Just yesterday the official Ohio State Athletics website posted an updated depth chart for the Buckeyes. There were some big changes, though many were fully expected. Of particular note were the losses of Jamaal Berry (cut for off-field issues) and David Durham (transfer to Pittsburgh).
But the question that still lingers is the one of Oversigning. Ohio State fans and media have been justifiably wringing their hands since the moment that Urban Meyer started recruiting like crazy. It’s not unusual around this time for Buckeye fans to worry about oversigning, particularly considering how badly they view the practice. To see the Buckeyes commit such an act would be incredibly shameful for nearly everyone.
Accounting for scholarships, though, is a tricky business. Whether a player has maintained their scholarship over the course of time, particularly if they’ve remained a walk-on, is hard to figure out. It’s also difficult to keep track of which walk-ons have managed to pick up scholarships during the course of time. Plus, the constant addition and subtraction of players through transfer and recruiting just adds another level of complication.
With the Buckeyes still hunting after one additional recruit, we have been told by Urban Meyer that there are currently 81 scholarship players on the team. Those numbers would leave one available scholarship in the 2012 recruiting class if his accounting is correct. Of course, there’s still a player out there that Meyer thinks could fill that spot.
Stefon Diggs, a Wide Receiver/Defensive Back recruit out of Maryland, is scheduled to announce his college destination this evening. Where he is going, currently a battle between Maryland, Ohio State, and Florida, has been a hotly contested topic of conversation on Twitter and college football recruiting boards across the country. Diggs would be a huge addition to any recruiting class, and would be the kind of significant playmaker that could see the field quickly in a big way.
As a public service, I have independently worked through the current scholarship situation for the Ohio State Buckeyes. You may recall that Bucknuts has already provided this service – but there is a horrifically glaring error in their analysis. Much like the motto of Oversigning.com, Bucknuts seems to think that 15+15+28+25 = 81. I’ll wait while you grab a calculator.
If you do the math, that actually adds up to 83 (see..you can tell by just adding the 8 and 5 of the last two numbers…well, you don’t care about the details). In other words, Bucknuts attempted to verify Urban Meyer’s numbers, counted up all of the individual classes, and then assumed what they were trying to prove. If only the world actually worked that way.
So did the Buckeyes actually oversign? Here’s my current list of scholarships by their year of playable eligibility as currently announced, and advanced a year. In other words, if you read through the current Roster, advance all of the Freshmen to Sophomores (except the early attendees), Sophomores to Juniors, etc. If you do that, you get the following table.
I have included Melvin Fellows and Scott McVey in this analysis. They currently remain on the roster, but it has been well understood that they will be granted a Medical Hardship this year - effectively ending their OSU playing careers. If you remove them from the numbers, as Bucknuts did, you end up with 83. For those keeping score, that’s two scholarships more than Urban Meyer has claimed.
Does that mean the Buckeyes have oversigned? By the definition that is supported by Oversigning.com, we have indeed. We currently stand at more scholarships than we are allowed to have for the following year after national signing day. That means that some players are going to have to be removed in some way in order to get the Buckeyes to the necessary 82 scholarships OSU has to be at by August.
And these numbers don’t even include Stefon Diggs – if he decides to become a Buckeye.
There’s one factor left to be taken into account. Even before signing day, we knew about the Medical Hardships for both Fellows and McVey, meaning that it was well known that those were available scholarships before the new recruits signed on. It was also announced that the Buckeyes would have between 3-5 transfers that had yet to be announced. David Durham may have been included in those numbers. Even if he was that puts OSU at between 79 and 81 players on scholarship after those transfers work out, well within safe territory.
It’s critical to note that the coaching staff knows about these transfers, whether we as fans have been made aware of them or not. Urban Meyer is not a liar, despite what Florida fans might think right now. If he knows he currently has 81 scholarship players, I have no reason to disbelieve him. That’s especially true considering his feelings regarding oversigning, as our own Dave wrote about several weeks ago.
Do not forget as well that the Big Ten has much more substantial oversight on scholarships than many other conferences. They allow a team to sign up to 3 players above their 85 (or in OSU’s case, 82) scholarship limit, with specific documentation as to the exact circumstances that will be used to reach the appropriate scholarship limit. There’s no reason not to believe the Big Ten will bring the hammer down for any improprieties they discover, should they exist, in that documentation.
With the recent change in coaching staff, the Buckeyes are going through a serious transition phase. In other places where a significant change in coaching has occurred, especially when that has meant a big change in playing style, transfers to other schools become much more common than is usual in your average season. It is to be expected that several players will decide that they’re not cut out to play for Urban Meyer and that another school might be a better place for them to finish their career. Taylor Graham, a pocket-passer style quarterback, is one such player that has already made the decision to transfer to Hawaii due to his belief that he will never see the field for Meyer who prefers dual-threat quarterbacks.
The result of all this is that to claim Meyer has oversigned this year is an example of the Straw Man fallacy. While the numbers do seem to suggest that the Buckeyes are currently “over”, they have at least known for a while that several players on the list are planning on transferring and those transfers have simply not been announced. Oversigning puts coaches in a position where they have to force players to yield a scholarshipe against the player’s best self interest. If a coach already knows the scholarships will be available, even if the transfer has yet to be made officially public, it is not oversigning – unless the coach is using force to coerce action in his current players.
And that’s the real crime of oversigning: players are ultimately forced to yield their scholarship when it is not in their best interest to do so, but is solely for the betterment of the team as a whole – which comes in the guise of scholarships to new and better recruits. Forcing a player to give up their scholarship, failing to honor the commitments and promises you have made, rather than allowing them to decide for themselves is the real evil of oversigning. To fail to recognize the difference is to fail to understand the heart of the problem.
Morality cannot be viewed in a black box. An action cannot be judged while being disassociated from the conditions that caused it. It is just as important to identify the reasons a thing happens as it is to identify the action itself. If it someday comes to light that any player during Meyer’s tenure has actually been forced out to open space for another recruit, then I will be the first to accuse him of engaging in inappropriate recruiting. Until that time however I will judge him by what I see him do. At this moment, he has done nothing more than recruit scholarships that are not publicly free. If others wish to accuse him of oversigning on the basis of a lack of publicly available knowledge, that’s up to them.
If Stefon Diggs selects the Buckeyes this evening, expect the oversigning questions to become louder – not only from the national media, but from Buckeye fans themselves. The best check of the system possible is to ask the tough questions and expect answers. It would be great if Meyer can provide an answer now, but until the player announces it himself FERPA may tie Meyer’s hands. We will just have to wait to find out the whole story.