But the rules passed by the conference last week results in a “Soft 25 Rule,” because what many people are missing is the fact that the SEC will propose NCAA legislation that it did not itself pass.
The conference adopted four proposals:
- Reduction in the signing class cap from 28 to 25 plus a broadening of the signing class cap window to a period spanning December 1 through August. That sort of addresses back-counting, meaning a junior college player who signs in December would now count toward the number in the February signing class.
- Ending the graduate-student exemption allowing a graduated student with one year of eligibility remaining to transfer to an SEC school. The exemption had allowed former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to play for Ole Miss in 2010.
- School may no longer sign a prospect to a financial-aid agreement until that student is enrolled full-time and attending classes.
- The conference will now administer the process of granting medical hardship scholarships. Cases are now to be decided on a case-by-case basis, with the conference using outside medical expertise as necessary.
Where the confusion comes into play is in what the SEC did not adopt: A rule saying that a prospect would count against the 85-man scholarship limit at the time of enrollment, allowing early enrollments to continue. The SEC has plans to introduce the measure as new legislation to the NCAA, but it did not pass it last week.
Also missing was a rule against “grey-shirting,” or delaying the enrollment of a signee until the beginning of the next signing year and counting that scholarship against that year rather than the current one.
So, while the rules that were passed do represent significant reform and a more standardized set of rules in how coaches maintain a full, 85-man roster of scholarship players, there is still some room left.
A school foreseeing a 57-man roster starting on December 1 could still sign 25 players, grey-shirt two, get an early enrollment on a third and BOOM. Back to 85. I have not seen the full text of the new legislation, so naturally I haven’t had the opportunity to compare it to what it was replacing. My understanding of the legislation comes from numerous media reports.
I believe the analysis from 247Sports.com’s Gentry Estes is the most accurate. Estes is the former Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Press-Register and provides the clearest understanding of the new rules. Unfortunately, writers for the state media cartel—al.com—and the Associated Press seem to be mildly confused, as they’ve missed the fact that “grey-shirting” and at least some back-counting capability still exist.
I frankly thought the 28-man limit passed only one year ago was the best compromise between the coaches’ ability to manage their own rosters and the academicians desire to ensure that no one fell through the cracks when a team signs 30+ players and has to tell some of them that there’s no room at the inn. That rule worked pretty well for the 2011 signing class, and I think it should have been given more time to play out.
But the SEC Presidents and Chancellors seem to have bowed under the relentless pressure of a righteously indignant national press machine, which has used two extraordinarily rare cases of a kid being told there was no room for him to blow this whole “oversigning” meme into some sort of national disgrace.
Thankfully, the league didn’t completely kneecap themselves by completely eliminating the wiggle room and place SEC programs at a significant competitive disadvantage.
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