New Big 10 Oversigning Rule Impacts U-M, Everyone

Starting with the upcoming 2002/03 recruiting class, Big Ten schools are allowed to sign three over the NCAA-maximum 25/85 kids to scholarships, although the numbers must be within the allowable limits by the start of fall two-a-days. This seems like a minor change perhaps, but former Michigan recruiting coordinator Mark Ouimet says that the new rule will have a big impact on college football in the Midwest, helping some schools a lot more than others, and actually hurting some.

Mark, I know you think this is an important rule change.

The first thing to remember is that the maximum that Big Ten schools can sign is 25, not 28, in a class. Member schools still have to be at 25 by the start of late summer two-a-day practices. The 85 overall maximum can also go to 88 for that time period.

The questions are: why is the Big Ten doing this, how does a school get back to the NCAA-mandated levels by the start of the season, and why does this make a difference to Big Ten football?

First off, the Big Ten is allowing this because all other conferences do it, in fact they don't have rules restricting it at all. In other conferences schools are bound only to the25/85 NCAA limits that are in force once the season starts. And because scholarships are actually year-to-year by NCAA rules, schools in other conferences oversign, then simply non-renew certain players' scholarships to get to the allowable level.

The fact of the matter is, every team usually does lose 3-4 players each year, due to attrition. Over the winter and spring some kids quit football and still stay in school, some transfer to another school, some don't make it grade-wise, some are kicked off the team. So this rule gives a school an opportunity to prepare for that. Before in the Big Ten when spring-summer attrition has happened, the available scholarships were given to walk-on kids for a year. But in terms of scholarship players, your best players -- I don't know if you saw this but Joe Tilller said a few days ago that right now in the Big Ten the average number of actual scholarship players is 78, seven under the maximum! Most Big Ten schools just can't get to 85 for the start of the season. It's been almost impossible. And that lack of depth does hurt when you get deep into the season and injuries start to mount. Indiana 'cleaned house' a little when Denardo came in, and right now they are at 75 I believe -- they can't GET to 85. Schools like Minnesota and Northwestern are never able to get to 85 because of attrition.

Who does the new rule help and hurt?

It'll help every school in the Big Ten this year, but some a lot more than others.

For example, this rule helps MSU a LOT, maybe the most of all Big Ten schools, since they have a LOT of attrition due to academics. For example, take Charles Rogers -- MSU took Rogers but he couldn't play his freshman year due to academics, so they were down to 84 that year. Now they will be able to take three 'prop' (non-fully-qualifying) kids that are great athletes, and still probably start the season at 85. In the past this would've helped OSU the same way, but Tressel has changed some things there so the impact is less.

How does the new rule effect Michigan? Michigan does not have as much attrition as most Big Ten schools, so it helps them less. Michigan does generally start the season at or close to 85. But under the old rule, if Michigan was at 85 scholarships on Signing Day, and then a fourth-year player decided not to come back for a fifth year, Michigan would still be under 85, and would give the scholarship for a year to a walk-on. They would have to wait a year to get back up to 85. Under the new rule, there is more 'room to play': Michigan could go over 85 on Signing Day by one, two or three kids, then if attrition happens in the spring or summer they would still be at full strength. It's not something Michigan would have to do, but the new rule gives them freedom to do it - it gives them room to play. Look at last year, when they had two kids (Greg Cooper and Quinton McCoy) not qualify academically. If Michigan is signing a class of 20 (to get the the 85 max number), and you know 18 of your kids have qualified, you might might sign three more who are are close to qualifying but haven't quite made it as of Signing Day.

If you're Michigan and you decide to oversign by three, you know who those extra kids would generally be, don't you? Instate kids. Maybe kids that may-or-may not qualify, or who are 'sleepers'. These are kids that in the past have gone to Minnesota (which signs a lot of Michigan kids) or even PSU (Anthony Adams for example) and, mainly, kids who would otherwise go to the MAC (the Mid American Conference).

This leads me to who the new rule will hurt: the MAC schools, the Conference USA schools. This rule will keep kids from going there. The Big Ten will have 33 more scholarships to give out now. And those are kids who would otherwise go to the MAC or Conference USA.

One more thing: THIS year the rule really helps Michigan. It will help them get kids at the positions they need: quarterback, running back, linebacker, tight end. This frees them up to sign closer to 15-16 kids (12-13 high-schoolers, plus Cooper and McCoy if they make it) instead of 12-13. In my opinion, Michigan will do it this year.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories