NCAA has lost sight of mission, needs to end ‘oversigning’

Nobody questions Nick Saban's ability to recruit and coach but he's notorious for "oversigning."

Nobody questions Nick Saban's ability to recruit and coach but he's notorious for "oversigning."

Grant Teaff calls this a “complicated issue.” I guess that’s the problem with the concept of amateur athletics. Dollars complicate the issue.

Dollars tell college football officials it’s fine to start games at 9 p.m and play for the national title on Jan. 10 (37 days after the regular season). It’s OK to preach academics in one news conference and approve 12-game schedules in another.

Apparently, it’s also OK for a coach to extend 20-something scholarship offers to players when the numbers scream he only has room for 12 – just as long as he can make the math work out by bed check in July (wink wink, nudge nudge).

This “complicated issue” is called oversigning. It occurs when a college football program extends more scholarship offers than it has room for. The NCAA allows teams to enroll up to 25 scholarship players per year and have 85 at one time. Obviously, with most student-athletes attending college for four years, you can see right away there’s going to be an excess.

The problem isn’t limited to shrinking 100 to 85. Some schools, most notably Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss, have seen the ethics of their programs and coaches called into question. The charge is that players are being run off. Scholarships become available when underachieving players are given “medical scholarships” (effectively ending their career), or being pressured to transfer by being told they’re not good enough and they’re not going to get playing time.

Other recruits are being asked not to enroll until the following January, so they’ll count on the following year’s class. It’s like transferring credit card balances from one card to another to avoid payment – except in this case, we’re talking about a human being.

This isn’t to indict all coaches and all situations. Fact is, many coaches “oversign” because some players don’t qualify academically. There also are legitimate reasons somebody may transfer.

But this “complicated issue” is growing and becoming increasingly ugly. A Wall Street Journal article in September quoted three Alabama players who were given medical scholarships. All said they believe coach Nick Saban tries to use the exemptions to clear roster spots for better players.

Houston Nutt currently has 26 commitments for 15 spots, according to Oversigning.com.

Houston Nutt currently has 26 commitments for 15 spots, according to Oversigning.com. (AP photo)

Teaff, the former Baylor coach, is the executive director of American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). He said he, “Wouldn’t deny that these things” are occurring. He added: “Any time a coach literally runs a player off, that’s wrong.”

But he doesn’t believe the practice is widespread and said any coach who chooses to run off players “will find that it’s going to come back to haunt them. That gets back to the high school coaches, and relationships with the high school coaches are imperative to recruiting.”

That’s true, but it’s not stopping it from happening. The website Oversigning.com has become a clearing house for the issue. It currently is tracking Alabama as having 23 commitments (including junior college) for 13 spots, Ole Miss with 26 for 15  and LSU with 21 for 12. In 2009, Rebels coach Houston Nutt somehow finessed a signing class of 37. LSU

Grant Teaff, right with Joe Paterno, doesn't believe the problem is widespread.

Grant Teaff, with Joe Paterno, doesn't believe the problem is widespread.

coach Les Miles effectively cut a player, Elliott Porter, because everybody in the recruiting class academically qualified. Porter had already moved into the dorm.

The NCAA has rules in place. But as former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman told the Journal, there’s “a loophole in the system.” He also said: “It’s a business. College football is all about politics.”

It’s also about money and winning, but not always ethics. If there’s a loophole, coaches will exploit it, particularly during recruiting.

This isn’t going on everywhere. Georgia’s Mark Richt and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson seem to understand the mission of college athletics. But it’s an issue that taints the sport.

The NCAA can do something about this. It just hasn’t felt enough pressure to do so. Here are a few suggestions:

♦ A hard cap: A coach can only sign as many kids as the 25/85 rule allows.  If a recruit doesn’t qualify academically and the program is left one player  short, that’s on the coach. Maybe he shouldn’t have recruited the player to begin with. All coaches will be dealing with same rules. If the class ends up being one short, the coach can hit the streets for a replacement.

♦ No more “gray shirts.” This is the practice of asking a player who signs a letter of intent in February but doesn’t enroll until the following January, just so the numbers work.

♦ Unrestricted transferring: If the NCAA insists on giving coaches all this power, let’s make it equal. Players can transfer to another FBS school without having to redshirt a year. Seems only fair.

