Write the word “oversigning” somewhere on the internet and it won’t take too long for fans of other conferences to quickly blast away in capital the letters “S-E-C.” Shortly after typing out those letters, fans of other leagues will soon begin to explain to you how oversigning has been the key to the SEC’s recent success. (As if the biggest budgets, best facilities, priciest coaches, and the most fertile recruiting patch in the nation have nothing to do with it.)
Last night, CBSSports.com’s Matt Hinton posted what he calls his “oversigning index.” At the top of his chart, the most egregious practictioner of the legal act of oversigning is Alabama’s Nick Saban:
“That should come as no surprise, given that Bama has consistently (and legally) operated on the edge of NCAA scholarship caps throughout Nick Saban’s tenure. Ostensibly, teams are limited to 85 scholarship players on the roster at any given time. In practice, because the NCAA doesn’t do a head count until the start of preseason practice in July or August, sometimes long after incoming freshmen and other newcomers have already arrived on campus, coaches can cross the line on national signing day as long as they’re able to come in under the cap six months later. Yet even after a concerted crackdown on “oversigning” by the SEC over the past three years, no coach in any league overshot the mark this year with such gusto.”
Ah, ha! The winners of three of the last four BCS titles is also the champion of oversigning. Oversigning must be the SEC’s secret weapon, a guarantee of success. Right?
Uh, not necessarily. Here’s who else made Hinton’s list of the top oversigners this past signing day:
SEC (5): Alabama, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Ole Miss
Pac-12 (3): Washington, Oregon State, UCLA
Big Ten (3): Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota
Big XII (3): Texas, Baylor, Iowa State
ACC (2): Virginia, Clemson
Independent (1): Notre Dame
That’s hardly an SEC-dominated list. In fact, there seem to be three Big Ten schools on Hinton’s list. (See his numbers here.)
Also, there aren’t too many recent BCS titlists on that list, are there? There’s Alabama, Texas, and… no one else.
Look, we’ve said time and again that the SEC should go to a hard cap on oversigning just to hush everyone else up. It’s not the advantage non-SEC fans make it out to be — again, look at the schools that are doing it — and Mike Slive’s conference would continue to thrive without a few teams inking 30+ players each February.
The league’s soft 25-man cap has made an impact as only five SEC teams made Hinton’s list. But the SEC hasn’t suffered on the field as a result.
Rival fans will continue to try to discredit the SEC by moaning about oversigning. Why not just go to a Big Ten-style cap — like the one that realllly put kibosh on Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota above — and be done with it? Oversigning is but a drop in a vast ocean of reasons why the SEC thrives on the gridiron.
Or should we say “a drop in the Tide?”