One Fan’s Opinion: The Dark Side Of Signing Day

Written February 8th, 2013 by MaliBuckeye
Wednesday was a celebration for many across the country; families, coaches, and fans. But not everyone saw National Signing Day as a great event.What started out as a Tuesday conversation with a friend of mine who works in Higher Education turned into his sending me the following reflection on the underside of roster management, admissions, and the pursuit of the next big thing.

Bells And Whistles

“My word is my bond“…except in college football recruiting.

It has been well covered on the BBC before but there aren’t too many boy scouts (in the traditional sense) involved in the circus that culminated on National Signing Day.  We all saw the faces of 17-18 year olds sitting behind a table with significant others and an pen in hand.  What is a day that will ultimately change their life forever, though, is littered with ugly.  There is enough blame to go around and in this writer’s opinion, very little should be shouldered by the 18 year old kid.

Let’s start with the system (driven by the media), which asks a kid to give his “word” (which used to mean something) and announce his verbal commit way in advance…but what is that commitment anyway…doesn’t everyone know that guys are non-committal at best?  This promise isn’t something that will keep anyone away.  If nothing else, it draws MORE attention from other teams trying to “flip” that word (read: promise).

Next, there are the coaches, lathering up the recruits and blowing smoke saying they are the best player they’ve seen (in the past 5 minutes).  All to find out that this best player is just one of 5 recruited at that position, and in many cases he was told he was top guy on the coach’s list (as were the other 4).

Then there is the NCAA, which I’m convinced couldn’t host a 5 year old’s birthday party properly.  How does a “program” like Ole Miss sign a class that rivals USC, OSU, TX, FL, or AL?  Schadenfreude that’s how.  When did Mississippi become the hotbed of college football…NEVER.  And the NCAA stands by smiling.

Finally, as our friends at Oversigning so wonderfully articulates, how do many programs in the country do math? When the rest of the nation is playing with 85, they are playing with 100, 105 and in some cases 110.  The travesty in this, is that to get to 85, many STUDENT athletes are sent packing because they aren’t as fast or as strong as they were told they were a year ago, and instead of earning a college degree from a sound academic institution, they are getting one from a directional school, if one is achieved at all.

So how do we fix this? Well, I propose a few options.

 

Big Moment

First, get rid of the idea of, “VERBAL” commits. Have an early signing period and be done with the backstabbing, coerced lying that takes place. National recruiting day is the only place where the stars get picked late.  Not the draft, and definitely not 5th grade pick up recess football. How many 5 “stars” are sitting at the end of the line with the violin player that needs to be picked?  (my apologies to the strings)

Second, How about a flat “25 recruits per year” rule.  ONLY 25.  If my ciphering skills are correct that is 100 in four years, which still provids well over the 85 we now have. AND last I checked maybe only 50 – 60 are needed to play the game.  Or crazier still, how about universal 4 year scholarships offers.  Thus a coach has a kid for 4 years no matter what and that kid has a degree promised to him from that institution no matter how fast he is or isn’t.  Coaches would have to make sure they are bringing in the right kids or they would quickly be playing at a “disadvantage” to those coaches who can actually gauge talent.

All of this, and yet somehow we still LOVE college football.  And we follow “stars”, pay for websites to follow “stars” and argue over who has the most “stars”- when each of our teams has produced plenty of NFL talent who showed up in college with only two or three “stars”.

So as we watched fax machines (really, why are these still used?) Wednesday, we should have kept in mind that the trail leading up to this day is littered with lies, lies, cheating and more lies.

And the road ahead for these young men will be directly impacted by how fast and strong the HS Juniors are tomorrow, when the coaches begin getting more “verbal” commits to take the place of the members of the Class of 2013.

9 Comments

  1. SYRmotsagNo Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I know I will be in the vast minority on this opinion but I am truly starting to believe the B1G has this oversigning thing wrong. The NCAA has no oversigning rules and doesnt seem to want to get involved in regulating it at all on the contrary they want to regulate recruiting even less. The SEC made up some arbitrary rules that they don’t enforce because well why would they. You rarely ever see or hear kids complain about being screwed over. In the end the B1G rules are archaic and hurting their own schools so soften the stance and join the SEC and ACC in the practice and as Gerry DiNardo says give more kids a shot to go to college and get a degree.

