Scholarship Limits Won't Affect Tide

A good guess about what Alabama Coach Nick Saban thinks about the presidents of the Southeastern Conference schools going against the wishes of their football coaches and decreasing the number of new players who can be signed each year: he isn't thinking about it.

That's done, and Saban isn't the type to waste time or energy on that which is out of his control.

SEC schools, including Alabama, have won a lot of BCS championships, including the last five. Was it because those schools signed more players than others? That didn't hurt, but other factors are more important. Factors such as coaches and facilities at top SEC schools and the importance of high school football in the Southeast are likely more important than a school signing 28 instead of 25 new players a year.

Although Saban came out of a meeting and berated reporters for causing the controversy, it actually stems from the action of Coach Les Miles, who had a signee in LSU summer school and then in August asked that signee to defer until the spring semester – the so-called grayshirt plan. The player declined. Or perhaps it was because Houston Nutt signed over 35 one year, seemingly thumbing his nose at the NCAA limit of 25 new signees.

Of course, no NCAA rules were broken by Miles or Nutt. No rules regarding limits were broken by Auburn, which has been the chief over-signing team in the past few years. The NCAA limit for football is that a school may bring in no more than 25 new signees when fall camp begins in August and that a football roster may have no more than 85 total on scholarship.

Alabama has benefited from grayshirting. John Parker Wilson delayed his entry to The Capstone and went on to be a record-setting quarterback for the Crimson Tide.

Will Bama be able to survive without those extra signees?

Of course.

For instance, now instead of signing a Quinton Dial out of high school, placing him in junior college, and then signing him again two years later, he will be placed in junior college and signed only one time, the time when he can join the team.

Alabama isn't going to change its recruiting strategy, which is to identify the top athletes at each position, make a judgment about character, and then attempt to sign the most wanted. Regardless of the limits, Alabama has a huge advantage in recruiting because of having the nation's best known coach in Saban, facilities that are unsurpassed, being geographically placed to have large numbers of prospects within reasonable distance to The Capstone, and a reputation for having players attend class and earn degrees.

At Alabama – and probably everywhere but LSU – there was a plan in place for over-signing. As Saban pointed out each year in which the Crimson Tide did over-sign, every player knew the situation. No one was forced to sign with Bama. What the presidents have done is eliminate the possibility of some who might want to attend Alabama (or Florida or Georgia or wherever) if they are not in the top 25 choices of the school.

With a limit of 28, there was flexibility in the event that a signee was not academically eligible or for some other reason was not able to participate in fall work.

The presidents voted to expand the definition of a "signing class" to include anyone that signs scholarship papers between December 1 and August 1. Previously it had been from the first Wednesday in February ("Signing Day") until the start of fall camp.

Presidents designated the SEC office to be a clearinghouse for medical hardship waivers, which allow players with career-ending injuries to be permanently removed from the team's roster cap while continuing on scholarship. At Alabama, the decision is made by the medical staff, not the coaching staff. It is unclear who the SEC has who is more qualified than team doctors to make the decision.

One new rule concerns players who graduate from one school with remaining eligibility, and then transfer to another school to partipate in athletics. It was amusing to hear SEC Commissioner Mike Slive say the rule was "designed to make sure that ... you stay in our institution long enough to have the kind of academic experience that we expect our student-athletes to have. It is not acceptable for us to have student-athlete transfer in solely for an athletic experience."

Is Slive aware of the most recent Heisman Trophy winner from the SEC?

The new restrictions on SEC football coaches came at the annual conference spring meeting in Destin earlier this week.

A leading proponent for the new restrictions was Georgia president Michael Adams. Adams was reported to have been desirous of the NCAA presidency, but was snubbed for that job. The over-signing issue had the appearance of national grandstanding.

"It's a good day to be in the SEC," Adams said. "People did the right thing. This was a good high point for us."

The next thing you know Adams will insist that Georgia not use Hope Scholarship recipients on its athletics teams, since that is not the right thing.

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