Friday, January 23, 2009

Butch Davis thinks he's Nick Saban

What's wrong with these recruiting rankings?

Team - Commits/Star average/Points
1. LSU - 20 / 3.90 / 2,520
2. Ohio State - 24 / 3.79 / 2,479
3. Texas - 20 / 3.85 / 2,375
4. Alabama - 20 / 3.70 / 2,189
5. USC - 17 / 3.88 / 2,153
6. North Carolina - 29 / 3.34 / 2,084
7. Georgia - 18 / 3.83 / 2,040
8. Michigan - 20 / 3.65 / 2,020
9. Florida - 16 / 3.88 / 1,890
10. Miami - 18 / 3.67 / 1,841

North Carolina seems a bit out of place, right? Especially considering that it has by far the lowest star average of any team in the top 10. But look again at the total number of commitments ...

That's right, the Tar Heels have 29 commitments. The maximum number of scholarships in any one class is 25, per NCAA bylaws. Now, there are ways around that limit -- early enrollees can count toward the previous class, while grayshirts (players who don't enroll until the following semester, which are rare) can count toward the following year's class.

However, there is also a total limit of 85 scholarships. North Carolina had only 12 scholarship seniors, while junior receiver Hakeem Nicks declared for the draft and backup QB Cameron Sexton announced that he will transfer.

So there are 14 players leaving (so far) and 29 coming in. Hmmmm ....

Obviously, this is unethical at best. Even if there are a few players who don't qualify academically (which is usually the reason cited for oversigning), you're still talking about having to find room for 12 or so players with no available scholarships.

There are only two options here:
1. Those players have their scholarship offers withdrawn, and are left scrambling to find another school with an open spot.
2. Players who are already on the team have their scholarships stripped, meaning they are now paying their own way or leaving school.

This is nothing new. Last year, Nick Saban was widely blasted for his absurd 32-player class. He blew it all off as a non-issue, and a few dismissals, transfers and non-qualifiers later, Alabama very conveniently managed to get just under the scholarship limit in time for the season.

Anyone who's a blogosphere regular is familiar with the heated debate between mgoblog -- which ripped Saban early on when it became clear that his class was getting ridiculously large -- and 'Bama fans everywhere, but there is no real debate. You can read all the justifications you want from various Alabama bloggers and message-board posters, but at the end of the day, a coach signing 10 or 12 extra players and hoping that spots will open up is just kind of dirty. And the only way you can justify cheating kids out of a scholarship is through blind allegiance.

A recent article in the Charlotte News-Observer breaks down the North Carolina situation a bit further and has a telling quote from someone familiar with the recruiting scene:

SuperPrep magazine editor Allen Wallace said that many coaches take more verbal commitments than they have scholarships slots because they want to upgrade immediately: "Programs are under a lot of pressure to fix things, and if you don't follow the draconian route of upgrading talent level immediately, it might not matter because you might not be there very long."
That pretty much says it all. There's no concern for the player, only for how the coach and how he can squeeze every available drop of talent onto his team. What it comes down to is this: If you're expecting enough players to fail (academically or legally) that you can significantly oversign, you're probably not overseeing your program very well. And if you're oversigning with the intention of pulling a scholarship from a current player (or yanking an offer), that's just wrong.

The NCAA needs to step in and end this before it gets out of control (although I would argue that with schools signing 30-32 players, or going 12 scholarships over the 85 limit, it's already out of control). When schools are putting themselves in a situation where 10-15 players need to be "removed" from the team, nothing good can come of that. The school has no incentive to help those players and every reason to jettison them aside.

On a side note, it'd be nice if the recruiting services would stop taking the size of these classes into account when doing their rankings. North Carolina can't possibly have 29 players in this class, so to include all of them is obviously inaccurate.

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