The most persistent question at MMQB over the years has also been the most persistent question on Trojan Internet Message Boards. That is, "how many scholarships are we allowed to give this year?" It doesn't seem to matter what year it is, or how many times the question has been answered before, it is asked repeatedly. When I first started following recruiting - about 30 years ago - information was very hard to come by so you had to do your own research and computations. Through trial and error, I've arrived at a formula for "available scholarships" that works for me. My instinct was to make the process complicated but it turned out to be simple.
For those of you who may be rookies in the scholarship counting game, I'd like to share my take on the subject. The old hands probably have their own system and I'd be interested to hear about them.
There are only two numbers that really matter to me. The first is the total number of scholarships we are allowed. The second is how many of those scholarships are already committed. The obvious formula is to subtract the number of commitments from the number allowed and you have the number of scholarships available to give. Based on the best information I have today (12-2-02), that works out to be "85 minus 58 equals 27" available scholarships.
Don't limit your count to Seniors listed on the roster, it will only lead you to false conclusions. The total number of scholarships for a D1 program (like ours) is set by the NCAA at 85. We have no penalty next year so we have a total of 85 to use.
I arrive at the number already committed by taking the official USC roster and counting the scholarship players who are eligible to return. Don't count walk-ons and don't count players who have used their 4 years of eligibility (always Seniors - unless they are red shirting). The official roster can be deceiving in that they don't always show changes in status like Chris Prosser taking a medical, but you just have to follow the team and make those changes yourself.
My method sounds simplistic but in fact, it is a dynamic process. Every time there is a change in the status of a scholarship player or a new scholarship player is added to the team - like Frostee Rucker and Lofa Tatupu last September - the "available" scholarship number changes. This happens several times a year. I notice from comments on the message boards that these changes frustrate "newbies" who think there is supposed to be one correct (and constant) number and they must have received bad information last month when the answer was different. For example, if we would have made our calculation 3 months ago, the answer would have been 29 available scholarships for next February. The reason is that both Kevin Arbet and Aaron Graham were planning to use their final year of eligibility this season. They were injured early in the season and used this year to red shirt, thereby becoming eligible to compete next year.
My formula gives us 27 available scholarships going into 2003, but Pete Carroll has told MMQB, and others, that we have 25 to give. My explanation for this discrepancy is that I believe that in our coach's calculation, he only has 25 available since he has already reserved 2 scholarships for Bing and Wright.
Do not allow yourself to think that this is a final number however, because there never seems to be a final number. For example, we have six scholarship players on the current roster who are not playing this year because of injuries. Three of those players have injuries that in similar instances have been "career ending". If that unfortunate circumstance occurs with any of these players, and it happens before LOI day, then we could add to our "available" number in February. Also, a couple of players who participated in spring camp last year, later left the team for academic or personal reasons, thereby freeing their scholarships over last summer. That could happen again and, if the past is a true indicator, probably will. Remember, we are dealing with young men at a volatile time in their lives, and "things" happen.
There is another reason to make these computations yourself. These are personnel issues and therefore players have privacy rights and it would therefore be inappropriate for the University to make official comments before all issues are settled. If an athlete is in serious academic trouble, it is not fair, or smart, to talk about it. If an athlete is facing a medical release - where he keeps his scholarship but it does not count against our limit of 85 - it is frequently an emotional time for him and the least public comment the better. For these and other reasons, public announcements usually come much later than the actual event. After many years of watching the process, my conclusion is that we will always be in the dark about the real state of the roster and all we can do is deal with the numbers we know for sure. Those numbers are the two I put into my formula and that is why I say that we have at least 27 scholarships to give minus the two commitments to Bing and Wright.
What a great year for our team. The future does indeed look bright. With 27 new premier players joining the championship squad that returns, I think we will be in the National Championship chase for the foreseeable future.