How about we just make it illegal...oh wait.
One Man's Oversigning Proposal
I've been thinking a lot about oversigning with this year's Signing Day having come and gone. The problem, as I see it, isn't really one of competitive balance. It would be nice to have a level playing field, but I certainly wouldn't be willing to give up Michigan's built-in advantages anymore than an Ole Miss fan would give up oversigning, JUCO stocking, or quaint reminders of a brutal, bigoted past.
*Everything would have been forgiven if you would have picked him! [Ed-M: In fairness to their fans, the Ole Miss base wanted them to have this, but their school wouldn't allow it.]
The problem I see is that big-time NCAA football is largely built around taking physically talented young men, pushing them to perform physically, and developing an enormous support system to ensure they can:
1) Afford to stay enrolled through athletic scholarships
2) Maintain a minimum academic threshold to remain eligible, despite many of the athletes not being anywhere near qualified academically to be admitted through the normal undergrad admissions process
The problem with oversigning is that kids suddenly have both of the items many of them need to complete a degree yanked out from underneath them either mid-career or, in some cases, right before they start school. Many will drop out and go back to wherever they grew up because finishing a degree isn't conceivable without the support they had as scholarship athletes.
Wow, we're both tools, aren't we?
That said, coaches do need to be able to control their roster. Just because a kid doesn't get expelled from school for cheating on a research paper about research doesn't mean they're pulling their weight. Showing up on time isn't enough for any coach worth his salt, and I've got no problem with that type of player being cut.
With that in mind, here's an easy, no-frills solution that eliminates oversigning, still allows coaches to control their roster, and should help kids get their education:
1) 85 players on scholarship at any time, period. Graduating Seniors fall off after their last game, and incoming recruits count as soon as their LOI is sent in and count through the next football season.
2) Coaches are allowed to make cuts, and they must be finalized on May 31st for the next season. That player can never play for that school again--even off scholarship.
3) Players cut to free a scholarship for someone else may transfer with immediate eligibility to any school that will have them. Conferences could not make bylaws prohibiting movement among conference teams (e.g. Alabama player X could transfer to Auburn instead of getting a medical hardship scholarship).
4) LOIs are still binding for the player, but require the school to provide five years of scholarship, living, and academic support. Players may void the LOI by transferring of their own accord and these transfers would be treated identically to transfers under the current system. Players cut to make room for another scholarship player still get a full ride, but don't count against the 85 scholarship limit.
5) APR still exists, but players cut to make room for other scholarships still count for the remainder of their career.
6) Grayshirting still exists, but it exact stipulations are detailed on the LOI the school gives the player to sign.
7) Scholarships are only revokable for expulsion or conviction by a court for a non-misdemeanor crime, and the athlete may challenge scholarship revocation for anything short of a felony conviction in arbitration by the NCAA.
8) ADDED! Injuries happen. However, after May 31st, that injured player still counts against the 85 scholarship limit for the year. If a player, say a certain Freshman QB, goes down after four games, too bad. Medical redshirt policies would still apply for further eligibility, however. This would stop mysterious "injuries" from felling a 3rd string guard if Jadeveon Clowney wanted to delay his commitment until June 1st.
My reasoning is pretty simple. 85 scholarship players are allowed at any time, which makes sense. Everyone on the team counts. This is the obvious step to eliminate the specific problem of oversigning. The rest of the steps are designed to protect the athlete, and to some extent, the program.
I completely respect coaches wanting to cut certain players, but the ultimate goal should be to give everyone a chance to earn their degree. It's abhorrent that LSU could take a scholarship away from someone after school starts and send them home. My proposal eliminates the incentive to do that. Since the LOI counts through the next season, a better player couldn't commit late and cause a coach to cull his herd. It would also increase the risk for schools that routinely sign marginal students. If the recruit doesn't qualify, the school loses that scholarship for a season.
