The NCAAF Over Signing Recruits Debate… Dirty, Unfair Business Targets Naïve Student Athletes

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

When I was a young Loyal Homer, and didn’t understand the nuances of recruiting as well as I do now, I often wondered to myself how so many players were able to fit with one university? The numbers just didn’t add up to me. How could schools consistently have top-five recruiting classes on a yearly basis by signing 25-30 players every year and still manage to stay under the scholarship limit of 85 posed by the NCAA? That’s where over signing enters the picture.

According to the very cool Web site I located while researching this argument (one Babe Ruthless found also), over signing, by definition, is the act of accepting more signed letters of intent on National Signing Day than a program has room for under the 85 scholarship limit. To get under the limit, schools have players that leave for various. And sometimes mysterious reasons. They become academically ineligible or perhaps they “gray shirt,” which has always been a unique term for me because there sure seems to be a lot of gray areas with this problem. And believe me, it’s a problem.

Let’s look at a recent incident at LSU. This past year LSU signed 27 players on signing day, knowing only 25 scholarship spots were available on the roster. Unfortunately for Les Miles, all 27 of those players qualified academically (which is actually quite rare these days) and decided to make the journey to the Bayou. That left Miles in quite a pickle. He knew he had to get down to the imposed 85 limit by dropping two of the players somehow, so he went to Elliot Porter and asked him to take a gray shirt. Porter was highly recruited out of high school and when talking about Tiger Stadium, he was quoting as saying, “You’re going to see me playing there.” Well, Elliot, no we’re not. Unless you are a member of the opposing team.

Porter moved out of his dorm and moved back home with his future suddenly looking gloomy. Miles simply told him there was no room at the inn for him. This is quite a lot for a teenager to handle. He’s quite perturbed, and I imagine his family and folks like his high school football coach, are as well. He’s been granted a release from LSU, obviously, and has to win an appeal in order to gain immediate eligibility at another school, which shouldn’t be a problem. But let’s be real. It’s August 5. Where can he go in this short of time and have an immediate impact? He’s a teenager. It’s going to be hard enough for a guy like Jeremiah Masoli to walk on at Ole Miss this close to this season. There’s no way a guy like Porter can do this. They’re screwed. It’s as simple as that. You know it. I know it. Babe Ruthless knows it, also.

The NCAA needs to close this loophole in the system that allows coaches wiggle room with the scholarship limit. Student athletes are expected to stick to their word once they sign on National Signing Day. The coaches should be stuck with the same commitment. I’m not exactly sure what the answer is, but I know what the answer isn’t – telling guys like Elliot Porter to pack up and leave… and come back next year wearing a “gray shirt.” Why should he do that? What reason does he have to believe that a gray shirt will even be there for him then?

Let’s say you just got a new job and you’re all excited about what this means for your future. You show up for your first day and before you even have time to take your coat off, your boss meets you at your desk and says, “Son, I hate to say this, but payroll has informed me we don’t have enough money to hire anyone else after all. But hey, check back this time next year and you can have this job.” Yeah, okay, sure boss!! What are you supposed to do for the next 12 months?

Something needs to be done. This is unfair, as the talents and inexperience of the student athletes are being taken advantage of. The naïve kids are walking into the lion’s den of a college campus assuming their scholarship is taken care of and that they can start practicing football, preparing for class, and meeting girls (and not necessarily in that order). What they don’t know is that their scholarship is NEVER guaranteed and they have absolutely no control of it.

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The NCAAF Over Signing Recruits Debate… Dirty, Unfair Business Targets Naïve Student Athletes


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