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January 26, 2011

College Football Report - Oversinging Continues to be Growing Problem in Recruiting:

Ever wonder how the Southeastern Conference continues to be college football’s most dominant league year in, year out? You shouldn’t, the evidence of why is written in plain ink.

Come Feb. 2, more evidence will flow through fax machines all across the country, particularly in SEC country.

Every year Alabama, LSU, Florida and Auburn walk through their schedules and continue their dominance against out of conference teams. There’s a reason the schools don’t rebuild, but instead reload.

It’s called oversigning. Few notice, but the SEC has gotten rich on it. Here’s how it works:

Schools are allowed 85 scholarship players on their team’s roster. They’re allowed more players, but only 85 can be on a scholarship. In yearly recruiting, only 25 future student athletes can be signed to a scholarship by fall practices.

Coaches try to sign players to a National Letter of Intent (LOI), which then binds the recruit to their school. The LOI cannot be signed, however, until signing day, Feb. 2. What a LOI does is claim that school has a scholarship and available space on the roster for them.

If a school has 85 players on scholarship, but they lose 20 to graduation, the NFL Draft or transferring following the season, then that school has room to sign 20 recruits to a LOI, which leads to a scholarship.

Oversigning happens when a school only has room for 20 additional signings, but signs more than that 20 to LOI. The school then has to find room for the players it’s oversigned. Whether it be cutting players already on scholarship, sending recruits to junior college or a prep school, or even not adhering to the promise of a scholarship, room must be made.

There have been no NCAA rules or regulations against oversigning. There is, however, an NCAA bylaw which will now prohibit a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team to 28 signings from Feb. 2 to May 31.

The rule is far from a solution, though. Its spilled milk compared to the tidal wave hitting the recruiting world.

The culprits of oversigning are clear: Nick Saban of Alabama (above), Houston Nutt of Ole Miss, Les Miles of LSU and Larry Blankley of Troy have all been problem coaches of oversigning throughout their careers.

In 2008, Alabama signed 32 players. In 2009, Nutt signed 37 players to a LOI. Last season, LSU brought in 29 recruits. Troy has signed 32 or more players in every class since 2007. In 2009, they signed 40 recruits. In all the above classes, not all recruits made it in to their schools. SI’s Any Staples breaks down schools five year totals.

What coaches hope for or bank on, is that not all their recruits will qualify academically. In turn the players will be sent to a junior college or prep school for however long, where a coach may or may not extend the scholarship offer in the future.

The problem comes when all players do qualify or when teams sign players after National Signing Day with full classes. Coaches are then left with a decision.

Miami (FL) ran into that problem last season, when the Hurricanes brought in two five-star recruits after signing day, on an already full roster. Seantrel Henderson and Latwan Anderson both signed well after the February signing day.

To make room, Miami coaches released two current players on their 85 man active roster in defensive end Steven Wesley (90, right) and wideout Thearon Collier, both of whom were regular contributors for the Hurricanes the previous season. The University issued a statement that Collier had been released for “violating team rules.” Which rules, were never released. Wesley, who claims he was in good academic standing, was released for “academic issues.” It came as a surprise to both players.

Henderson signed with Miami in June, while Anderson had been brought in a month earlier, only on a track scholarship. As soon as Anderson did anything with the football team, the scholarship would be moved over to a football scholarship, though.

Where Wesley and Collier come in, was to make room. Both were released just before summer camp. Wesley moved on to North Alabama, while Collier transferred to USC.

LSU hadn’t expected all of their 29 recruits from their 2010 class to qualify, when more did than Miles thought would, a decision had to be made.

Elliott Porter and Cameron Fordham were informed there wouldn’t be room for them on the LSU roster. Porter and Fordham had turned down many others schools to attend LSU, with Porter even being enrolled in classes. Still, there wasn’t room.

Since then, Fordham accepted a walk-on position, while Porter has since headed back to LSU to do the same after a stint at Kentucky.

This season, oversigning continues to grow, even before Feb. 2. According to (who has the best tag line of any website – where 30 + 29 + 28 + 32= 85) the biggest culprits are sticking to the trend.

Of the nine programs that are currently exceeding the number of scholarships they can give for their 2011 classes, six of the wrongdoer’s are SEC schools. Ole Miss leads the show with 14 recruits over the limit. Alabama is at +10, while LSU and Arkansas are at +9 and +8 respectively.

USC and Lane Kiffin, who has 10 less scholarships to give out because of NCAA sanctions, is currently in pursuit of oversigning by 10 players.

Oversigning is picking up headlines nationwide and gaining interest from the NCAA more now than ever because of the bad exposure it has brought in. Rightfully so, though. It gives teams a competitive advantage of having only the best players on their rosters and weeding out players who have yet to reach their potential. Most of all, it’s just wrong.

Until a rule or regulation is put in place, future and current players will wonder if they actually do have a spot on the team that was promised to them.

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