The rest of the rules are designed to protect student-athletes. Scholarship football players are really special athletes at top schools, and not all will become great players. The money involved in big-time football is big enough that schools can continue to support athletes who get hurt or don't live up to their hype. I choose five years for a degree because players are often forced to take fewer credits in the Fall and need a 5th year to graduate.
The final, somewhat controversial item might be grayshirting. I don't mind the idea, per se. I'd grayshirt at Michigan before taking a scholarship at CMU, but the details should be stipulated up front.
Thoughts? What obvious items have I missed?
It already is, but there aren't rules governing how to stop it.
I'm sure the micromanager crowd will pick this apart, but I like it as it is; it is a very good plan and I especially like the provision that kids cut can play immediately elsewhere. The only "negative" I can think of is that whenever I see the word "proposal," I expect some kind of Swiftian satire. I know it's passe for most people after they finish their 100-level classes, but for me, "A Modest Proposal" never gets old.
That's kind of why I threw it in. What does big-time athletics do if not eat up poor kids?
It seems like a good idea. I have two questions.
- What happens to players who want to leave on their own, will they still have to sit out?
- Wouldn't wealthier programs benefit even more since they could better afford to "cut" players and still pay their scholarships?
As I understand it, the majority of D1 schools barely break even:
"In the 2006 fiscal year, the latest of three examined in the study, only 19 of the 119 Football Bowl Subdivision institutions had positive net revenue, while for the rest, expenses exceeded generated revenues. (For the entire three-year period, only 16 athletics department turned a net profit.)"
This is probably the biggest obvious sticking point to something like this being passed by the NCAA's member schools. From my viewpoint (obviously different than the schools), those that can't afford to pay for scholarships shouldn't offer them. Eastern Michigan doesn't need a football team on the FBS scale. Why can't they scale athletics down and play on a more regional level? State legislatures should be furious that their small-time schools spent general fund/taxpayer money to fund a sports team when education costs are rapidly rising, IMO.
For that matter, I don't understand why Michigan needs each of its sports to compete nationally. It's not like ordinary students play them on the side. I think athletics is a valuable part of education, but a few hundred students out of tens of thousands competing doesn't seem to fill a public university's general mission.
I know that's a totally hypocritical point of view for a die-hard Michigan fan, but I guess I've come to accept it.
Edit: Traditional transfers would still sit a season.
Could your logic be applied to readers of a blog who dislike reading about people complaining about oversigning? Sounds about right. Take a stand!
by NCAA rule scholapships are one year and one year only. Coaches already have an opportunity to trim their roster at their discretion.
side note I'm sure they cut players in some form or fashion that we the fans are not privy to nor should we. You also do not want to say publicly that kid X could not cut it based on his performance or practice less you criple his chances of latching on to another team.
Due to the enormous amount of coaches saleries and due the limited number of super contracts. LSU, Alabama, Iowa, Texas come to mind these coaches have huge incentive to take a more"this is a business approach to roster managment.
another side note All this is not an argument to the OP just somethings to think about. The NCAA, Confernces, each college, and state law have to agree to these propsals you have posted which make them almost infinitely difficult to implement.
I'm with you on the difficulty of rules changes, but some of the better writers are really embarrassing the SEC publicly. They'll pretend to lead the way towards minimum enforcement of the existing spirit of the rules.
With the scholarship thing, a lot of the more vocal opponents of oversigning seem to want all scholarships to be good for four years and count against the 85 limit for all four years unless the player transfers. That's a little too far on the other side for me.
Remember, the point is to close a loophole that gives coaches an incentive not to keep their players on scholarship and on the team. There should never be a situation where a coach is hoping that a 3-star who can't help much on the depth chart will fail out so that a better player can be recruited.
The Big Ten's method I think works fine. Simply put, before you offer a scholarship, you have to show you have room for it. You're allowed to go over by 3, but seldom is any school over by 1 (the NCAA's 85-man limit still holds, but oversigning by a little bit is fine since a school can usually expect some normal attrition, unrenewed 5ths, that sort of thing).
