Cut From 28 To 25 Won't Have Much Impact

There is much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands regarding the SEC Presidents' decision to limit football programs to signing just 25 players in each recruiting class. The measure is a well intentioned attempt to eliminate "grayshirting" and ensure that a student-athlete who signs a national letter of intent will have a scholarship available to him when the school year begins.

That's the intent, but this move does not accomplish that goal. Schools will continue to "over-sign" but that will be reflective of the total scholarship limit in the future. The new regulations will have the most significant impact on schools hoping to bring in extra large classes this recruiting cycle

The problem is that college football has a two-tiered scholarship limit and the hard limit of 25 only addresses one of the tiers. Since schools have a total limit of 85 scholarships a year, the practice of over-signing can and will continue to be pursued. In fact, the Gators may well do it in 2012.

Right now I have Florida (unofficially) at 76 players on scholarship for the 2011 season with 9 seniors. That would leave the Gators with 67 players heading into the recruiting season, but with the cap of 85 the Gators would only have 18 scholarships available.

There is nothing in the rules, however to keep Will Muschamp and his staff from signing 25 guys in February. That is over-signing by 7, plain and simple. Now there's every reason to believe Florida will lose 5-to-7 players due to attrition, but the simple fact of the matter is that as long as college football perpetuates the inane combination of a high annual limit and low total limit the practice of over-signing will never go away.

A Better Solution

If SEC Presidents really want to have their football staffs be more straightforward with prospective student-athletes they have to take another step. What has to happen is the elimination of the 85 limit to ensure that schools will always know exactly how many scholarships they will be able to offer each year.

The 25 player annual limit would, with full redshirting and no attrition result in 125 players after five years. That's 40 more than currently allowed and far more than could be expected to depart via all manners of attrition such as turning pro early, injuries, transfers and ineligibility. Typical attrition is about five a year, so if you lost 25 you would still be at 100, which is still more than would be approved.

Thus the solution is to limit all schools to 22 signees per year.

That would allow you to sign 110 players in a five year period. Assuming average attrition that gets you right back to 85. If you do a superior job of retaining and developing your players you would end up with a few extra bodies. If you do a lousy job of it, you'll be a bit shorthanded. It's a win/win because schools and the prospects they recruit will have scholarship certainty and you eliminate the incentive to run off unproductive players thus improving your graduation rates in all probability.

Who could argue with that?

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