Defining Oversigning - Part 2

Catch 5's picture
January 23, 2014 at 11:58 am

Yesterday, I wrote this blog describing one of the problems with Oversigning complaints:  many of them are using different definitions.  Below, I give a little more detail about each of those definitions and where they came from / some examples of their use.  I also discuss why the definition is good or not for use.  If you didn't read the first part, I encourage you to do so first.

1.  Counting LOIs:  Do you often complain that SEC schools sign “an extra class every 4 years”?  Then you are a fan of definition #1.  This complaint became popular after Andy Staples published this table in Jan of 2011.  The table is a simple comparison of FBS team's number of LOIs accepted over the previous 5 years.  Oversigning critics say that it is unfair that so many SEC teams are atop that list.  They say that there must be unethical treatment of players to make room for so many recruits.  What they never take into account are other reasons for the discrepancies:  early exits to the NFL, players that don’t qualify, players that sign with only a couple years eligibility remaining (from JuCo), players that didn’t qualify, went to JuCo, and signed again (attributing two LOIs for only two years of play), and players that don’t show up for other reasons (like MLB contracts).  An actual comparison of Michigan State and Alabama (who played in the Cap 1 bowl just days before this table was published) players revealed that Alabama only used a few more scholarships than Sparty when these other factors were considered (despite the difference in LOIs).  The problem with this definition is that it is not clearly defined, and really doesn’t define what most see as the problem since LOIs do not equate to actual players on campus for 4 years in the real world.
2. The 25-man Rule:  Are you a fan of the SEC’s rules against Oversigning (not likely)?  Then this is the definition for you.  The SEC front office, largely in response to criticisms of Oversigning, enacted a rule that restricted teams from signing more than 25 LOIs per year.  There is nothing keeping a team from signing more than 85 players to the roster and then cutting players, so the rule does nothing to address what most critics were complaining about (supposedly).  In my opinion, this was a horrible move on the SEC’s part.  It was done mostly for PR reasons, but all it does is keep teams with depleted rosters from catching up quickly, and discourages teams from offering kids that may not qualify – neither of which are good things.  This definition of Oversigning is quite useless.  There are plenty of legitimate reasons to sign more than 25 players (early enrollees can back-count to the previous year, players willing to greyshirt count to the following year, encourage/help a kid who has struggled academically) and if a team has less than 60 scholarships returning, they have the room for it.  There really is no problem to be solved with this definition.

3. The 85-man Rule (on NSD):  Have you read  That website was little more than a continuous hit piece against Alabama, Nick Saban, and much of the SEC in general, (and had less journalistic integrity than Clay Travis) but it garnered a rather large following and has been recognized by several national writers. One thing it did well was defining what he saw as the problem.  My 3rd definition was taken, at times verbatim, from those pages.  While I disagree strongly with most of that site's conclusions (and how he got there) this is a good definition for the term, and is usually where I am coming from when discussing the topic.

4. The 85-Man Rule (Projected):  Did you know the Big 10 bans Oversigning?  While the B10 does have a rule against oversigning, it is not in print for the public anywhere that I am aware of.  We can get a pretty good idea of the fine print, however, from comments made by Associate Commissioner Chad Hawley - and from what he says, they don’t ban what most people think of when they hear "Oversigning".  

“What our rule does is make (a member) institution really plan ahead to get a solid handle on the number of available scholarships leading into an upcoming academic year. Institutes must evaluate each student athlete’s eligibility; see who’s transferring, going pro or just leaving the program, and who’s financial aid will not be renewed.  Once they go through that process and determine the slots they have available, they can offer three over.” 

So you see, schools that are often criticized for Oversigning could very well operate the same way under the B10 rule – if the attrition is expected and counted for per Mr. Hawley’s description.  The more I learn about the B10 rule, the more I like it.  The problem with using it for the definition for Oversigning, however, is that it is impossible to know these projected losses, and how they came about.  We fans would have no way of knowing who is Oversigning and who isn’t without this information.  The rule itself, however, is solid, and is how all programs should operate - which allows for the previous (#3) definition to stand, with those operating within the B10 rules being "guilty" of responsible oversigning (whether they are from the B10 or not).

5. Anything Bama Does:  This is a bit harsh in my generalization, but the discussion on #5 really is about having an issue, not defining a real problem.  In this article at Dawgs247, University of Georgia president Greg McGarity comes out staunchly against “Oversigning”.  Further down the same article, UGA coach Mark Richt admits to what most people see as oversigning when he describes how he has explained to UGA signees that they may need to greyshirt if the numbers fall a certain way.  The only way that would be needed is if UGA oversigned and didn’t see the expected attrition.  Richt is doing it the right way in that he makes it clear to the potential greyshirts before they sign, but it is Oversigning as most fans understand it - what McGarity is complaining about is the strawman.  The same article goes on to criticize many unnamed coaches for the way they recruit.  For the most part, it is a hit piece meant to help Georgia in recruiting, but it is a good example of the way information is twisted to meet a pre-set conclusion or goal.  This last definition is really a catch-all for people who are against it because it is something their rival schools are (or are accused of) doing.  The definition of what it is being accused is not important – being able to make the accusation is all that matters.

*This article is a perfect example of why I wrote these two blogs.  Go down to the section titled “The Big Ten”.  In this section, Hawley provides the quotes I referenced as well as some other interesting information.  It is very clear, from the start that he is participating in this entire discussion from the viewpoint of the 85-man total roster.  As soon as the author finishes with the quotes and provides his own information, the vantage immediately shifts from the 85- to the 25-man signing limit.  The guy really doesn’t comprehend what he is writing about.

Thanks for the discussion, and look for some future entries where I plan to pick some more specific topics associated with Oversigning for further discussion.  For future reference, I will be proceeding with my definition #3 as it is the only one that we can use with the information we have available.  Any of the others are either subjective, useless, impossible to verify, or pointless in meaningfull discussion.

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