To that, I would suggest making scholarship offers to high school students guaranteed for 3 years, and 2 years for JUCOs and transfers. This binds a school to the player they offer. Within that time, a player may be removed from scholarship for violating rules, but those rules will be set at the conference level, and aired before a board of academics from that conference's member institutions. So if Saban wants to remove a kid from his team, the whole country gets to know why, and for what, and the student is judged fairly.
As for transfer rules, I think you're walking into a minefield with the "if you get cut you don't have to wait to transfer" rule. All that does is encourage the big schools like Bama (and Michigan for that matter) to stock up on players then cut the guys they don't want -- the threat of having to wait out a year is what keeps kids realistic when they choose where to sign.
However, I believe if a team has a coaching change within a year after a player has signed his L.O.I., that player should be allowed to have the transfer year waived, on a case-by-case basis. Teams who announce a coaching transition ahead of time won't be subject to this. Coaches will hate it of course. But how unfair is it that a coach can leave and take over another team but a player who has his coach depart gets ripped out from under him. I don't want to create a situation where coaches who move up take their best players with them to the new school. However, the threat of losing the last class along with a coach would force institutions to think harder before cutting someone loose after just a few seasons because a hotter name came along.
I also don't see what's wrong with designating an official heir apparent to get around this rule (so if you sign up for Penn State knowing you get Bradley when the Weekend at Bernie's is over, you can't use that to jump.
I know the current rule, but why does a coach have to be able to vet non-producing students if they are showing up for practice. Once a kid is on campus - I think it's on the school and coach to make it work for them. I don't see the coaches as needing to be able to control their roster - short of making the offers in the first place. They need to help the athletes become the best they can. That's what coaches do (or at least are supposed to do - IMO.) The oversigning problem is undermining the commitment of coaches and schools to athletes and students best interests. Judging talent is difficult but the best thing the NCAA could do is insure these kids 4 years (at least).
I would propose that institutions be obligated to give athletes as much schooling for as long as needed to get their degree. I would also propose that they drop the academic requirements during their playing years to allow them to focus on school and...yes...their sport. These guys are sacrificing their bodies for their school and our fetish for football. Many - I would say most - compromise their futures for the sport (our sport.)
If the players could collectively bargain - I would think this would come as one of the first bullets. NFLers could ball and then finish out their degree if they wash out. Low aptitude students could take reduced course loads to buckle down as needed. Current students could get the degrees they want instead of compromising to fit the confines of day to day football obligations. Many schools, Michigan included, make it difficult to get meaningful degrees within the time constraints of their athletic obligations.
As it pertains to the 85 scholarship limit...the active roster could be policed if we could just see what everyone was doing. Transparency is the issue. The players are mostly pseudo public employees. There is no reason the public can't be notified as to who is on scholarship term to term. The conferences need to make this public and crack down as needed.
Walk ons could be granted year to year scholarships - or granted partial life time guarantees of a future under graduate degree. The same goes in reverse if a student leaves the school. They could bank a percentage of undergraduate credits to be used as they see fit depending on how many terms they served on roster.
Big 10 coaches still don't have to renew scholarships. I don't know if there are conference bylaws that prohibit this, but the NCAA rules still allow it. As I understand it, Big 10 coaches still can get rid of a player who isn't performing to free a spot for another scholarship. They would just need to do it after the season instead of in the runup to Fall practice. In other words, they would need to get rid of a player about a semester earlier rather than hope the numbers work out and do it at the last minute.
As for the transfer rules, it is a minefield. I think the real consequence might be that cutting players would become more politically acceptable because players could move on freely. Schools are already able to stock up on players and then cut the ones who don't pan out. Why do you think players who don't pan out are so apt to quit school after a few years? A least this guarantees the players some protection and if Alabama cuts a player, there could be on the field consequences if that player is on the field against them the next season.
