Monday, January 16, 2012

Justin Taylor situation shows Southeastern Conference signing rules actually worked (minor update)

image As amazing as it seems, the Southeastern Conference’s new 25-signee limit on National Letters of Intent actually worked, and a kid who might have had to make an uncomfortable decision in July gets a chance to avoid that problem altogether.

Atlanta’s Justin Taylor has decided to reopen his recruitment after being told over the weekend that Alabama no longer had room to sign him for the 2012 class. Taylor had been verbally committed to Alabama for almost a year, pledging to sign with the Tide months before SEC administrators voted to impose the 25 signee limit last summer. But the new rules forced coach Nick Saban’s hand and Saban had to tell the young man that if he wanted to go to Alabama, he’d have to wait until the 2013 class before a scholarship would be available.

Without the rules in place, Taylor could have signed with Alabama and could have gone grey shirt—meaning that he’d have to pay his own way for at least a semester—with no guarantee that a space would be available for him afterwards. Worse, he could have suffered the fate of Elliott Porter, the unfortunate LSU recruit who fell victim to a horrible mistake and was told that there was no room at the inn months after he signed the LOI.

Let the record show that no Nick Saban recruiting class—regardless of initial counters—has ever had a player get turned away and told that he’s out of luck. Under the old rules, even those who faced the grey shirt decision knew about that possibility well in advance. In this case, and under the new system, Taylor was told that the new rules forced the school’s hand before signing and that he’d have to wait if he wanted to sign at Alabama.

Initially, Taylor remained committed to Alabama. During an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he said his plans were to stay in Georgia, continue rehabilitating an injured knee and attend Alabama in time to sign with the 2013 class. However, in the story linked above, Taylor told Matt Scalici that he was reopening his recruitment and had changed his mind.

The new rules worked, but beware the Law of Unintended Consequences. This sequence of events could play out around the entire SEC over the next two weeks, and who knows what nasty surprises may lay in store for prospects joining crowded signing classes.

No harm, no foul, no painful decision in July, no Elliott Porter catastrophe.

UPDATE: Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated thinks the rule worked, too.

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