The issue of oversigning in Division I college football is a complex beast. There is room for reasonable people to have a wide array of views and it is even possible for two people to disagree without one of them being unethical or immoral1. The problem with the current debate — at least so far as the internet is concerned — is that a great deal of nuance is overlooked and people (even those on the same side) often talk past each other.
The key fact that has to be understood before any real discussion can begin is that scholarships are, by rule, limited to one year, renewable obligations2. A school cannot, even if it wants to, promise a recruit a four or five year scholarship. The default mode of operation, however, is renewal and there is a deadline by which the school must notify athletes who were on scholarship the previous year that it will not be renewed3. The NCAA also requires institutional hearings for student athletes whose scholarships aren’t renewed and has some regulations as to who may adjudicate that hearing4.
The chief allegation often made by folks like Oversigning.com and Brian Cook is that oversigning is immoral or unethical because, in the words of Cook, if the numbers don’t work out, “someone gets it right in the ass“. As you might suspect, it’s not that simple.
- Despite certain Big Ten partisans hoping you’ll believe otherwise [↩]
- NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 [↩]
- NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 [↩]
- NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206 [↩]
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.
- 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 [↩]