Here we are in late January with National Signing Day just around the corner. One of the topics that usually rears its ugly head this time of year is Oversigning. Many of you know I will often dive into these conversations when it surfaces – and being an Alabama fan, I rarely share the popular opinion (or at least I don’t subscribe to the hivethink). I’ve often wanted to start a series of discussions on the topic here and see where it takes us, but during my conversations with various fans and in reading articles on the subject over the last few years, it has become clear to me that there is not a clear definition of what Oversigning is. Depending on who you are talking to / reading, the meaning of the word could be two (or more) vastly different things. One person could argue that Alabama is the worst offender of Oversigning out there, another could say they don’t even do it, and another still could say they do, but no worse than anybody else – and they could all be correct given the different definitions they may be using. So as an exercise in trying to clear this up a bit, and as a start to maybe a series of discussions on the topic, let’s look at 5 of the common definitions for Oversigning I have come across.
1. The first definition of Oversigning is rather vague: You count how many LOIs a team has acquired over a number of years and if it is higher than most, then that team has oversigned. There isn’t really a particular number or benchmark, it is purely subjective where the line is drawn. It doesn’t matter how many players the team had room for, or how many of those signed actually make it to campus, or for how long. It solely looks at LOIs signed vs. an arbitrary norm.
2. When recruiting, teams may have no more than 85 scholarship players in any given year, nor more than 25 new players in any single recruiting class. This second definition deals exclusively with the 25-rule. There is little to no consideration given to the 85-man limit. If a team signs 26 or more players on National Signing Day (NSD), then that team has oversigned - simple as that.
3. The next definition is the inverse of the previous one: It looks mostly at the 85-man limit, giving little care to the 25 limit on class size. Oversigning then, is the act of accepting more signed LOIs on NSD then you have room for under the 85-man limit. How many you have room for is strictly taken from the team roster as of NSD. Basically, remove seniors, juniors who declared for the NFL, and any other attrition made public beforehand from the previous year’s roster, and subtract the remaining number of players from 85. That is how many LOIs can be accepted without Oversigning. For example, if you have 65 players returning on scholarship as of NSD, and you sign 23, you have oversigned by 3 because 85-65=20 (even though you are still below the 25-LOI limit discussed in #2).
4. This definition is very similar to #3, except in how you calculate how many LOIs a team can sign before oversigning. This definition also looks primarily at the 85-man limit, but allows a coach to look ahead through the summer and account for expected attrition such as graduating underclassmen not returning, players who are going on medical hardships, players who have expressed their desire to transfer after the academic year, and for players who will not have their scholarships renewed for any other reason. Instead of looking at the roster as of NSD, this version allows the coach to project his roster to the end of the signing period (end of July / beginning of August) and use that as the baseline for how many he has room for. Using this version, the coach in the example given in #3 could very easily not have oversigned.
5. The last definition I will provide is one that doesn’t really deal with numbers. There are some who use Oversigning as a description of a recruiting style. Like for an overly aggressive recruiter who offers scholarships to too many players with no real plan and little evaluation or consideration given to the team’s needs. Or for a recruiter who lies to the recruits, stringing them along with the promise of an offer that likely never comes. Or when a coach signs too many players per one of the definitions above, and has to tell a kid he can’t enroll until the next spring (greyshirt) even though this was never discussed previously. There is not really one set definition for this: it can be whatever the accuser wants it to be in order to deliver the negative connotation toward the offender.
So which of these do you subscribe to? Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments.
In the next couple of days, I plan on posting a follow-up to this that gives a little more detail on the definitions (where they all came from and links/examples/problems) and maybe we can kinda come to an agreement which one to use in discussing it moving forward.