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UT’s Dooley Makes His Case For Oversigning

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contacted Derek Dooley to get his thoughts on the SEC new soft 25-man signing cap.  Tennessee’s coach did not disappoint the folks at The AJC.  Dooley made it clear that he believe oversigning is a good thing, a useful tool.  Like most coaches, he’s aghast at the suggestion that some in his profession might not live up to the word they give to recruits.

The piece is long and fascinating.  It’s worth your time.  And it will also have some SEC presidents shaking their heads.

Here are a few excerpts:


“I thought the rule we had in place before was a great rule, a fair rule. I think the perception is that oversigning is bad for the student-athlete. I would argue the opposite. I think oversigning is good for the student-athlete. Let me give you some hypotheticals: Let’s say a a guy gets hurt his senior year, and there’s a good chance he won’t play his freshman year of college. He has got to do surgery and rehab. What could we do in the past? In the past, we could sign him, grayshirt him and put him in next year’s class. That allowed him to come to the type of school he wanted to come to, whereas now those kind of guys have to go to a different school. So that’s the first scenario. The second scenario is let’s take a guy who academically not eligible. That situation happened to me this December. You look at their mid-year grades and you see that they’re going to be an academic risk, or there’s a good chance that they won’t qualify. Well, then you have to make a decision. Because in the past, you could sign them and if he didn’t qualify, place him in a junior college, help him get into a junior college and give him the motivation to come back to your school one day. Now you can’t sign him, or you’re not willing to take that risk because you can’t be short on your roster. So now they’re more on their own, and they don’t get to sign with the school that they want to go to. So there’s a lot of good things about oversigning that gives more opportunities for good players. When you eliminate that, now you’re providing less opportunities for them…

Here’s the comedy of all of this. What we’ve done is not really eliminate oversigning. Here’s why I say that: if you have only 20 spots to give on your roster, you can oversign by five. The only schools that can’t oversign are the ones that have 25 openings [Note: SEC schools can sign more if they have early enrollees that can be back-counted to the previous year’s class]. So we try to say in the media that we’ve stopped oversigning in the SEC but we haven’t. And I would argue that oversigning is not a bad thing, and it has been a healthy thing for college football, and it has been a healthy thing for the student-athletes. It just has been painted negatively by one or two exceptional cases that happened over the last five years.”


We agree with Dooley that oversigning hasn’t been completely quashed in the SEC.  That’s why we’ve called the cap a “soft” cap from the moment it passed.

Michael Carvell of The AJC also asked Dooley why other coaches — who he says agree with him — aren’t willing to be as outspoken against the new rule as he is.  He answered for himself… and his old boss, Nick Saban:  “I can tell you more feel that way. It’s a matter of if they are willing to say it or not. I know Nick Saban feels the same way I feel. He may not tell you that. But a lot of us are at the mercy of our school presidents. Where we failed as coaches is we did not do a good job of communicating the positives of oversigning and being on the front end of the argument. So now we find ourselves in a real defensive posture. I think the important thing is that we need to find a way to allow oversigning and eliminate the abuses that came with it. I’m not for putting a young man in a bad situation. If there’s a way we can maintain oversigning and eliminate any of the abuses that caused the concerns, then that’s what I would be for. Because there are so many positive benefits of oversigning for the players.”

Perhaps.  But there aren’t many high school coaches, high school players or parents of high school players who are trumpeting the positives of oversigning these days… just football coaches.

And while Dooley and the rest of the SEC’s coaches — a group that voted 12-0 to keep the old rule in place last spring — might view oversigning as a good thing, no collection of schools outside the South oversigned as frequently as those in Mike Slive’s league.  What’s good for the rest of the country should be good for the SEC as well.  Especially when — as Dooley pointed out — it’s not a real “hard” cap in the first place.



Dooley is better suited to be an Athletic Director. He's a bright, articulate guy that would do well working with the big picture.


I have to say that he makes some compelling points. Rules protecting grayshirted players might be more efficient and effective than artificial signing caps.


I think the new rules are an improvement but it still leaves coaches an incentive to run off under-performers so they can sign someone in their place. Coaches will become more subtle about how they run off players.

I'd like to see a lower limit on players a school can sign each year and elimination of the maximum total scholarship limit. That would mean a school couldn't sign an extra player if they ran off an under-performer. If Stanford, Northwestern and Wake Forest can manage with about 19 scholarships a year other schools can do it too.


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