Also, the coach in waiting thing was disallowed a couple years ago, right? Schools were complaining that Muschamp/Fisher had extra access to recruits. Those two were grandfathered in because they had existing contracts.
Bottom line, there isn't a good way around oversigning. Coaches should have some control over their roster, IMO, but it should be a two way street. The school owes the players something beyond a one year contract. If the NCAA is really about student-athletes, then it should guarantee an education. That is the point of my proposal. I think it's a shame if a player is cut, but third string linebackers aren't going to the NFL anyways, so why not force the schools to give something tangible to their players as well?
I'm just not understanding how raising the number of kids who get cut is going to help them graduate.
Say Michigan looks at Brandin Hawthorne and says "okay kid, you're a good guy but I'm sorry we need your scholarship to bring in a 4-star recruit 'cause you're never going to start." Under your proposal, he can switch schools and start. But that's not what he wants. He chose to be at Michigan and get a degree from Michigan. And in convincing him to come here, Michigan made an agreement with him.
Technically, yes, Big Ten teams can "cut" players just for performance. But we don't because recruits expect their scholarship offers to extend through their education. For as long as there's college football, the biggest recruiting draw Michigan can offer is a University of Michigan education. If all the guys who don't make it lose that scholarship, why sign with Michigan again?
Understand, Bama's system doesn't work if they're not winning. The reason Saban is pushing as many recruits in as possible over the last few fears is that the Bama name is white hot, therefore their recruiting ability is too. The scuzziest part of what Saban has been doing is in how he built that team by finding excuses to rub out much of the old roster, full of kids who committed to Bama at the end of its sanctions, and replace them with his blue chips.
In my NCAA franchises, I used to do this a lot -- you had 55 spots and once the franchise got going I could typically bring in a class of 25 guys when I only had 15 spots available. Then I'd go down the line and cut the low-hanging fruit. The problem is, that's in a video game. If you do that with people's lives there's a big consequence for that. If you "let kids transfer" that's not a big help to them, because transferring after getting your scholarship yoinked is a terrible proposition. Michigan is notoriously bad at accepting transfer credits - what if you complete three semesters of courses at Alabama, then are told in December to be out of your dorm by Jan. 1 to make way for a 5-star linebacker who needs to enroll early so as to keep more spots available in the next year's class -- if Michigan was your second choice, you probably can't get your year and a half of credits to transfer.
If this is a business, it should operate as a business, and get taxed like a business. But it's not -- the deal is the colleges trade scholarships for football players. If there's going to be an 85-player limit, it should reflect the idea that a scholarship offer means the school is going to do everything it can to make every one of those 85 guys graduate.
This also isn't U.S. law, where you need constitutional reasoning and precedence and a written law to punish. Alabama has violated the ethical code at the core of the NCAA's basis of operation. The loophole should be closed, making teams honor commitments for a minimum of three years, and taking away scholarships from Bama for a few years so they can re-learn how to care whether a non-starr is struggling to adapt to college.
Based on my understanding of the rules, scholarships are one year agreements between a school and a student. Any school is free to not renew scholarships for any reason: performance, legal issues, hairstyle, preferred pizza topping, etc.
As far as I can tell, the expectation for a player is 1) school and 2) being on a football team and that those are the players' primary reason for playing college football, although not necessarily in that order. Players commit to a school for whatever reason suits them, but each school is expected to provide those two items.
I understand that some players will not succeed for whatever reason--maybe they get hurt, maybe they just aren't good, maybe others are much better, etc. No one says coaches have to cut these players, but many do (either overtly or covertly), and the current system is okay with that. Those students lose their scholarship and either stay in school and graduate paying their own way, transfer, or quit school altogether.
