Oversigning is a relatively fresh topic about an age old practice utilized throughout the history of college sports. It is prevalent and most scrutinized in football due to it's popularity. While it has gone on for a very long time I would have to say the beginning of all the attention has to start back in 1958.
Paul "Bear" Bryant joined Alabama in 1958 and brought Alabama back from a 3 year Hiatus. They had won a total of 4 games in that span. In his first year he amassed a 5-4-1 record. There is no denying he was a great coach with a stringent work ethic. His record in year one is proof of that. A common practice by many coaches and that of Bryant's in that day and age, was to recruit as many players as you can, players that want to be on your team, and coach them until roster cuts were required. A coach would utilize that talent and if for no other reason, he could cut that player from the team and avoid them joining a rival program. The problem had become so rampant that Georgia Tech, who used to be a member of the Southeastern Conference, left that conference for that very reason in 1963. They refused to take part in that mentality and as a result, suffered from the disadvantage that they were placed behind. Bobby Dodd had petitioned the SEC to take action on these schools inside the conference that were basically having on field tryouts. Sounds a little familiar, ehh? Well, if you don't know, you are soon to be informed.
So, how this translates into the current model of college football. The NCAA requires that rosters be cut to 85 scholarship members. The NCAA also has a rule that you can have no more than 25 scholarship offered per year and be enrolled. Wait. 25x4=100 right? (In the SEC 30+29+28+32=85) What happens in order to get that 100 down to 85. A few things take place that bring that number down.
- Medical Redshirts due to injuries
- Being kicked off the team for criminal charges or violating team rules
- The controversial, not meeting physical standards
Medical redshirts: Since I already started on Alabama I shall remain true to form. In four years under Nick Saban they have had 12 Medical Redshirts, meaning that college student is injured to the point that he no longer can play football. Ohio State has not had that many or even close to that number, in ten years under Tressel. The entire SEC has not had that many combined in the four years of football in which Saban has coached for Alabama. If college football were really a business OSHAA would have shut that business down.
Grayshirts: This practice involves taking a current player or recruited player and asking them to sit out a year. Sometimes this is done to improve a students grades and to help them become a better all around student and sometimes this is done because Les Miles can't do math. Elliot Porter was enrolled, promised a scholarship, had housing established, and was working out with the LSU team. The day came for rosters to be cut to 85 and the numbers weren't adding up. Les asked Porter to take a Gray shirt and Porter refused. He was then removed from the team and lost the ability to play for another division 1 team. He was a highly ranked recruit with many other scholarship offers nationwide.
Criminal Acts: Depending on how good you are, this may apply to you in the SEC.
Academics: Based on many of the interviews heard from Auburn and Alabama players, I think this is based on a case by case basis as well.
Not physically performing: While many coaches state that they never let a kid go because he isn't cutting the mustard, this can be done because scholarships are renewable every year. There is no four year guarantee, at least not in the South East. While Ohio State has issues walk-ons scholarships in their Junior or Senior years of college, there is no room on teams like Alabama or Ole Miss that will cut kids to make room for more scholarship athletes. See this http://www.elevenwarriors.com/forum/football/2011/02/oversigning-houston-nutt.
So why does Alabama and Auburn require so many players to field a team? Good question. In the past 5 years, Auburn has recruited and signed 144 athletes. In that same span, Ohio State has signed 98. I can't remember the way Ohio High School football has their divisions set up but there is a reason that the larger schools don't play the smaller. There is a distinct competitive advantage. Let's look at some of the numbers that we have faced since 2005.
- Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
- OSU/82 Avg 20.5 ND/70 Avg 17.5
2. Ohio State vs. Florida
- OSU/78 Avg 19.5 FLA/94 Avg 23.5
3. Ohio State vs. LSU
- OSU/77 Avg 19.25 LSU/91 Avg 22.75
4. Ohio State vs. Texas
- OSU/73 Avg 18.25 TEX/84 Avg 21
5. Ohio State vs. Oregon
- OSU/80 Avg 20 ORG/98 Avg 24.5
6. Ohio State vs. Arkansas
- OSU/78 Avg 19.5 ARK/109 Avg 27.25
So if you take the teams numbers and divide them by four you will see that every team except for Arkansas falls below the average of 25 per year. In order to fill that 85 man roster the average has to be 21.25. Only Texas and ND fit the bill. The question is, "How did those teams over 21.25 reach those numbers and still remain within NCAA policy. That is where the real controversy is. According to NCAA rules no team is doing anything "Illegal". There are so many loopholes inside the NCAA rules and regulations that a slimy, low life coach can work the numbers and system to make anything appear legitimate. The problem is when you compare a team that works the system to any team inside the BigTen, the numbers are vastly uneven. Whose fault is that? The coach that cares not about the kids in his program and is using them to further his career and the prestige of the college or the BigTens for putting the college students best interests first? No one forced the Big Ten into making the rules that it has in place. That rule is that you can offer no more scholarships than you have room for. What the NCAA needs to do is make a rule that is similar to the BigTens if the students interest is their primary concern. The NCAA's interests are largely debateable.
I take no credit for a lot of these facts and figures on this page. The majority of this work has been done by Joshua at WWW.OVERSIGNING.COM . What I have posted is a continuation of his work and I can never be as detailed and thorough as what he is. I don't have the time in the day to do it. If this topic interests you, please go check his site out and become a believer.