The SEC Didn't Ban Oversigning, But It Did Make Progress

It's important to keep the oversigning rules approved by the SEC in Destin today in perspective. After all, it would be easy for either side to go overboard in responding to the "roster management" proposals and what they mean.

The SEC did not ban oversigning today. It banned a particular part of oversigning, and if we're going to have an honest debate about roster management practices -- and what they mean for the conference and the sport -- it's important to recognize that.

There are two ways a team can oversign. The first one, addressed by the conference rules today, is to sign more than 25 players to letters of intent in a given year. The roster is eventually culled through academic casualties, grayshirting, etc., until the number magically lands at 25 by the time everyone is enrolled.

But the other method for oversigning -- which the SEC only partially addressed today -- comes from a quirk in the NCAA rules. Schools are only allowed to have 85 players on football scholarships at any one time, despite the annual limit of 25. Even journalism majors can probably figure out the inherent math problem here: 4 X 25 = 100. (And that doesn't account for redshirting players.) So if a school has all 85 players, loses 15 in a given year and then signs 25, they've got ten students too many (85 - 15 + 25 = 95) and somebody's got to go.

The only change that really addresses that is the conference oversight of medical scholarships, since those hardship exemptions have become one popular way of removing players whose injuries might not be all that serious from the roster. But that only addresses one way of making room; it doesn't solve the problem as long as students can be "encouraged" to transfer, or would-be freshman can still face all the oversigning tools we've mentioned above.

That problem is not going to be fixed at the SEC level; it can't be fixed until the NCAA finds some way to bring its rules in line with basic mathematics. One way to fix that is to set a hard cap on the number of scholarships and signed letters of intent at 85 and do away with the annual limit altogether. (This would also allow some schools to make up ground for losing players to academic casualties or other problems if 25 isn't enough to fill the roster.)

Despite the bad reputation the SEC has when it comes to oversigning, it is not a problem confined to this league. And it will not be a problem that one conference can solve by signing a few regulations.

That said, the proposals approved today make the process more fair for student-athletes and more fair for each team in the conference. The full NCAA should follow suit.

And then it should finally fix the problem. The whole problem.

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