national champs baby
Oversigning: It Moves
quien es mas macho? always pick the man with the giant gold medallion.
When Doctor Saturday heralded this offseason as oversigning's moment in the sun I thought that was true, but that a lot of sturm und drang would amount to nothing much. A couple Outside The Lines pieces by ESPN and articles demonstrating Alabama players' remarkable misfortune when it comes to medical scholarships would move chatter from disgruntled blogs to media flamethrowers and people in Alabama would not care at all and fin. I might be wrong. It looks like the media pressure has moved chatter from disgruntled blogs to disgruntled… SEC power brokers?
"I don't think the rule we passed is going to solve the problem," Florida President Bernie Machen says. "There are still universities that will oversign and it's going to end up with a student athlete being left out. I think we either have to get the universities to be more serious about it, or the league and the NCAA are going to have to pass more stringent punishments for those who do oversign."
McGarity also said that Georgia football will not allow oversigning -- a practice that some programs participate in and is garnering more attention by both media and regulating bodies. “We will not sign more than 85 scholarship football players,” he noted.
That moved fast.
Once people in positions of power in the SEC start grumbling about a practice, the chance for a meaningful change has come. (Point to Braves & Birds for saying "the programs that ought to be the most aggressive in condemning oversigning are Florida and Georgia" since they're the exceptions to the rule in the SEC. The sources here are not a coincidence.)
That's especially true when the league just put in place some cosmetic modifications by capping letters of intent at 28. These didn't take. Journalists said "hey, wait a minute" when they multiply 28 by four and get a number that's well north of 85 but not well north of the number of kids most SEC schools have promised an education over the last relevant period. SEC schools averaged 27.6 signees from 2002-2010.
More importantly, you now have an SEC athletic director who's bluntly stating the real issue* and saying his team won't partake, and an SEC president who is on the warpath. There's someone calling into Finebaum right now and saying BUT PAWWWWWL, BERNIE MACHEN'S JUST DOING THIS BECAUSE IT HELPS FLORIDA. Even if they're right, being in a position to rail because other rich people are doing shitty things to poor ones—and you're not—justifies itself. Florida's Machiavellian brilliance in is in not being Machievellian.
So we seem to be at a point where kids complaining about getting booted off their not-for-profit educational institution's sporting team leads to action. The Bylaw Blog has migrated to the official NCAA site and provides some indication of what might be feasible to the current membership in a post on oversigning. The strictest version of his proposal:
GIAs to Current SAs with Eligibility Remaining Next Year + Signed Scholarships by Prospects ≤ NCAA Limit
In English this is:
You can't sign a kid to a LOI or scholarship agreement unless you have room right now.
IE, "the Big Ten." Hockey fans might remember Brandon Burlon not signing when the rest of his class did because he was ticketed for a full scholarship Michigan did not have at that instant. (He signed later when Kevin Quick was booted after he stole a teammate's credit card.) In football this is the Big Ten's policy—they theoretically relaxed it by allowing oversigning up to 88, but explaining where you will get the money is onerous and public and it's uncertain if anyone's actually used the option yet.
Even that's a little soft for my tastes, but it would be a massive step in the right direction. Today it seems like it's one coming in the not-too-distant future.
*[The NCAA's 25-per-class limit serves as an unfortunate distraction here because people point out that's an arbitrary rule no one should care about, which is true. If you have 30 open spots it's not unethical to squeeze as many players in as possible, and people attack that strawman as if you're trying to clutch pearls but failing to because you're deranged. Even when that's not happening there's no particular reason for Get The Picture to focus on 25 as a magic number.]