The main crux of what I would like to see is that the school be forced to honor their scholarship commitment to a student-athlete through five full school years even if the coach decides to cut him. For example, if Brady Hoke cut Devin Gardner (I tried to pick a really ludicrous example) on May 31st of this year, he could:
a) stay at Michigan under scholarship for five total years (four years remaining) to complete his degree and not play college football again.
b) transfer immediately to anyone who would take a chance on a presumably healthy five-star athlete with four years of eligibility remaining.
c) quit and do whatever else he wanted.
The difference from the current system is that Michigan would be on the hook for the education it promised him during his recruitment if he chose to stay and that he wouldn't have to wait a year if he was forced out by Hoke to make room for someone else.
That's it. Players who are forced out of football wouldn't have to lose their Michigan education, as you suggested above. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in the initial diary.
Alabama would still cut players, no doubt about it, but they would have to do it earlier--which would presumably allow cut players more time to make a decision about their future and would force them to commit to educating those who chose to stay.
"2) Coaches are allowed to make cuts, and they must be finalized on May 31st for the next season. That player can never play for that school again--even off scholarship."
Sorry...you lost me here. Under no circumstances should I player be cut in collegiate athletics.
#4 "Players cut to make room for another scholarship player still get a full ride...." or he can transfer with no penalty as per #3. Seems fair to the player and gives coaches legitimate wiggle room for roster adjustment.
Players are cut all the time, from those encouraged to transfer to those who don't have their scholarships renewed. This simply brings the process into the open.
We will have to agree to disagree. A scholarship should be upheld for at least 4 years. I'm sure there are plenty of examples of kids who took a couple years to get going and then blew up their Junior/Senior years and are now in the NFL. This would eliminate those dreams.
Well thought out and well laid out, a conversation needed at a higher level.
Gives proportionate fairness to both players and coaches. This would definitely go a long way toward fixing a very broken down system.
I like most of it, though it might be too complicated in current form. The Big Ten, Florida, Georgia and (I think) most of the Pac, Big East and Big XII need to step up.
There should be a resolution out of the Big Ten office that the NCAA has X amount of months to level the playing field, and they should pass similar measures in as many other conferences as possible.
There is a problem with the OP's proposal if you play it out.
Lets say Alabama signs 30 kids and only has room for 20. It is willing to eat the extra 10 schoolies. But, it knows it won't ever have to. Three or four star kids who get booted from the team 1) want to play football and 2) may need the academic support that the team provides. (I will just not believe that the schools will ever provide equal support to cut players.) At a minmum, we have seven or eight kids out of the ten who look elsewhere.
So, what happens to them when they move? Is there a secod signing period after the May 31 deadline? If there isn't, then those kids cut on May 31 can't transfer, can they? If there is a second signing period, wont that just cause another seven two or three star kids to get the boot somewhere else? Where do those kids go? Nowhere? Or is there another signing and cutting deadline?
The worst part is that the school who started this (Alabama in this example) can truthfully say it played by the rules, gave away two or three schoolies and had seven players find other places to continue their careers. It could ignore the fact that some kid who signed with Toledo or somehwere lost his chance to play football after a 'Bama cutee took his place.
One possible remedy to your problem:
Players that are cut don't count toward the 85 or 25 limit for the schools they transfer to, up to 3 or 5 per school in any given year. So if Alabama cuts those 7 players, they might end up at Auburn or LSU or Florida. That way no one is getting replaced. Yes, maybe it does mean that some teams are actually over the 85 limit for a year, but then the rule should be that it must be back down to 85 by signing day next year, which means, essentially, that the transfer counts toward the limit the following year, because the following recruiting class must be drawn down.
Also, there should probably be a rule that the second-chance scholarship is guaranteed as long as the player still has eligibility, so a team knows that it is committing to the kid, and he's not just a one-year replacement or depth add.
The ideal solution would be to have omnipotent ethics police who make sure everyone is honest and fair. Unfortunately, the only real solution is to create bylaws and try to enforce them. You can think Nick Saban is a dirty, cheating tool, but he reads the rules better than anyone in college football and manipulates the openings precisely. When he got to Alabama, the rules prohibited phone calls at certain times, so he started to Skype with recruits--it wasn't against the rules.
