at least it's not just us?
For some reason they put a statue of Barry Switzer outside of Nick Saban Memorial Hospital. Seriously, why did Alabama put up a statue of Barry Switzer? I'm so confused.
- SEC teams can only sign 25 a year, down from 28. You can still backdate early enrollees.
- There's going to be some sort of conference overview of St. Saban Memorial Hospital.
- Attending summer school counts as enrollment—no more Elliott Porters.
- Anyone transferring to an SEC school must have at least two years of eligibility—no more Jeremiah Masolis.
That last one is kind of beside the point, but since these grad exemptions are pretty close to free agency it's understandable why they were an issue to be addressed. The arrival of Masoli and Florida pirating an all-conference cornerback from Utah were evidently unsettling, so no more of that.
It's the oversigning stuff that's everyone main focus, though, and passing those bylaws has been met by another raspberry, this one media-based. A Jeff Schultz from the AJC:
The SEC, as the highest-profile college football conference in the nation, had a chance to make a loud statement at its meetings this week. It kind of wimped out. Rather than attack the oversigning problem with significant legislation, it decided only that it would lower the annual scholarship offer cap from 28 to 25.
Let me translate: Coaches now have a lower limit as to how unethical and morally reprehensible they can be. Feel better?
This was sort of like the real SEC passing a rule: “We recognize that insider trading is a problem. So we’re going to cap profits from said illegal transactions at $2.7 million.”
While both parties are right that the Big Ten's approach cuts down on the churn and the SEC is not going that far, the legislation they passed will have a real impact. As mentioned in the earlier post, if this had been around the last four years Auburn would have signed 19 fewer kids—almost an entire class—Alabama 13, South Carolina 11, and so forth down the line. Cropping the limit from 28 to 25 cuts the cuts by about half at the worst offenders.
Meanwhile, adopting the Big Ten approach (you can only sign three more kids than you have available scholarships, and you have to petition the conference to do so) doesn't necessarily cut down on attrition. It just moves the abattoir from "whenever we find out if this guy qualified" to late January. While a combination of both rules is ideal, either in isolation is exploitable.
So this is exploitable, yes, but less so than it was before. It's something between pure public relations and Total Internet Victory. Partial internet victory is still kind of something—whine for five years and people will give ground. Nick Saban was pissed off when this happened. That's a heuristic that indicates a step in the right direction. While it could be better, complaints about the proposal are making the perfect an enemy of the good.
Someone else comes up with a simple solution to something that's definitely a problem. That said, I love love love the idea the first commenter on the above-linked Oversigning.com post lays out:
If we are going to create a new system, why not get rid of the 85 scholarship limit. What makes that number so valuable? Why not just set an annual signing limit of (pick a number) 30 to 35. Make the grants for 5 years and allow 5 years of participation (eliminate redshirts and medicals).
Under the system describe above the onus is placed squarely on coaches to evaluate, motivate, train and retain signees. May the best coach win.
30 to 35 is excessive, especially if you're giving everyone five years. That almost doubles the number of kids on scholarship, which will be fought by smaller schools and make life under the dominion of Title IX even more difficult for non-revenue men's sports.
HOWEVA, There is a number (somewhere from 22 to 25) that provides rosters approximately equivalent to today's and rewards keeping kids around in case they become useful. Once you find that number all of this goes away because you no longer have the perverse incentives the current system offers. In this hypothetical world people are mad at Nick Saban for being ruthlessly better at avoiding attrition. Another guy later makes a point that's especially salient what with all the chatter about full cost of attendance scholarships:
Scholarship limitations are not in the best interest of the SA. Scholarship limitations are about parity, which in is in the interest of the institutions. To make arguments about over-signing being evil is like saying we want what is best for the SA as long as it does not hurt my school. Which is to say the main goal is not the SA’s best interest, but the institutions.
If big programs want to move towards a system that places student-athlete welfare first, leaving San Jose State to pound sand, that benefits everyone worth benefiting.
(A few details I'd propose:
- Transfers in count as fresh enrollees.
- There would be a limit, probably 85, that once under you could offer scholarships to walk-ons if you wanted.
