In the months leading up to next week’s annual Southeastern Conference spring meeting in Destin, Fla., there have been strong signals that the issue of oversigning would be on the front burner for presidents and athletic directors to tackle.
Georgia president Michael Adams is among school officials who have been clear about the university’s position.
“We will not oversign,” Adams said in February. “Issues of grayshirting and oversigning in football – and some of the other issues that have been in the press – are issues that I know to be on the presidents’ agenda for Destin.”
Oversigning is the controversial practice where football programs ink more players than they have room for under the NCAA’s limit of 85 total scholarships. Coaches can reach their scholarship limitations through transfers and players turning professional or being dismissed from the team, but also through grayshirting – waiting until the next calendar year in January to bring in a signee – medical disqualifications and, in some cases, when players are released for not being good enough players.
The Athens Banner-Herald has learned that proposed legislation to be considered at the SEC meeting to address “roster management” includes:
► 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.
► 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.
► 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.
► 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.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive told the Birmingham News last week that roster management issues take into consideration oversigning, early admission, grayshirting, medical exemptions and summer enrollment.
“We’re trying to tie all that together to put together a package that makes some sense,” he said.
Georgia coach Mark Richt spoke out earlier this month against oversigning at an appearance before Bulldogs fans in Greenville, S.C.
“These other coaches have been oversigning, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 number, but in doing so have they done it in an ethical way?” Richt said. “I’d say the answer is probably not.”
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, who signed 37 players in 2009 prompting what some called the “Houston Nutt Rule,” told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger on Tuesday that 28 is a “very fair” number.
Oft-criticized Alabama coach Nick Saban, speaking at a coaching clinic in Mobile, Ala., in February, defended his style of roster management.
“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.”
Richt said bringing in players in the summer and then asking some to leave after a team’s strength staff has worked with them, and “you kind of decide which ones you like the best,” rubbed him the wrong way.
“I think that’s an awful thing to do,” Richt said. “I think that’s the wrong thing to do and it’s nothing that we have ever done since I’ve been at Georgia.”