, then our student athletes would be served. No national agency now defends the college athlete against those who prey upon him for their own egotistical or financial gain. It is as protector of the young that the NCAA must fight for what is both humane and right. Too much time has been spent defending colleges and coaches from each other and too little protecting young and naive athletes from some of the grim customs followed in the name of intercollegiate athletics.”

No, that’s not testimony from the O’Bannon trial, or something Jeffrey Kessler said.  It’s from a 1972 letter NCAA president Walter Byers wrote.  Not that anybody listened then… or later.

During the 1972 NCAA convention, Notre Dame chief financial officer Rev. Edmund Joyce expressed concern about the one-year scholarship proposal “because in the past we have been great advocates of the four-year plan rather than one-year plan for the simple reason we wanted to avoid any temptation being placed in front of the coaches for running off athletes. It seems much more equitable to the students themselves to commit yourself to the four-year period.”

The cost-effective crowd won, joined by coaches “who complained that some athletes, once they had the four-year award in hand, decided not to play, or at least not to give their best efforts,” Byers wrote in his 1995 book. “Such players were cheating the college, they pointed out, and young people should not be permitted to learn bad habits.”

Twenty-two years after the decision, Byers wrote that proponents of the new scholarship rules “took elaborate precautions” to make them acceptable, such as assuring voters the coach would have to justify his decision to pull a scholarship to an unbiased university oversight committee. At the NCAA convention in January 1973, more than two-thirds of the delegates approved the one-year scholarship rule and the grant-in-aid cap. “It took less than 90 seconds,” Byers wrote.

The NCAA revised the maximum number of allowable scholarships several times between 1973 and 1991. In 1991 the NCAA reduced the number of permissible scholarships in Division I sports by 10 percent. The primary reason cited was cost-savings measures to continue to operate broad-based programs.

“This proposal is flawed, it is simply bad legislation,” Texas Tech faculty athletics representative Robert M. Sweazy said in 1991. “There is no question that it will reduce costs, but it does so at the sacrifice of academic principle, mainly retention and graduation. Again, what this does is encourage unethical treatment of student athletes by coaches and discourages retention and graduation.”

It wasn’t enough to have caps in place.  Coaches still gonna coach.  So that left exploring the edge of the envelope.  Which worked, even if it made some uncomfortable.

For many years, the NCAA and conferences have struggled with how to deal with oversigning — the practice of coaches signing more players in a recruiting class than they currently have room for given NCAA scholarship limits. New signing limit rules were created by the NCAA regarding the 25-player limit per class, although oversigning still occurs to various degrees.

In February 2011, NCAA vice president of championships and alliances Dennis Poppe wrote to NCAA president Mark Emmert about his concerns regarding oversigning. Poppe said it undermines “the trust factor a coach must have with his players.”

When the numbers don’t add up, Poppe wrote, “the coach either (1) withdraws the scholarship from an incoming player, (2) grey-shirts (delayed enrollment by recruits), (3) obtains a medical waiver or (4) ‘runs off’ a current player. Frankly, grey-shirting or getting a mysterious medical waiver may be the better of these four evils.”

Poppe told Emmert he had discussed oversigning with football coach Urban Meyer “and he noted that when he was at Utah he routinely oversigned to try and get as many players on his squad as possible.” Poppe added to Emmert, “I also think our current squad size and signing limitations contribute to this practice. When you have an 85-man limit — but you can sign 25 — he math doesn’t add up.” But increasing the number of football scholarships to 90 “doesn’t make sense in these economic times,” Poppe wrote.

Yeah, well, you work with what you’ve got, right, Corch?

This is why I could only laugh at those of you who insisted on the sacredness of adhering to the rules in the Gurley suspension.  “Todd knew the rules”, you said.  Well, so do the coaches and the schools.  Not that it’s been much of an impediment to those who were prepared to game an already corrupt system.

These are not people who deserve the benefit of the doubt anymore.



Filed under College Football, The NCAA

10 responses to “The road to oversigning

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    Rules for thee but not for me?


  2. Russ

    Interesting article. Thanks Senator.


  3. I absolutely agree with your conclusion and Hogbody’s summary is apropos BUT given UGA’s proclivity for running off talent in any of a dozen different ways aren’t we actually a school who could oversign and get away with it? Taking nothing away from your righteous conclusion that these cost-effective bastards can and should not be trusted I think Georgia’s track record with actually running off thieves(Marshall,etc.),stoners(whether we should or not is a different discussion),woman beaters and general dumbass energy vampires we historically have plenty of room to get under 85. Coach Richt is not going to change his disciplinary policy so why not just be willing to work it into our equation for recruiting?


  4. Nick A

    Great read.


  5. DawgPhan

    I agree that the next class is huge and that will fill some gaps. I think that the 2016 is really important as well. Follow a 30 person class with a 25 and we will be cooking. Just sign 25 every year and we will be right where we want to be.


    • Hogbody Spradlin

      It probably takes a few more than 25 per year to maintain 85 at opening day. Attrition is pretty steep. Lots of losses for plenty of reasons that don’t make news.


  6. The Count

    Great points made as usual, Senator. I just caught the 30 for 30 on The Boz. He wore that shirt which read “National Communists Against Athletes.” He was ashamed of it, but I’m guessing only because of the backlash it caused and lead to him being kicked off OU. I think he was just way ahead of his time. Someone wears that today and I think majority of fans agree. At least the majority of the well-informed fans.


  7. AusDawg85

    The NCAA…letting foxes into the henhouse every day.