The Offseason of Oversigning continued to make headlines last week when a pair of South Carolina recruits publicly admitted they were told less than 24 hours before Signing Day that the Gamecocks would not have room in their 2011 class for them. (Though academic concerns may have played a role in Steve Spurrier and his staff's decision, other Gamecock recruits with similarly uncertain grade issues were not asked to grayshirt.)
Thanks in part to the timing of that story, it seems, the Wall Street Journal has also turned its attention to oversigning . In this piece , published yesterday, SEC head coaches Spurrier, Houston Nutt, and Bobby Petrino each defend their team's having signed more players than permitted by the NCAA's 25-players-per-class or 85-players-on-scholarship limits.
Petrino said he signed according to a formula that took players' academic standing into account and included players with "absolutely no chance" of qualifying; on oversigning in general, he said he doesn't "see it as a bad thing unless you're being dishonest or waiting until the last minute." Similarly, Nutt said he had never waited until the last minute to tell a recruit "oh by the way you don't have a scholarship." (This might be news to receiver Collins Moore, who Nutt told a week before Signing Day he didn't have a scholarship at Ole Miss, at least not until 2012.)
But the most interesting quotes of all belonged to the "Ol' Ball Coach," who criticized the Big Ten for not oversigning ("I think that really hurts them a lot"), said that initial problem with the two potentially grayshirted recruits was that more prospects had chosen the Gamecocks than had been expected, and that they'd been chosen because they were the two commitments with the most work to do academically. Most intriguing of all, Spurrier admitted he could have handled the "situation" more smoothly:
"What we probably could've done earlier in the recruiting is tell them that this could happen," he said. "But then again, we didn't know it was going to come up. It's a ticklish situation.""Ticklish" or not, the coach of one of those players clearly isn't happy with the Gamecocks over their approach:
[Jordan] Montgomery's high school coach, Walter Banks , said, "I told them this was foul. I didn't have a clue until 18 hours before signing day, and if they say anything else, they're lying."To be fair to Spurrier and the other coaches, the story's bevy of quotes from recruits (and their parents) makes it clear that oversigning isn't a particularly big concern on their end (though that also seems to stem from the abundant self-belief that they won't be the ones in danger should the roster ax end up swinging). And with at least one of the two Carolina recruits (and possibly both) still planning on enrolling in Columbia once they can, it's safe to say the parties most immediately affected don't see Spurrier's actions as -- to quote Florida president and grayshirting critic Bernie Machen -- "morally reprehensible."
But whether it's an issue to recruits or not, whether Spurrier and the other SEC coaches defend it or not, the assault on oversigning from power brokers like Machen and Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity mean legislative change on oversigning could be coming all the same. (Maybe as soon as this year's annual SEC meetings , if Mike Slive is to be believed.) And until/unless that change happens, Spurrier and the rest of the SEC can't expect the negative attention from outlets like the Journal to simply go away.