- You might have to offer some sort of leniency for schools that recruit a lot of JUCOs. This system places a premium on keeping kids around for four and five years and turns a JUCO from a easily replaceable quick fix to a guy who's an empty scholarship for two or three years. Guys who go to JUCO are mostly reclamation projects that college football should be striving to help, so maybe you can get a scholarship here and there back "early."
no one takes better fake dictator pictures than Nick Saban
Limiting the size of a football signing class in each academic year to 25, down from the current level of 28. The NCAA adopted that SEC-sponsored legislation put forward in 2009. The 25 limit would cover those who sign from Dec. 1 to August 1. The rule now runs from the February signing day to May 31, which allows schools to exceed 28 by enrolling signees before or after those dates. An exception would be made for mid-year enrollees included in the current academic year's initial counters.
I'm not sure I understand this, but I'm pretty sure the odd range of dates—you can't sign until February so what is December doing in there?—is to count JUCOs, who IIRC do sign sometime in December. (As a Michigan fan my knowledge of these things is minimal.)
This would make the LOI cap 25 + early enrollees. The language about "current year's initial counters" is there because early enrollees can count as the year's previous but don't have to. So if you enrolled 25 kids the year before you couldn't sign more than 25, period, because all your early enrollees would have to count as recruits for the current year.
This would appear to create a hard cap of 100 LOIs per four-year cycle, which would cut down on the churn considerably. Half the SEC would have to curtail their issued LOIs—Auburn has averaged 112, Mississippi State 110, etc. The impact on other conferences would be minimal. Iowa State, Kansas State, Oregon State, and West Virginia are the only other BCS schools averaging a significant amount over 25.
Making football signees who attend summer school on athletic aid before the fall semester count against a school's scholarship numbers for that next academic year.
There currently are no limits on how many can attend summer school, which can leave a recruit already on campus to be asked to delay enrollment until January if there's no room. The proposal would go into effect in summer 2012.
AKA The Elliott Porter Rule. No more moving into the dorm, then getting evaluated over the summer, then getting shoved out the door. An obvious step to take after Outside The Lines shredded LSU's practices.
Giving the SEC office more oversight in medical scholarship exemptions to review and determine outcome for cases. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.
A vague attempt to shut down St. Saban Memorial Hospital. Unknown how that will go, but I'm guessing it will be ineffectual. Having team doctor, trainer, and AD sign off on something beneficial to team doctor, trainer, and AD does not seem like the world's most rigorous check.
What they should do is have the school submit a medical request to the conference that locks in that scholarship, and then the conference tells the football team in question whether they can use that on someone else.
Keeping early enrollees from signing an SEC financial aid agreement until they are enrolled and attend class at the school. Currently, recruits can begin to sign a financial aid agreement after their junior year of high school, which keeps other SEC schools from recruiting them.
This has nothing to do with oversigning, but it's a neat end-around of the LOI system. Given the frequency with which kids in the South decommit it doesn't seem like a widely used one.
It's better than nothing but short of something that puts student welfare—thanks to Jim Delany the new hotness—above all. If the LOI limit above truly is a hard cap that will immediately curtail some of the worst offenders a significant amount. If one was in place four years ago Alabama would have signed 13 fewer kids, Auburn 19, South Carolina 11, etc.
It's not perfect. Twenty-five is still above what seems like a reasonable good-faith attempt to keep kids in school will see a team sign. Eyeballing the numbers on Oversigning.com, it appears that number is 22 or 23. Getting down to that level would start catching schools that are not actively tossing recruits into the trash heap, though, and starts to impact student welfare from the other direction by reallotting money from scholarship players to fortunate walk-ons.
As for the other two items, the first is an obvious response to the ESPN expose but even if that's the case it shuts down the absolute worst practice going on right now by eliminating the summer-camp tryout business one Les Miles is working. The medical scholarship stuff is too vague to evaluate but there's a decent chance something does come of it if only because other coaches must be hopping mad about this:
Meanwhile, guess who's confused?
