Oversigning Continues to Gain Awareness

By Jason Priestas on January 24, 2011 at 6:34p

This week, it's SI's Andy Staples taking a look at the controversial issue:

In spite of NCAA bylaw, more players will get caught in a similar scholarship crunch this year because the 28-signee limit is so toothless. The reason? The dates. Auburn could sign 32 players last year in spite of the SEC rule because the Tigers brought in five players -- including Heisman Trophy-winning junior college transfer quarterback Cam Newton -- in January. Only 27 players signed between February and May, one under the limit.

See also: This handy chart.

Hats off to the guys at oversigning.com for tirelessly working to move an obscure issue to the forefront.


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JakeBuckeye's picture

Aren't we on the fringe of oversigning right now? According to Alex's recent article we are dangerously close, are we not?

Jason Priestas's picture

We have a 100-year history of not engaging in this practice and though numbers are tight right now, we haven't crossed that threshold.

Luke's picture

We literally can't. The Big Ten has a hard cap of 25. The SEC's (which was only instituted this past year) is 28 and there's even great skepticism about whether that's going to be enforced or not.

Alex's picture

Yeah the only way to get around it is by counting early enrollees against last year. So this year we could technically sign over 25 because we have 4 early enrollees. Thank you Miller, Shazier, Heuerman, and Cash!

blazers34's picture

Did I see right that Schlegel was added to the OSU staff?  If so, in what capacity?

Kurt's picture

Interesting to scroll down to the bottom of that SI chart.  Boise, TCU, Stanford, Northwestern, obviously OSU, all down there, and still winning a lot of games.  Furthermore for NW, TCU and Stanford it's even more impressive considering they're private schools.

Hootie159's picture



I believe Joel Hale was also an early enrollee.

Sean N's picture

Yikes.  While I don't advocate playing at Miles or Saban levels, would it kill Tressel to actually use all the spots he has on actual players?  Seeing the Buckeyes down there with Rice and NU and Stanford and other academics-first schools is a little shocking.  How about getting another badass rather than handing out scholarships to senior walk-ons in the off season? While those guys might give Ken Gordon a feature story topic for a mid-october bye week Tuesday, they don't elevate the overall level of play.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

One possible advantage to strictly staying within the limits - a la JT - is that the coaching staff can use the old sales ploy known as the scarcity technique: "Buy now today! This offer may not be available tomorrow!" Oversigning is probably a significant net advantage overall, but the list reveals some anomolies (like Troy #1 and Ohio State, Boise, TCU way down the list).     

TLB's picture

BIG = Legends and Leaders.

NCAA should begin thinking more about the student-athlete and less about the Benjamin's

Dean's picture

Are people cool with the division names now?  There seems to be more acceptance now - honestly, I didn't quite get what the big deal was.

The_Lurker's picture

Still don't llike the division names. Can't stand 'em and never will.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Wait. The Little Sisters of the Poor oversign too? Well that wont help w/this. Cause they aren't winning championships back to back to back to back to back. This is only an issue cause the SEC is sill winning National Championships. Ramzy just posted a tweet about this w/an interesting link....

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Run_Fido_Run's picture

So what? And the old system under which the major programs could stockpile players with no scholarship limits only became an issue because those major programs became virtual dynasties, several winning over 80 percent of their games in certain decades and winning almost all of the mythical championships.

CFB rules have usually been enacted for two primary reasons: to protect the players's physical safety and to ensure/improve fairness (however fairness might be perceived, defined, etc.). 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Okay, I ran some quick numbers to gauge whether there is a correlation between oversigning (last five years) and win percentage (last four years) and, so far, at least the numbers suggest only a very slight positive correlation - meaning that it helps maybe a little bit, if at all, but there's not much there there. Of course, that was just a quick & dirty calculation. I would't want to draw any big conclusions yet. Nevertheless, maybe Ramzy has a point about "making mountains out of a loophole."

That said, I see CFB breaking into more competing camps than maybe the old days. The BT (and the BT Network) now has a complicated relationship with eSECpn. Many BT games are on espn, so that network is ostensibly still a partner, but it's also a competitor, heavily invested in, or tied to, the SEC (and now Texas). If if it doesn't provide a significant advantage, the practice of oversigning is sketchy, and as Ramzy suggested, associated with some programs who have a history of notoriously bad behavior (e.g., Auburn), PLUS it is a popular practice in the SEC West. Thus, it probably benefits the BT if the non-eSECpn media make a stink out of oversigning, anyway, regardless of whether it's a really a molehill disguised as a mountain. Auburn et al are already ACTUALLY cheating in other ways. The SEC schools are kind of joke academically, especially as regards the education of SEC CFB players. Even if the oversigning thing is really a proxy for other more legit issues, let's beat that proxy horse until it's dead!        

btalbert25's picture

My opinion with oversigning is, just like anything else it depends on the program.  It will benefit Alabama much more than Troy because of the level of talent they are oversigning.  I also think that, and you can't really run numbers on this, but Ole Miss' winning percentage is probably higher with Huston Nutt signing 35 players a year or whatever crazy number he had last year, than it would be if he singed the 28 that are allowed or fewer.  I think in general, oversigning is not the big deal it has been made out to be by Big 10 fans, however I still think there are some really shady, and rotten deals that happen with this practice(I'm looking at your Les Miles)  If they coaches want to do it, they should be honest and not snakes which Miles, Saban, and others are.

I know the Big 10 has some pretty solid schools, but do we really always need to bring up academics when comparing conferences.  Outside of Northwestern, it's not like we have Stanford, Duke, or Ivy league standards.  Most schools can still find a way to sneak a guy in if he has so so grades.  Granted maybe some schools have a little bit lower standards, but overall it's not like the SEC universities have a bunch of morons and retards graduating from them.  I know plenty of people who went to UK from my high school, and I know a plenty who were denied admittance, and they weren't that stupid for lack of a better term.  The wound up joining me at NKU and we all got good jobs with our degrees from a school with lower standards than an SEC school.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Fair enough. However, since oversigning can lead to kids being pushed out of their scholarships prior to graduation, and since those same kids probably end up graduating at even lower rates than typical CFB players, I do think it's a relevant point.

Conversely, I have to believe that partly what drives the BT's strict rules regarding scholarship signing limits is that they take the student-athlete mission piece fairly seriously, even if many of us don't quite buy it.  

Another Jason's picture

Probably part of the reason for the small correlation between oversigning and winning percentage is that teams who oversign tend to play most of their games against other teams who oversign, and teams who don't mostly play other teams who don't.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good point. The top of the chart seems to clustered in Bama/Mississippi/LA alley.

Another factor, along the lines of what Albert mentioned above, is the quality of the oversigning, not just pure quantity. Troy is #1 on the list, but for all we know, the place is just a mess - i.e. a dysfunctional environment causes a lot of turnover that is not strategic at all, and maybe partly accidental. Some big oversigners include K State, Temple, Iowa St, Tulsa, Marshall. Sorry, no offense to those associated with these schools, but some of these places are not conducive to good 4-5 year retention rates.

Whereas with Bama, Auburn, and the like, it's just the opposite: not only are these programs much more strategic with their oversigning, they do everything they possibly can to keep the productive players happy and well adjusted, their eligibilities intact, ensure that the good players are allegedly making progress toward their degrees, etc.

When I get a chance, I'll run some other correlations that attempt to filter out these other variables.