The most frequent questions seems to relate to a statement, by Sam Web on WTKA, that early enrollees can no longer be counted against the previous class. If you search on that topic you will find that most of the results are message board posters from various schools, but little in the way of authoritative content, so I went to the 2009-2010 NCAA Division 1 Manual.
What follows is an FAQ regarding scholarship rules for the 2009-2010 academic year:
How many scholarships can be awarded for football each year?
188.8.131.52 Bowl Subdivision Football. [FBS] There shall be an annual limit of 25 on the number of initial counters (per Bylaw 15.02.3.1) and an annual limit of 85 on the total number of counters (including initial counters) in football at each institution. (Revised: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/92, 12/15/06)
Are athletic scholarships good for four years or are they renewed each year?
15.3.3 Period of Institutional Financial Aid Award.
184.108.40.206 One-Year Period. If a student’s athletics ability is considered in any degree in awarding financial aid, such aid shall neither be awarded for a period in excess of one academic year nor for a period less than one academic year (see Bylaw 15.01.5). (Revised: 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06)
220.127.116.11.1 Exceptions. An institution may award athletically related financial aid to a student-athlete for a period of less than one academic year only under the following circumstances: (Adopted: 4/27/06 effective
(a) Midyear Enrollment. A student-athlete whose first full-time attendance at the certifying institution during a particular academic year occurs at midyear (e.g., the beginning of the second semester or second or third quarter of an academic year) may receive a financial aid award for the remainder of that academic year. (Revised: 5/9/06)
Does a player who enrolls in January count as part of the prior year's recruiting class or the current recruiting class?
Since early enrollees do not actually sign their scholarship until Signing Day could a player technically enroll in school then change his mind and go somewhere else before a scholarship is actually signed?
18.104.22.168.2 Recruited Student-Athlete Entering after Fall Term, Aided in First Year. [FBS/FCS] A student-athlete recruited by the awarding institution who enters after the first term of the academic year and immediately receives institutional financial aid (based in any degree on athletics ability) shall be an initial counter for either the current academic year (if the institution’s annual limit has not been reached) or the next academic year. The student-athlete shall be included in the institution’s total counter limit during the academic year in which the aid was first received.
The answer is apparently yes, since the athlete is technically a student and not an athlete until the scholarship is signed, he could, if he so desired change his mind and go somewhere else.
If players are recruited that play multiple sports do they count against both sports scholarship limits?
What rule changes are proposed that might affect scholarship rules?
15.5.9 Multi-Sport Participants.
22.214.171.124 Football. [FBS/FCS] In football, a counter who was recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who participates (practices or competes) in football and one or more sports (including basketball) shall be counted in football. A counter who was not recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who competes in football and one or more sports (including basketball) shall be counted infootball. (Revised: 1/10/95 effective 8/1/95, 1/9/96 effective 8/1/96)
In Proposal No. 2009-48, the Southeastern Conference wants to limit to 28 the number of Football Bowl Subdivision student-athletes who may sign a National Letter of Intent or an institutional offer of financial aid from the first signing day through May 31. The proposal would curb instances of “over-signing” that have the potential to leave some prospects without a scholarship.
Current rules allow FBS institutions to provide scholarships to 25 new student-athletes per year. However, some schools traditionally have signed more than that to protect themselves in the event that some prospects do not qualify academically. The SEC set a cap of 28 for its own institutions earlier this year, and at that time conference leaders said they viewed the letter of intent as an institutional commitment to a prospect who is capable of contributing academically and athletically. The Big Ten has a similar policy. (source: NCAA)
Based on the information I could find, it seems to me that the rule regarding applying scholarships to the previous season hasn't changed. Therefore, Michigan can exceed the 25 scholarship limit assuming they didn't have a full class of 25 last year and they don't exceed the 85 player cap.
Scout.com tracks eligibility by class for each school and shows Michigan had 21 players in last year's class leaving room for four players who enroll early to be applied to that class. This suggests that we could sign a total of 29. However, according to Scout, Michigan has 66 players on the current roster with remaining eligibility.
Reviewing the list we can remove Helmuth, Clemons, and Cissoko bringing us to 63. Seniors with eligibility remaining are Cone, Sheridan, Dorrestein, Ferrara, Schilling, Banks, Ezeh, Mouton, and Wright. I assume we retain all of those players except Cone, Sheridan, and Wright, so that brings us to 60 returning players. If Kovacs and Leach are given scholarships we're up to 62. Since we already have 20 players in the class it looks like we only have room for three or five more depending on the status of Kovacs and Leach.
This all made sense to me until I compared our roster to other schools currently with top 25 ranked classes according to Scout. Here's what I found:
Most of the teams, when you combine current roster players with eligibility with the incoming class, will show classes of 95 players or less. It's probably safe to assume that those schools will be able to reach the 85 player limit with normal attrition. However, several of those schools will have over 100 scholarship eligible students. I realize Brian has addressed this before, but I don't understand how schools like Penn State, Alabama, and West Virginia will have over 90 scholarship players on their rosters before the new class arrives?
Clearly scholarship limits are a complex subject and I don't claim to be an expert. I hope you found the information above helpful even if it creates more questions.