"I really don't know what everybody is so up in arms about," Saban said, according to the Birmingham News. "This is something that people have done in college football for a long time and it's not illegal. We have never had a player leave our program who didn't create the issues himself that he made a decision to leave the program."
This is what I keep this Upton Sinclair blockoute around for:
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
I knew setting up ctrl+alt+f6 to do that would come in handy some day. Don't make me ctrl+alt+f7 you, Saban. It will be withering.
Bobby Petrino has all the social skills of a PhD student in electrical engineering. This is how you get an NFL team to swear revenge upon you and your clan*. He's a weird dude. So his Arkansas program eschews the usual kabuki dance of medical scholarships and "voluntary" transfers in favor of The Truth™:
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas has granted scholarship releases to two more players from its football program in offensive lineman Cam Feldt and linebacker Austin Moss, Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino said Thursday through a team spokesperson.
The players are the fourth and fifth to be released this week as coaches perform annual scholarship evaluations. Wide receiver Lance Ray, kicker Eddie Camara and tight end Ryan Calender have also been granted releases from the program.
Arkansas is also working toward granting offensive lineman Colby Berna a medical hardship, which would end his playing career. Berna, a Fayetteville native, has struggled with shoulder problems since high school and didn't play during his two seasons on campus.
The truth comes cloaked in a bit of PR spin, but there it is. Arkansas is straight up cutting five dudes and moving a sixth to St. Saban Memorial Hospital. The usually even-keeled Doctor Saturday breaks out his barrel-aged, 18-year old sarcasm in response to the "granted releases" spin in response, and you've heard it all before here. Surprise! I still find the above completely awful.
But I really mean the headline above: by refusing to pretend he's putting kids on the slow boat to a crappy school no one's ever heard of he may be in charge of a program that flagrantly violates the spirit of the NCAA's principles, but at least he's not lying about it. This puts Petrino above the Sabans and Nutts and Tommy Bowdens of the world in the same way PhD EEs are above the sociopaths who end up at Goldman Sachs selling mortgage packages they know will collapse. I'll take the idiot over the lizard any day. By admitting Arkansas takes the bit about one-year renewable scholarships to its most ruthless extreme, Petrino allows us to talk about whether we want our football programs solely focused on on-field performance.
I'm guessing the answer to that will eventually be "no." The heat has moved from obscure bloggers like yrs truly to coaches and presidents at schools with scruples. The NCAA is faced with ballooning scandals as players react to the system: coaches get theirs by axing anyone that can't help them; players get theirs by taking whatever is offered them. The NCAA can't defend its principles of amateurism at the same time the most successful conference in the most successful sport is dumping anyone not immediately useful. If they do, I suggest they change their commercial tagline to "too many of us are going pro with a glorified associate's degree because we got cut and sent to JUCO."
Bobby Petrino can't be bothered to lie any more because people will badger him in press conferences and we're a step closer to ending, or at least associating costs with, cutting any kid who doesn't work out.
*[A thousand years from now the descendants of Bobby Petrino will be robotic feudal slum lords prosecuting an ancient war with Atlfalcorp no one remembers the origins of. Fayetteville will be underwater and everyone in Atlanta dead in the aftermath of the Great Traffic Jam, but the war will go on.]
give the guy on the left some autocannons and the resemblance is uncanny
Mainstream media have begun to catch on to the scam Nick Saban is running down in Tuscaloosa. Via everyone in the world who emailed, twittered, or IMed it to me, the Wall Street Journal on a small section of Saban's insatiable desire for more spots in his recruiting class:
"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."
The WSJ does miss an opportunity to draw a stark contrast between the rate of medical scholarships at Alabama and elsewhere in the SEC, even though they dug up the numbers. I used the LOL for good and made a graph. Here it is:
Just a coincidence, surely.
This is actually the less odious bit of Saban's merry disembowelings since the kids he cuts via this method get to stay in school on scholarship (and don't hurt the APR), but it's still a way for him to skirt competitive equity. He gets to try out four extra kids a year and then dump them. The NCAA's in a tough spot since it's tough to discern between scam artists like Saban and legitimate cases like Antonio Bass, but suffice it to say this is a dangerous precedent to set. The NCAA has to close this loophole.