If we haven't yet, let's go ahead and call this the Offseason of Oversigning. No topic has proven to be a bigger hot button since Auburn polished Oregon off in Glendale, with everyone from Nick Saban to USA Today to Bernie Machen to Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples to compliance officials to (as of today) Jay Paterno weighing in on the subject ... and we're not even halfway through February.
Such has been the topic's rapid rise to critical mass that it's even being debated outside the world of college football--in this case, inside the halls of the Connecticut state legislature , where a bill called the "Connecticut Student-Athletes' Right to Know Act" would "require universities to spell out the details" on how and why their athletic scholarships could be revoked or unrenewed.
Appearing before legislative officials to argue for the bill were local professor (and former Notre Dame football player) Allen Sack and former UCLA Bruin Ramogi Huga:
While NCAA rules state that athletic aid cannot be reduced or cancelled during the one-year period of the award because of athletic ability or injury, Sack said, "the rules are murky when it comes to conditions for the renewal and non-renewal of the scholarships in the subsequent year."Though neither Sack nor Huga specifically refers to the practice of oversigning, the controversy over whether teams (in Sack's words) "cancel scholarships for poor athletic performance" in order to make room for new recruits nonetheless puts it at the heart of the bill. It's hardly coincidence it appears just as the debate over oversigning reaches its most heated point, just as it wasn't coincidence Saban prematurely echoed Sank's words by saying "We have never gotten rid of a player because of his physical ability" in his defense of his recruiting practices.
"Some universities renew scholarships for four years as long as athletes continue playing and adhere to team rules," said Sack. "Others cancel scholarships for poor athletic performance or for injury" ...
Huma, a former UCLA football player and president of the National College Players Association — a California nonprofit made up of more than 14,000 Division 1 student athletes — also testified at the hearing and went one step further. He said the majority of high school recruits decide which college to attend based on "false information given to them by athletic recruiters."
Most recruits and their parents have no idea, Huma said, that colleges can "leave them with sports-related medical expenses, take away their scholarship for any reason, leave them with tens of thousands of dollars in educational-related expenses, and hold their eligibility and scholarship opportunities hostage when they try to transfer schools."
The bill still has many hurdles to clear before passing, including a check with the NCAA to make it sure it doesn't run afoul of (or further complicate) NCAA regulations. And, of course, there's a massive, massive gulf between one such bill passing in Connecticut (where UConn would be the only FBS program affected) and nationwide oversigning reform enacted by either the NCAA or the government.
But the point remains: more than ever it appears college football is sloping towards some kind of oversigning legislation, and that the only real question is how slippery that slope will be.