Schools may or may not provide equal support, although it would be a concern, but it's better than allowing schools to pull the rug out at any time for any reason. This at least forces the school to provide a the education every recruit is promised during their recruitment.
As for cut players moving on, they could go to any team with an open scholarship. Say Zone Left (OT, San Diego) was cut from Michigan to make room for The FannMan (RB, ??). He makes a few phone calls (or maybe checks with the NCAA since scholarships are firm after May 31st) and realizes Stanford has 80 scholarships used. He talks to Stanford's coach, finds out he's wanted, applies and is accepted. That's my vision--basically the same as now, but rosters are firm earlier and no one gets forced out at the last minute when a better player transfers in.
Running Back?? Dude, that is the best compliment I've gotten all day. Either that, or you like your runing backs old, slow and out of shape.
I don't know that other schools would necessarily have openings. Wouldn't there be an incentive for schools to stock up, see what becomes available and then add and cut? Are you assuming that schools would leave room and hope that kids get cut and fall to them?.
Also, maybe ZoneLeft doesn't want to go to Stanford, but really wanted to go to Michigan. He had a press conference where he picked up the M hat and held up a live baby Wolverine. His parents bought a condo in A2, and he told everybody that Brady Hoke is tremendous. Now, he has to get rid of all the M stuff, tell eveyone at home that he got booted to make room for me, and move elsewhere - or nowhere. Schools just aren't fungible - especially to an 18 year kid.
Since I cirticized your solution without offering one of my own, let me take a shot at it. My ideal world would be to have mutually bindng 4 year letters of intent that all count against the 85 person limit. They could be signed anytime after the start of a kid's junior year. You want to offer a kid early - be my guest. But it counts against the 85 limit if he signs up and doesn't get in or turns out not to be very good at football. You want to commit to a school early, kid? Fine - then that is it unless you want to sit out a year. No more using a verbal from Michigan to get an offer from Alabama. Schools could still make non-LOI "offers" and get verbals like they do now. But everyone would know that they don't count until the school makes a written offer and the kids signs. That way, the kid would know who is really interested in him and who is really looking elsewhere, and vice versa. This forces more honesty in the process so kids (and schools) can make informed decisions earlier. Edit - an offered LOI is valid for 30 days (or whatever period you want). At that point the school can re-offer or not. That way, you don't have one kid collecting biding written LOIs that lock-in the school.
Exceptions: 1) if a kid transfers of his own accord or voluntarily quits football. You would have to have the NCAA verify this. 2) If he gets hurt, in which case he keeps the schoolie but doesn't count against the 85. 3) A kid fails out or commits a major criminal or ethical violation of the school's rules. The school would have to kick the kid out and appeal to the NCAA for him not count against the limit. The School would have to prove its case, and the NCAA would presume that the kid still counts until the school proves otherwise. Part of the case would be the school showing its efforts to correct behavior and improve academics. Notice that this raises the stakes for the school to keep the kid in. In our case, a hypothetical sophomore QB who fails out would count against us for two years unless we could show that we offered help to him but he refused or just failed despite our best efforts.
I totally agree with you that the school is on the hook for 4 years of scholarship once an LOI is signed, absent a voluntary transfer, a quit or a felony conviction. Money should not be the problem here. (If need be, the BSC conferences could fork over some TV money into an NCAA scholarship pool to help out poorer schools with this.)
I am confident that this suggestion is far from perfect. Thanks for the thought provoking post.
Interesting addition. However I would keep medical redshirts -- this is the least scuzzy thing that teams do since at least those players can still finish their careers on scholarship.
However the NCAA ought to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to give back the scholarship after a kid is medicaled, not leave this up to the coaches and programs. 99% of cases would be left alone, but the crap at Bama...
should raise enough flags that it wouldn't fly.