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Scholarships and Oversigning

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I've had this conversation running around in my head for quite some time (i.e. a good week) and now there's some news that we can sink our teeth into that gives this discussion a little more merit. First things first, if you haven't been keeping up with the discussion between Roll Bama Roll (plus bonus picture of Britney Snow) and MGoBlog about collegiate teams over-signing players to scholarships, then start now. The basic premise is that certain schools, coaches, etc., will sign too many players for their recruiting class. For example, this 2008 recruiting year Alabama signed more than 25 recruits, which is technically over the limit, which is 25.

To bring this back to Texas Tech, the Red Raiders signed 26 players last year, which meant that there was going to be, at the very least, one player who would not receive his scholarship, whether it be a recruit or perhaps someone on the team would be sans scholarship. Of course, Texas Tech was lucky in the sense that Omar Castillo greshirted and apparently Jacob Amie never qualified. No harm no foul. Of course in 2006, Mike Leach signed 34 players to letters of intent, however, there were also a number of, "just didn't make it to campus," situations or question marks, including the following: Jocques Crawford, Buddy Brumit, Tyler Duggins, Leonard Hewitt, Jonathan Hollins, Daniel Johnson, Broderick Marshall, Franklin Mitchem, Trevor Reilly, Jarell Routt. While Lyle Leong and Adam James both greyshirted. I may have missed one or two, but that's 12 players. Again, no harm no foul. This was probably a situation where Leach knew that there were some risky players, but decided to take the chance on a couple of players panning out.

As a quick aside, this is also Texas Tech's #25 rated class by Rivals.com and the names listed above aren't the only players who haven't panned out to date: Adrian Archie, Ben Davis, Sean Estelle, Dimitri Lott, Ofa Mohetau, and Dan'Tay Ward. That's 18 players who just haven't worked out, for lack of a better word. That #25 class is now at 16 productive or somewhat players (one of those includes Mr. Crabtree). Attrition at it's finest.

Now we have the situations, during the offseason, that should a coach over-sign recruits, it makes his or her job that much easier. There numerous situations where student-athletes just get in trouble. It makes no difference the school, these incidents happen anywhere and everywhere, from Alabama to Missouri, to Texas Tech. No program is immune to these issues. They happen everywhere.

These "incidents" tend to also shake down the roster and provide opportunities for new recruits. So, if you're an opportunitic coach, this is where it can come in handy to sign additional scholarship players when there may not be any room at the time.

Obviously, these incidents can help, but then you also have the situation where coaches may choose just not to keep a player on scholarship. Perfect example of a roster shake-down is Pat Knight threatening the frontcourt players last Sunday (emphasis mine):

"I did threaten the bigs," Knight said. "They've got to pick it up or, honestly, we've got to release some guys and go get some other guys in the spring - that's the truth of it. They can't come to me and complain that they haven't gotten a shot. I've given them a shot in games to see what they can do. They're under evaluation from here on out for me. I've got two big kids coming in as freshman and there's no reason I can't find a junior-college big man right now that's better than what they gave me today."

On some level, I appreciate PK's honesty and I like the idea of my coach getting the best players on the court. His job is to win, not to baby-sit players who don't perform. Of course, this doesn't take into consideration the athlete who is giving all effort, but just isn't talented enough to be on scholarship. Is it the student-athlete's fault that the coach that signed and recruited should have known that they couldn't play?

I posed the question in the comments section in Tech92's diary, but thought it deserved front page consideration, whether or not it was ethical to take away a player's scholarship if said player doesn't perform on the field? Just in case you were curious, here is the text of a Letter of Intent and a quick look tells me that all it requires is an initial enrollment in a 4-year institution and that you attend the school for 1 year. Something that's somewhat interesting is that the statute of limitations for a LOI is 4 years, you would think this would be the term of the LOI, but it's not. Additionally, the LOI is contingent upon the receipt of financial aid, which includes a written offer with certain terms and conditions prescribed by the university. Having not seen one of those written offers, I'm not sure what it entails, but I would imagine that there are certain rules that the university will require a student-athlete to uphold. Essentially, if a student athlete somehow breaks this agreement, then the athletic scholarship can be rescinded by the university.

So, now I have two questions for you:

  • Should a coach over-sign on his recruiting class limit, or better yet, should a coach be allowed to over-sign on the 25 man limit?
  • Should a coach or university have the autonomy to rescind a player's scholarship because of the performance on the field or court? I have no dog in this fight, but what if a coach is wrong about the athletic talent of a student-athlete (i.e., can't play), should the student-athlete have to go without scholarship if that's the case?