Oversigning has support among SEC coaches
Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.
DESTIN — Based on what commissioner Mike Slive has said in recent weeks about the issue of oversigning in the SEC, change is inevitable and change is coming for the conference's football coaches.
But it appears it will be met with considerable resistance, based on what some of the coaches were saying at the first day of the SEC's annual spring meetings Tuesday.
“No, I don't (see a need for a change),” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. “But when you read what the commissioner has said, there probably will be a change.
“The people that criticize oversigning. … I'm not sure they understand why you do it and what it's all about and how you manage your roster and how you get to (the overall scholarship limit) of 85.”
Oversigning in football has become a controversial issue in the SEC. The critics say it has led to schools greyshirting some prospects (making them hold off on enrollment until January because there is no room on the roster), a practice UF president Bernie Machen has called “morally reprehensible.”
Only two years after passing legislation to limit its schools to signing 28 high school prospects, the SEC is considering cutting that number back to 25, an integral part of a plan by the conference to help schools better manage their rosters.
The proposed legislation could be passed later this week.
Auburn's Gene Chizik is among the coaches resisting the change.
“I'm going to go back a little bit and start from last year (when the signing limit of 28 went into effect),” Chizik said. “Obviously, we amended legislation last year to sign a maximum of 28. Obviously, there was a lot of thought put into that.
“A lot of people agreed that would be an effective idea to address the problem that people were worried about. It's worked, in my opinion.
“I'm very comfortable with where it is at right now. For us to turn around a year later and want to change again. … I have my doubts about us having given it enough time to figure out if it's broke or not. I'm comfortable with where it's at.”
Chizik is not alone.
“I don't know if there will be acceptance to (the proposed change),” Petrino said. “It's all how you manage your roster. I've always been one that oversigns, knowing that out of these six guys, three of them are going to get eligible and three are going to a junior college and then have a chance to come play for us.
“It almost always plays out right. Most of the time, it's a situation where, prior to school in the fall, I've been able to put one or two walk-ons on scholarship.”
To illustrate his point, Petrino told the story about a prospect he signed two years ago who he knew would not qualify academically (and was part of an oversigned class). The prospect went to junior college and now is expected to be an impact player for the Razorbacks this season.
“Here's a young man whose grades haven't been real good, and on signing day he has a great experience and it lifts his spirits and motivates him to finish the year out with good grades and go to junior college and graduate from there,” Petrino said.
“Now he gets to come back and live his dream to play in the SEC. To me, that's a good thing. You're helping motivate young men, and that's part of our job.”
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, who is affectionately known around the league as the poster-boy for oversigning, said coaches will be less likely to take chances on those kind of prospects if the number is limited to 25.
“I have a soft spot in my heart when a (high school) coach says, ‘All he needs is you. He's had a few problems, but all he needs is you,' ” Nutt said. “We've had success stories that way.
“But we're going to have fewer of those. If you say 25, you're talking about you better be right. You can't make mistakes. Right now (at 28), you can't make mistakes. But that's even tougher. To jump out on that limb, you probably won't do that.”
Even though he's oversigned in the past, Nutt said he has always been at the class limit by the time classes begin in the fall.
Other coaches, however, have found themselves over the limit (for the class, or for the overall 85), and have resorted to greyshirting.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he's OK with the practice as long as the prospect and his parents know the possibility exists when he signs in February.
“Let's say you have space for 15 and you sign 20,” Richt said. “If those five guys know that if there's no room in the inn that they're going to greyshirt … and the family knows and the high school coach knows, then I don't see anything wrong with it.
“If a kid thinks he's coming in with his class and you spring a surprise on him, I don't think that's right.
“Historically, though, there is enough attrition to make room for any oversigning.”
Richt said he's still not sure whether he is for or against the proposal of cutting back to 25 per signing class.
“I'm going to listen to what everybody has to say before I decide,” he said.
One coach who says he doesn't have a decision to make on the issue is Florida's Will Muschamp.
Whatever the rule is, he'll follow it. He said UF does not allow the practice of oversigning — or greyshirting.
“It's not a policy we have at Florida,” he said. “I don't really worry about it. We don't oversign.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.