Some coaches are accepting no responsibility for recruits who don’t pan out.  So the kid turns out to not be “five-star” worthy after all, or he gets injured, or he struggles academically. These things happen.

Is the mission of college athletics to kick student-athletes to the curb so the head coach can maintain his status and hit an incentive in his contract? What happened to the mission?

It’s not complicated.

By Jeff Schultz

Last 4 posts (in high-def!)

Part I: A word about ‘oversigning’ (and revisiting Saban’s dance)

Time to mock! Kiper, McShay say Falcons take . . .

Stacy Searels leaving Georgia? Can I offer him a lift?

SEC’s get into ‘Smack Wear’ with BCS T-shirt (really?)

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

401 comments Add your comment

RollTideGamecocks

January 20th, 2011
3:34 pm

Sorry Saban enjoys winning and bringing in a good team. RTR

Paul H

January 20th, 2011
3:34 pm

Aye Jay #8

January 20th, 2011
3:35 pm

Mark Richt should try this tactic.

Paul H

January 20th, 2011
3:35 pm

RollTideGamecocks

January 20th, 2011
3:35 pm

Sorry Saban enjoys winning and bringing in top recruits.

RTR

January 20th, 2011
3:37 pm

This just shows again why Nick Saban is the best coach in the country. Mark Richt is to busy offering friends then over signing talent.

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 20th, 2011
3:38 pm

Drop the student-athlete charade and pay the players. Treat it as what it is, a big business that is a defacto NFL minor league. Let the NFL pay the bill.

Paul H

January 20th, 2011
3:39 pm

Jeff, are you saying the NCAA can do something about this, but has chosen not to??? Whaaaat?? I can’t believe the same NCAA that allowed the OSU players to still play in the Sugar Bowl would do such a thing!!

Paul H

January 20th, 2011
3:40 pm

I hope Richt is using this information as a recruiting tactic AGAINST Bama and LSU.

Steve

January 20th, 2011
3:41 pm

I completely agree that “oversigning” is a huge problem. Every year, there are kids left out in the cold simply because a school decides that while they would offer a scholarship in June-November, the numbers in February simply didn’t add up with him. Moreover, countless upperclassmen are dropped from scholarships annually to make room for the next recruiting All-American class. It’s ridiculous.

The only issue is the “hard cap” suggestion. Not all schools are on the same level academically, and there are times where the school will not accept a recruit even though they meet NCAA requirements. Coaches need to be able to have some flexibility with this, but the current system is certainly not the solution.

RTR

January 20th, 2011
3:41 pm

Chuck Kirschman also got free football tickets and his graduate studies paid for. Cry me a river.

Jambi

January 20th, 2011
3:41 pm

College football is irrepairably broken………..this is just one of many examples……..

this shows again

January 20th, 2011
3:42 pm

Do what ya gotta do right RTR? and this shows why saban is the BEST in the country.? The best at what? being the devil incarnate? If hes guilty of what it would appear he is..(and he is) yep, pretty much

George O'leary

January 20th, 2011
3:43 pm

Finally, an intelligent column from Schultz. They’re gonna take your Terrence Moore trophy from you if ya keep this up.

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
3:45 pm

This sounds just like what the airlines do with overbooking a flight. It is a perfectly accepted practice (unless you get bumped) because the public will book a flight and then not show up so the airlines overbook (based on the history of the flight) so that they are not stuck with an empty seat and thus no revenue for that seat when they know there are people that would have used the seat if they could have.

I don’t really see much difference here since we all should know that kids tend to change their mind about what college they will attend. How can you really blame a college coach for trying to make sure all of the available scholarships are used instead of being left short-handed due to the fickleness of a teenager? Do some get burned by the process? Of course. But the real problem is the lack of living up to a promise by the kids involved. They say I am coming but nobody thinks twice if they change their mind and leave the school short.

Should the coaches not do this – probably – but how can you really blame them when they are stuck with having to avoid broken promises by the kids. It is a 2-way street as far as I am concerned. Have the kids uphold their word and then the coaches have no reason to oversign. Problem solved. (Sorry – breaking one’s word is a pet peeve of mine…)

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
3:47 pm

I will get off of my soapbox now…thank you for reading (if you did)..

