Oversigning. Roster Management. Initial counters. Transfers. Those were some of the buzz words as the SEC wrapped up their annual spring meetings this week in Destin, Florida (CBSSports.com colleague Brett McMurphy has been covering the meetings on his blog). Oversigning, a topic that has been debated at length in the media coming into the meetings, was expected to be one of the things the league actually took action on and that they did Friday afternoon.
The SEC presidents voted to approve several proposals that will be adopted league-wide immediately, with several expected to be forwarded for possible adoption by the NCAA. The most noteworthy of the proposals was reducing the annual cap on signees from 28 to 25. Several schools, such as Florida and Georgia, had already been abiding by the lower limit.
Current NCAA rules permit schools to take 25 "initial counters" per year (high school players who enroll at a school for the first time are considered an initial counter) but schools can sign up to 28 players to a letter of intent to take into account players who do not qualify academically.
Several SEC coaches developed a reputation of being notorious oversigners. Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt signed 38 players in 2009 (though fewer than 25 actually enrolled in school), prompting the currrent limit of 28 signees that commonly became known as 'The Houston Nutt Rule.' All 12 of the league's coaches were also at the meetings this week and voted to keep the limit at 28 but were overturned by the presidents, who voted 12-0 in favor of the new rule.
"No one wants to win more than I do," commissioner Mike Slive told reporters. "But you don't want to win at the expense of young people. You want to win for them."
The 25 signee limit is just one of several that will change the way the SEC (and possibly others in the future) recruits. Other new rules were adopted to address the number of signees, how players are counted when they enroll and having the league office oversee all medical scholarship exemptions. The conference also eliminated an exception allowing graduate students to transfer and not have to sit out a year. This rule will not start until October, allowing transfers considering SEC schools to still enroll without a penalty, such as former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson.
"You should stay at our institutions long enough to have the type of academic experience that you expect student-athletes to have," Slive said. "You shouldn't solely transfer in for an athletic experience."
All of the talk and actual change that came about in Destin this week is a remarkable turnaround for the conference. Last year the conference pushed through legislation related to how to count incoming players that essentially created a loophole to the 28 man limit and other changes related to counting financial aid. It was just two years ago that the SEC submitted the 28 signees limit to the NCAA membership, which was subsequently accepted and made a national rule.
Slive and the presidents didn't think about things or slowly phase in legislation, they made a hardline stance this week and said no more oversigning.
What does this mean going forward? At the moment, these proposals are limited to the SEC so Texas A&M or Washington can still sign 28 players in the upcoming class of 2012. Big Ten schools have already adopted even stricter signing rules and have been leading the outrage over oversigning for several years.
The deadline to submit NCAA legislation is in a few weeks so we'll know exactly what is on the horizon nationally but there's at least one or two SEC coaches going back to their recruiting board and making a few adjustments. Many of the league's coaches sign a player they know cannot qualify in hopes of placing him in a junior college and then getting him eligible. Starting this year, the so-called 'sign and place' kids will be no more.
Bottom line is you'll see 25 or fewer players actually sign a letter of intent with SEC schools come February. The days of kids getting squeezed out of a scholarship because of a coach oversigning appear to be over and no matter what you think of the oversigning debate, that's a good thing.