Saturday, June 4, 2011

Key Issues Not Addressed

While the changes that were announced yesterday by the SEC regarding roster management initially give a positive impression, I have to agree with Jeff Schultz that it doesn't have the teeth that Slive and the school presidents would have you believe:

"According to the rules, if a coach has 18 scholarship openings he can still sign 25 kids, then massage the numbers over a certain period, coerce kids into quitting or taking a “grayshirt” — postponing going on scholarship — or working some medical hardship magic (albeit, the SEC will have some oversight now). In the end, the coach gets the 18 players on the roster he wants and other seven are dropped into a black hole."
You can't just look at numbers in a 4 year window, because most players take a redshirt year. So if they play out their full eligibility, then they are occupying a scholarship for 5 years. According to these new rules, a coach can still sign 125 players in a rolling 5 year period. In order to be under the cap of 85 scholarships, he will have to have lost 40 players from the previous 5 years. Is it realistic to expect that to occur completely with natural attrition? I have to think not. In any given year, you're probably going to have 15-20 graduates, and another 2-3 transfers. It's also fair to think that you'll have 1 or 2 of your signees per year who will not qualify academically, and depending on the quality of your program, another 2-3 players on average leaving early for the NFL. So we're still talking about 10-15 extra players that have to be accounted for through "roster management". THAT is where the gray area comes into play, and the SEC chose not to address that gray area.

I don't claim to speak for my cohorts here at OLI, but in my mind, oversigning should be measured on a total scholarship cap, not a yearly scholarship cap. Coaches should be required to provide documentation on how many current scholarships they have committed to existing players at least 2 weeks before signing day - and that data should be made available in a public forum. Subtract that number from 85, then add 3, and that's how many players you are allowed to sign. Yes, I am in favor of a small amount of oversigning. Between signing day and kickoff of the following season, programs typically lose at least 3 players to transfers, medical issues, academic eligibility, etc. So I believe it is prudent to allow a minimal amount of oversigning - up to 3 on your total amount of scholarships available. But I'd add one more step - if you choose to oversign, then you must have an equal number of your signees for that year sign written documentation that they acknowledge the real chance that there will not be a spot for them in the fall if the expected attrition does not occur (this would be a standard form across the NCAA, to prevent schools from inserting their own creative language). And should it happen that the coach ends up short a spot or two, the only players he can choose to grayshirt would be ones who had been given that documentation, so there's no chance for a bait & switch.

So if you have 17 scholarships available, and you sign 20 players that year, at least 3 of them have to have been provided the written documentation described above. Now some coaches would get around this by making it a policy to provide that written documentation to every recruit that they sign. But I'm not sure that that would necessarily be a bad thing, because it would at least force the conversation with the recruits and raise awareness. Plus, schools that DON'T force every recruit to sign those would arguably receive a bit of a leg up in recruiting.

I don't know what Slive's ultimate goal is with roster management. I don't know if he is satisfied with what was passed this week, or if it is just the first step in tightening the belt. I get the sense that it is more of the former than the latter, but we will see. Though the yearly cap of 25 isn't perfect, it's still better than a cap of 28, because a cap of 28 gives yet another 15 student athletes that have to be accounted for in a 5 year period. The rules passed this week are a step in the right direction, I just hope Slive and the school presidents will take another step or two in that direction in the next few years.

-Rev.

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