RTR

January 20th, 2011
3:50 pm

@ This Shows Again…. Last I checked Saban has won two national championships at two different schools didn’t he? It also looks like he will be bringing in ANOTHER number 1 recruiting class AGAIN. It also looks like Alabama will be a top 10 team this year. What has Richt done since at UGA? He over signs, but brings in championships. You can have a coach who does not over sign, but doesn’t bring rings.

Dball

January 20th, 2011
3:50 pm

With significantly fewer scholarships (11.7 for 35 man rosters) college baseball has a huge over recruiting problem. Georgia’s reputation here is not very good.

Radio

January 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

Don’t know the answer, but here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Allow 1 or 2 over the 25/85 rule for non-qualifiers.

2. Make the coaches responsible for poor recruiting choices – can’t just run players off or loss of that scolly for remainder of 4 years.

Grammar Man

January 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

My only complaint is you let South Carolina, Arkansas, and Auburn off the hook.

SlothropDawg

January 20th, 2011
3:53 pm

If the NCAA can’t or won’t do something about this, it is time to pack up shop and end the farce that is college football.

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
3:53 pm

To ALL the Bammer Jammers who will justify Nick $aban doing these practices,

You know darn well if the tables were turned, and UGA was over the limit, and Bammer was not, you would be screaming “Foul” louder than any other school.

“Roll Tide” might sound cool where you come from. But here it’s the equivalent of having diarrhea spewing from your mouth.

Mark Richt is 3-1 against the “Tide” (whatever a “Tide” is)

overhaulncaa

January 20th, 2011
3:53 pm

Jeff, you missed a huge point when you didn’t talk about Auburn. Auburn signed 119 players in the past four years. That’s one reason they won this year. Look at the number of signees from oversigning.com to understand why the SEC West has risen.

SEC Recruiting Numbers 2007 – 2010
Teams 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total Average
Auburn 30 29 28 32 119 29.75
Ole Miss 22 31 37 25 115 28.75
Miss. State 33 27 27 26 113 28.25
Alabama 25 32 27 29 113 28.25
Arkansas 27 26 31 25 109 27.25
South Carolina 31 23 29 23 106 26.5
LSU 26 26 24 29 105 26.25
Kentucky 29 20 29 26 104 26
Tennessee 32 18 22 25 97 24.25
Florida 27 22 17 27 93 23.25
Georgia 23 24 20 19 86 21.5
Vanderbilt 14 21 18 24 77 19.25

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
3:58 pm

RTR,

How many Bammer Jammers does is take to change a lightbulb?

100. 1 to change it, and 99 to talk about how bright the last one was.

Enough of the “National Championships” garbage. Bammer is a 10-3 team, who won the Capital One bowl, with all the talent and “most amazing” coach in the world.

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
4:00 pm

Bama was obviously too busy trying to learn how to spell “Mississippi” this past year, rather than win any kind of Championship.

What a TERRIBLE waste of talent at Bama. You have the returning Heisman Trophy winner, and basically the entire team back form a undefeated year, and “God’s gift to football” coaching them, and they lose 3 games.

Alabama: Where talent goes to die.

RTR

January 20th, 2011
4:01 pm

D A DoubleU G

What was UGA’s record this year? I forgot after the UCF loss. How many SEC championships have you won? How many national championships have you won? Nice Joke, lets hear another!

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
4:04 pm

RTR – fans of underachieving college football teams are always jealous of the ones that are successful and try to sling mud at the ones who are being successful They just sound petty and whiney to me…

RTR

January 20th, 2011
4:04 pm

No matter how you play it the only thing UGA has is Herschel Walker. Other than that Alabama has better tradition, teams, coaches, stadium, and everything else possible.

RTR

January 20th, 2011
4:05 pm

I am glad GA Tech is here. Bobby Dodd was a true competitor!

George Stein

January 20th, 2011
4:06 pm

D A DoubleU G, I find myself in the strange position of agreeing with you. I suppose that if the price of winning is selling your conscience, I’m not that interested. Enjoy your rings, RTR.

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
4:08 pm

I don’t think anyone has shown that what the coaches (and not just Saban – he is just a convenient target) are doing something illegal here – they are abiding by the rules as far as meeting the numbers. It just seems some people do not like the method. Is there a rule that says they cannot rescind a scholarship after it is given if they are over the limit? I don’t think so.