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  2. JohnNo Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 9:33 am

    The only problem I see with that 4 year scholarships is that then the kid has to stay in school those 4 years an can’t bolt as a junior. You see it has to work both ways.

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  3. Catch 5No Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    There is nobody in the country playing with more than 85 scholarships. Nobody – and the idea that there is, is either intentionally misleading or uninformed. Simply counting LOIs (as I pointed out in yesterday’s article) is a terrible indicator of players on campus even if you take all attrition out of the equation – something that your “Oversigning friend” has been unable to recognize despite his superior talent in mathematics.

    Where are these players being sent packing? Yes, I know all about Les Miles messing up one year and having to ask a kid to greyshirt just before classes started – what I want to know, is where are the kids being forced out? I’ve been looking into oversigning for several years now (as I genuinely want to know if players are being mistreated, but am not willing to condemn on purely speculative information) and have read as many articles/announcements of Alabama transfers as I have come across and have never seen any with a quote from the player saying he had his scholarship removed or that the coach told him he had to leave. I’ve seen such from an OSU player (James Jackson) and one from a Florida player under Meyer (Bryan Thomas) but not from Bama. These players’ accusations are certainly not above reproach and I’m not pointing fingers at these coaches/programs as these kids could have easily misunderstood the conversation with the coaches or even been misquoted/exaggerated by an author trying to make a story – no, what I’m asking is where are the similar accusations against Alabama? If programs that don’t oversign and treat their kids the “right way” are subject to an occasional accusation such as these, where are the cries from the throngs of players being cut from programs like Alabama every year? Does this not strike you as odd?

    My last gripe: If oversigning teams are cutting kids to get below the 85 limit, their attrition rate would have to be well above that of teams that don’t oversign, right? I’ve begun a study to research that. I’ve looked at the recruiting classes from 2008 and 2009: seeing how many from these classes enrolled with the team and subsequently left “unsuccessfully”, meaning transferred, dismissed, given medical exemptions, or just quit before their 4th year. Comparing the three most criticized teams on Oversigning dot com (Alabama, LSU, South Carolina) to the three most praised for not Oversigning (OSU, Florida, Georgia) is most revealing:
    2008
    AL: 35.7%, LSU: 36.0%, SC: 33.3%
    Average: 35.0%
    OSU: 31.6%, FL: 31.8%, Ga: 40.9%
    Average: 34.8%
    2009
    AL: 30.8%, LSU: 29.2%, SC: 29.2%
    Average: 29.7%
    OSU: 40.0%, FL: 23.5%, 25.0%
    Average: 29.5%
    Both years, the two groups are within 0.2% of each other, statistically the same. Now, this doesn’t prove Oversigning teams don’t cut players, but does point out that if they are, it certainly isn’t because they are Oversigning, and thus getting rid of Oversigning would not solve the problem.

    Now that I’ve aired my grievances, I do like your suggestions – though my opinion is that you would still see the same amount (or more) of players transferring as there is only a certain amount of playing time available and that what many of these kids are after – especially 4 and 5 star players that aren’t used to waiting a few years to win a position. I have no problem with straight up signing 25 players every year – I like it actually as it would eventually lead to more kids earning scholarships, though the amount of playing time will remain the same.
    What I believe is that the system isn’t as broken as people complain. By and large it works – kids you see as being shoved to a “lesser” school are more often looking for a place where they can crack the starting lineup, and let’s face it, a degree in general studies from Ohio State is not really more impressive than one from Georgia State is it? BTW, some of these “lesser” schools are perfectly fine academic institutions in their own right. Football prowess and academic prominence are not the same.

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    sb97No Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Just a quick point about James Jackson. When he was cut/released/cast aside/whatever Ohio State was several players short of its scholarship limit (Or I should say I have not seen anything saying we were). I have no idea why he was let go but it does not look like he wascut to make room for another player.

