Number ‘in play’ on oversigning issue

DESTIN, Fla. – Houston Nutt supports sticking with what became known as the “Houston Nutt Rule.”

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was one of six SEC coaches who is in favor of a signee limit of 28.
Morris News Service

As the Southeastern Conference weighs changes to address roster management issues in football, including oversigning, the Ole Miss coach backs the current 28-signee limit.

A much-talked about legislative proposal as the SEC spring meetings opened Tuesday was whether to trim the number of signees each year to 25.

“The number is certainly in play,” LSU coach Les Miles said Tuesday evening after the football coaches meeting had adjourned.

Nutt signed 37 back in 2009, knowing more than a half dozen would be placed in junior college, but he became the poster boy of sorts for all that is wrong with oversigning, a characterization he said is “unfair.” Schools can bring in only 25 new signees each academic year.

“I think 28 is just right,” Nutt said Tuesday. “Follow that rule and I don’t have a problem with that. Even as the poster boy.”

Georgia and Florida have said their stated policy is not to oversign, but Bulldogs coach Mark Richt, who had been outspoken during his spring speaking tour on the subject, was keeping an open mind Tuesday.

“I’m just going to listen to what everybody has to say before I decide. Sometimes you think you know the right answer and then you hear somebody else’s opinion or at least their rationale,” he said.

Joining Nutt on Tuesday in saying they prefer to stay at 28 – which is now an NCAA rule – was Auburn’s Gene Chizik, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino and Miles. Alabama’s Nick Saban has said that he likes the flexibility that oversigning allows.

“The chancellors and presidents certainly have a strong opinion,” Miles said. “The ADs and coaches many times slightly differ. I think it will come to a point where we decide very comfortably on policy, and I think the intent is certainly to make college football better.”

The 28-signee limit didn’t solve the problem, Dooley said, because “there’s still a lot of loopholes out there.”

Dooley believes that a proposal that would make signees who attend summer school on athletic aid before the fall semester count against a school’s scholarship numbers for that next academic year would help.

“By doing that it will close all the loopholes and still allows for a little overages,” Dooley said referring to players that don’t qualify academically or defect near signing day.

Some recruits now are asked to grayshirt – enroll in January instead of in the fall – and some find themselves on the outside looking in when August rolls around.

“If everybody knows that on the front end, then I don’t see anything wrong with it, ethically,” Richt said.

UGA president Michael Adams said last week that he’s supportive of more restrictive rules in roster management “because I think they better protect the kids.”

“I have some real concerns about the ethics of this, but we have been as clean in that regard as I think anybody and we all have voted and will (this week) for any issues that cause all of our schools to have a level playing field and to treat recruits fairly,” Adams said. “If the first step of the answer is to reduce the number of potential maximum signees from 28 to 25, we’ll vote for that.”

The 25-player cap would cover those that sign from Dec. 1-August 1. The rule now runs from the February signing day to May 31, which allows schools to go over 28 by enrolling signees before or after those dates.

Chizik said only being allowed to sign 25 could mean that a program gets “stuck” with 22 due to such things as academic casualties.

The SEC voted in 2009 to limit signees to 28, which passed last season.

“In my opinion, it has worked,” Chizik said. “I’m very comfortable with where it is right now. … I have my doubts about us having given it enough time to figure out whether it’s really broken or not.”

The presidents and chancellors will have the final say on legislation – including roster management – on Friday.

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