SEC Panders to Oversigning Zealots
This is not to say, of course, that the matter of coaches lying to prospective athletes and then leaving them high and dry is an unimportant one. Nor would anyone suggest it doesn’t happen, but when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail and oversigning zealots have been practicing that for years. Every time a player leaves an “oversigning” team, the worst is assumed. Even players who have a history of injury who spend an entire off-season in rehab are assumed to have been “forced” onto medical scholarship. There’s little in the way of objective analysis — starting with the lack of acknowledgement from most of the club that they actually have no idea what a team’s scholarship roster looks like.
Still, they made a lot of noise2, and the SEC caved. The rules all appear to try to protect players, but many do so at the expense of prospective athletes.
The most troublesome of the rules, really, is the medical scholarship oversight.
Established legislation specifying that the conference office will oversee the administration of medical scholarship exemptions. The SEC will have a role in reviewing and deciding the outcome of each medically-related exemption.
Football is a dangerous sport and to play at a high level requires the player’s body to be in good condition. Moreover, it’s not a black-and-white situation. There’s not a “can play” / “can’t play” indicator light on each player, and the continuum of injuries ranges from those that impact their ability to play very little to complete paralysis. The problem with this legislation is in the gray area in between. A player whose injuries do not keep them from playing, but do keep them from being competitive, might have their medical scholarship nixed by the SEC. What happens then? Does the team plod along with the dead weight, or do they cut the player to make room for someone who can contribute? Previously, the answer is simple: the team is able to do right by the player and themselves. Now, they may be forced to choose between helping one guy out and helping an entire team.
Even if you assume that the team’s moral and ethical obligation is to continue to give the player his scholarship, competitive consequences be damned, you’ve now just given coaches who are, in your estimation, unethical or immoral a competitive advantage over the ones who do the “right thing”.
This rule does nothing to protect players3 and actually provides an incentive for a team to stop helping an injured player get his degree.
At the end of the day, most of these rules serve not to protect players from deception and misinformation, but to reduce the number of athletes a team can choose from. It’s not player-protection legislation, it’s legislation whose sole goal is to reduce the gap between coaches who can recruit well and those who cannot.
- Cook, a Michigan fan, decided “oversigning” was a problem quite conveniently when his team’s head coach needed a distraction [↩]
- I wish I had a dollar for every time a blogger or commenter pretended to know who was on scholarship at a particular school [↩]
- Medical scholarship whining is the place it’s easiest to see the true motives of Oversigning.com and their ilk [↩]