DESTIN, Fla. – The Southeastern Conference took aim again Friday at oversigning when its presidents and chancellors adopted a cap of 25 football signees in each recruiting class, down from 28.
The conference will push for the legislation to be passed nationally.
“We have the expectation that the NCAA should and will adopt the same proposal,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said speaking on the final day of the league’s spring meetings. “It’s in the best interest of prospects and it’s not only in our best interest here, but in the best interest of the nation.”
SEC presidents voted to adopt four proposals dealing with “roster management,” and sponsored another to be adopted as NCAA legislation that Slive called “an important step forward.”
The 25-signee cap was adopted despite overwhelming opposition to it by the league’s coaches. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday that coaches voted 12-0 against it.
“They don’t agree with everything,” Slive said.
“Obviously they have their own interests to pursue. I thought the conversation was helpful. On some of the issues, we were able to accommodate some of their concerns, some of them we were not. … Obviously some of the coaches would rather have 28 than 25. I understand that.”
Georgia president Michael Adams and athletic director Greg McGarity, who have voiced opposition to oversigning, each said it was a good day for the conference.
“People voted right,” Adams said as he was leaving. “This was a good high point for us, I think.”
Two years ago, the SEC enacted a 28-signee limit for its signing classes after Ole Miss had inked 37. It passed nationally, but loopholes existed.
Schools that still exceeded that limit could count recruits backward to the previous class or make their numbers work through medical disqualifications, signees being forced to delay enrollment until January or even a player being cut. South Carolina and Arkansas signed 32 this February.
“Obviously this is not a quick fix, this is not a one-size-fits-all model here,” Florida president Bernie Machen said, “but I think it gives us assurances that we’re treating our student-athletes as close to the way we would treat our students in other parts of the university.”
The 25-player cap will be in effect for the upcoming signing class, but recruits can still be counted backward. It won’t keep a coach with 15 scholarship openings from signing 21.
“Schools would still have an ability to oversign depending on how many openings you have,” McGarity said.
Said Machen: “I believe that the coaches can manage this way and still have the flexibility they need to do all the things that they want to do.”
The signing window now will be from Dec. 1 to Aug. 1 instead of from February’s signing day to May 31. A signee will be exempt if they can be counted in the current year.
The other roster management proposals adopted by the SEC:
► Rescinded the graduate student exception that took effect last year that allowed a player to transfer and play at a conference school with less than two years of eligibility remaining after completing their undergraduate degree elsewhere.
► Early enrollees from high school can’t sign an SEC financial aid agreement until enrolling as a full-time student and attending classes. Under the previous rule, other SEC schools couldn’t communicate with recruits once they signed the agreement.
► The conference office will review and approve medical scholarship exemptions sent to them by schools. The league could take the information to independent medical personnel for evaluation.
McGarity said the proposals passed “will help reduce the oversigning perception that been present in the conference over the past few years.”
Presidents did not adopt, but instead are sponsoring NCAA legislation making football signees who attend summer school on athletic aid before the fall semester count against a school’s scholarship numbers for that academic year.
Slive said that wasn’t adopted by the conference because of a new rule that will require players to pass nine hours of academic credit in the fall to be eligible the following year. Players who don’t earn nine credits would be suspended for four games the next season unless the player earns 27 credit hours during the first year enrolled.
“That rule impacts the summer prior to your initial enrollment,” said Slive, who wants “everyone on the same page” nationally before adopting.
There was concern with the graduate exception rule that a transfers might not focus on graduate studies.
“It is not acceptable for us to have a student-athlete transfer in solely for an athletic experience,” Slive said.
Without the exception, Jeremiah Masoli would not have been permitted to transfer to Ole Miss last year after he was dismissed at Oregon.
Former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson, who reportedly visited Auburn, would be eligible to play this season since the graduate exception rule doesn’t take effect until October.
These changes are coming to a league that has won five straight BCS titles, which has some worrying that success might be derailed.
“No one, no one wants to win more than I do,” Slive said, “but we don’t want to win at the expense of young people. We want to win for them.”