Hal

January 20th, 2011
4:09 pm

You also missied one point. When you oversign you are keeping some good kids away from the competition. Bear used to do it all the time.

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
4:10 pm

RTR,

you prove my point, in your comeback. All you want to talk about is the past, and who has more championships in the PAST.

WHen your team loses 3 games, you really should be rather quiet over the offseason. And if you do not want to hear from passionate UGA fans, I would recommend not hanging out on a blog in Atlanta.

Trust me, people from the state of Georgia do to want anything to do with the landfill you call Birmingham. Maybe you should go to one of their newspaper’s blogs.

George Stein

January 20th, 2011
4:11 pm

It’s not illegal, vmguru. It is unethical, though.

JSS

January 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

“Alabama: Where talent goes to die.”
I hate D-1 college football; but that’s “crazy damn talk!”

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

D A DoubleU G – last time I checked the Alabama football team is not located in Birmingham…unless you are talking about UAB which is not the same thing…

@wbarker

January 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

For this to work, there has to be a rule to make the athlete stick to his commitment once he verbally says yes. If not, he could change his mind at the last minute and then force the coaches to scramble for a replacement.

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

this shows again

January 20th, 2011
4:13 pm

D A DoubleU G…. sounds a LOT like 2008 huh?

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
4:13 pm

wbarker – exactly my point in my long post earlier. The kids need to be held to their word and make the commitment a 2-way street.

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
4:14 pm

vmguru,

last I checked UGA is not located in Atlanta. But we are on an Atlanta blog.

Tuscaloosa is to Birmingham, what Athens is to Atlanta.

Idiot.

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
4:15 pm

Ah, we have finally resorted to name calling by D A – shallow, really shallow. Name calling is what we did as kids, not adults…

Alphare

January 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

Alabama has 13 spots? they have 15 to graduate, 3 juniors declared for the NFL, plus, like any other school, they will have players with medical/grades and other issues.

where does the 13 spots come from?

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

And to follow your logic, you should be on an Athens blog and this should be for Georgia Tech fans since they are actually in Atlanta. I haven’t indicated anything to say what my favorite team is – I was commenting on the practice that Jeff brought up, not as it related to any one team.

Einsteindawg

January 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

Actually, the NCAA has outlived its usefulness. Lax in oversigning, inconsistent in discipline, coddling the high profile schools, and woefully slow in all investigations, the NCAA will be replaced by the BCS group because they recognize the reality of college football…it is all about the money. The NCAA will become the oversight body for all the non-revenue producing sports and maybe sponsor a tennis tournament or so. They’ll become the new AAU.

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
4:17 pm

The 2010 Bammer Jammers are IDENTICAL to the 2008 Dawgs.

And we see how long it’s taking to rebuild after losing all the talent at UGA after that year.

But don’t try to tell that to a Bammer Jammer. They are convinced they will be better without Ingram, Julio and McElroy.

I personally do not see Bammer winning 9 games next year.

D A DoubleU G

January 20th, 2011
4:18 pm

vmguru,

Georgia Tech has about 200 fans. They do not matter in Atlanta. Atlanta is Dawg country. And that kills them. But it is true.

RTR

January 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

DA Double U G.

Your way off. Birmingham is not like that to us. Its Tuscaloosa and thats it. Getting back to the point who will have a better season next year- UGA or Bama?

David

January 20th, 2011
4:21 pm

Yes, this is awful; too many kids are being given the opportunity to obtain an excellent and free education and also perform on the biggest athletic stage out there! Just awful I tell you. What makes it worse is when they a student athlete has to go a medical scholarship (allowing them to finish their degree for free) due to injury instead of just being cut from the team and sent home. This whole oversigning issue is a self-created ‘butthurt’ by the big 10 and other conferences that want to whine about integrity and academics. The same schools that prop up Laurice Clarett and Terrell Pryor as student athletes. Get over it.

vmguru

January 20th, 2011
4:22 pm

Atlanta has so many people that have transferred in from other parts of the country I don’t think it is as much Dawg country as you think. I agree there are a lot but there is a really large number of fans here for other schools.

Plus, I would point out again that I never said what team I follow. This blog was about college football and the practice of oversigning. I fail to see how that makes this blog for Dawg fans only. Maybe you are getting it confused with the UGA blog by Tim Tucker.