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    sb97No Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Whoops meant to include this:

    http://oversigning.com/testing/index.php/tag/ohio-state/

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    Catch 5No Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Like I said, his comments are not above reproach. I agree that OSU was not oversigned at the time (they were earlier in the year if I recall) but that is not the issue is it? If a team oversigns, but only for attrition that is known to the staff or maybe one or two more that are accounted for with in-coming players agreeing to grayshirt if needed, where is the problem? If no players are being cut or lied to in the recruiting, there is no moral shortcoming to the practice – it simply becomes a tool to help keep a full allotment of scholarship players (which actually is MORE benefitual to the kids as it provides more opportunity than not oversigning).
    No, the accusation he made about OSU oversigning is not what I was concerned with. It was his accusation that Tressel asked him to transfer because “maybe Ohio State wasn’t the place for [him]“. Same with the Bryan Thomas quotes.
    See, oversigning can be done without cutting players, and players can be cut without oversigning. As such, why is oversigning the focus if your true concern is to keep players from being cut? Said differently, if you think Saban is cutting players in the summer because he signed too many kids on NSD, do you really think he won’t cut the same kids in January so he can sign the same number if you ban oversigning? If you don’t then oversigning shouldn’t be your focus.

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  4. sb97No Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Sorry this was supposed to be my second and final post on the subject. Its tough to say what is going on at Alabama because no one seems to want to go one record. They don’t (or werent) releasing scholarship numbers (Neither does Ohio State). More importantly, every time I read an article about Alabama and Oversigning it goes something like this one:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203716204577016110526669958.html

    “One of the downsides of oversigning is that teams that do it often have to find ways to cull players from the roster. Last season, The Wall Street Journal described the fate of several Alabama players who said they were asked to take “medical” scholarships that banned them from competing again for the Crimson Tide—even though the players said they were healthy enough to play. ”

    That is tough to verify or prove wrong because we don’t know who they are talking about.

    P.S. Sorry about spelling errors. For some reason I cannot scroll up and edit.

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    Catch 5No Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I’m really getting irritated with the WSJ. I expect better from a major source of journalism. Yes, they had an article that was very critical of Saban and medical hardships, but that article was extremely poorly written – the premise of the title and tag line are not supported within the article itself – and biased. And here they attribute something (“even though the players said they were healthy enough to play”) that was not even stated in the oritional article.

    The origional article mentions exactly 3 former players. Here are direct quotes from the article about them:
    – “Charles Hoke, a former Alabama offensive lineman who took a medical scholarship in 2008 because of a shoulder problem, said the choice was left entirely up to him and was based on the many conversations he had with the team’s doctors and trainers over the course of his junior year”
    – “Mr. Kirschman said the decision to take the medical scholarship was ultimately his”. Kirschman did have some suggestively negative things to say, but he never says he wasn’t injured.
    – After tearing an ACL the previous year, “Mr. Griffin said that he was surprised last month when the football staff told him he had failed a physical … Mr. Griffin said he doesn’t contest the results of the physical and said it was “basically my decision” to forgo the rest of his playing career.”

    Here is a more detailed critique I did on that article:
    http://t-s-b-n.com/pt/The-Oversigning-Retort—The-Medical-Exemption-Scandal/blog.htm

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  5. CharlesNo Gravatar
    February 8th, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Very nice article Mali. While I always do like to see OSU do well with their recruiting class, all the hype and everything around signing day just makes me shake my head.

    I definitely would like to see an early signing day created, there is no reason that 17 and 18 year old kids who have already made their decision should continue to get harassed by coaches from other schools looking to flip them; let the kid sign and enjoy the rest of his senior year.

    I also want to see four year scholarships made the rule. If we want to continue to claim that these are student-athletes then we need to be putting the student part first and guaranteeing them their chance to earn a degree and not let them risk losing that because a better player comes along a year or two after them. Yes, that may not be how things work in the real world but a lot of college isn’t like the real world, how many times were you removed from a class because you screwed up on a project/paper to an extent that would have gotten you fired in the real world? Sure, this means that some players may slack off once they sign their offer and not work hard in practice or in games but 1. that would be a rare thing and 2. that means the coaches (who get paid millions of dollars) just have to be more careful when it comes to evaluating recruits.

    I would also like to see the media and the fans stay out of the whole recruiting thing. We wonder why some players get to college and think they are can get away with breaking all sorts of rules, both team and NCAA rules. Well that starts with the circus that recruiting has become. You have thousands of fans and the media hanging on every word these kids say. When you are a high school player who sees dozens of articles written about where you may go to school, when you see message boards with discussions that are a dozen pages long talking about how great you are and how much the fans want you at their school, is it any surprise that you often get a big ego and think that you are above everyone else?

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