An article labeled Saturday's much-anticipated Alabama-LSU game as The Super Bowl of Oversigning, a reference to both schools' histories of signing more players than are eligible for readily available scholarships.
The piece, in The Wall Street Journal, detailed how the two schools currently ranked atop the BCS Standings might have benefitted from the practice of oversigning. Those two schools, along with many of the other SEC schools, have been criticized for signing too many kids, running kids out for not performing to a certain level, or even forcing healthy players to take medical scholarships. The story notes that Alabama ranks amongst the top five schools in the country in oversigning.
According to oversigning.com -- a Web site that seeks to define the issue -- the most vocal opposition to oversigning rules stems from the SEC. The Web site notes that Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, Alabam coach Nick Saban, and LSU coach Les Miles are all strongly against further restrictions on the process.
The reason those coaches are so adamant against further restrictions, according to one recruiting expert, is that they are the guiltiest of oversigning athletes.
Like any rule change, the people most affected by it are the ones that are crying, Mike Farrell, Rivals.com's national recruiting analyst, told IBTimes.com. In the SEC it is definitely problematic. The advantage is you get more players into your program. If you sign 32 kids, there is a higher percentage chance that more kids will work out than if you only sign 22.
But JC Shurburtt, 247Sport's national recruiting analyst, thinks the apparent advantages are overstated.
I don't think it's nearly the advantage that some make it out to be, Shurburtt told IBTimes. So many things can happen when a young man signs a letter of intent in February to when he actually enrolls.
Shurburtt detailed that coaches could sign more athletes than scholarships available because a few of the recruits might not have the necessary grades to be admitted into the school. If a coach doesn't offer a few extra scholarships, he could conceivably get burned if a few recruits don't qualify academically.
On the flip side, a few of the questionable athletes that the coach expected to have to prep for a year might get qualified at the last minute. This could create a logjam and force coaches to ask players to go the JUCO route or take a year at a prep academy.
But according to Farrell, schools like Alabama and LSU are already at a competitive advantage when it comes to academics compared to other schools. He noted how schools like Stanford, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt all face tougher admission guidelines than many teams in the SEC.
It's an issue that is often debated between fans of Big 10 conference schools and fans of the SEC. Big 10 conference fans often take to message boards to complain about the lax admission standards of the SEC, while SEC fans can simply point to the last five national champions coming from their conference.
On college amateurism, the Big 10 is absolutely right, Farrell said. The way the Big 10 does things is the correct way but they don't win national championships and that's all that anyone cares about.
The Big 10 has had rules banning oversigning since 1956, while it wasn't until recent that the SEC began to limit oversigning. It took Houston Nutt signing an outrageous 37 recruits in 2009 for the SEC to take action and limit schools to only signing 28 recruits.
It has since taken further action to limit schools to only signing 25 players, beginning in 2012, but there are still methods to getting around the limits.
How Often Does Running Off Happen?
Within The Wall Street Journal piece, the author recalled a past story that alleged Alabama forced healthy players to take a medical scholarship, as well a recent story of a LSU recruit being told there was no longer a scholarship available to him, despite promising him one.
The process is referred to as running out or running off when a coach forces an athlete to either gray shirt for a year, transfer to another school, or give up a scholarship and become a walk-on for the team. Stories of players being run off a football team often make headlines and draw the ire of family members and other recruits.
It's the possible ramifications of running off a player that makes Shurburtt believe it is an overblown phenomenon.
No I don't think it is (happening often) and if it was then these schools would have recruiting problems, he said. College football is a very geographic deal. You don't recruit a kid out of a high school and then just cut him when a better player is coming in and then be able to go back into that high school.
It's a lot of small towns, lot of handshaking and baby kissing.
Sonny Shipp, Scout.com's Louisiana football analyst, agrees with Shurbutt and thinks coaches have to walk a very fine line.
If it comes out that you're running off a bunch of kids, not a lot of high schools coaches are going to have confidence in sending players to that program, Shipp told IBTimes.
High school coaches turning down visits from the Nick Sabans and Les Miles of the college football world are few and far between, though, says Farrell. It would take an extremely strong high school coach to ban one of college football rock stars from coming around his school and recruiting one of his players, even if he had previously run a player off. Ultimately, he says, it comes down to an ego thing and coaches want to be able to say they've sent their players to top-notch SEC programs.
Still, a coach takes a major risk in running off a player in order to bring in a higher ranked replacement. There's the negative press that comes with, but also competitors could use that against the coach in question.
If a coach like Saban is known for running players off if they don't play up to his standards, opposing coaches could use that information when battling for the same recruit as Alabama.
Coaches will do that a lot; especially when they get ready to make their in-home visits, Shipp said. When you have that five-star quarterback on the line you reach a point where you aren't doing anything illegal but you will point something (like that) out.
Impact of Four-Year Scholarship Offers
The NCAA recently approved a number of recruiting guideline changes, including the length of scholarship offers. Whereas in the past coaches could only offer one-year renewable scholarship offers, a recent change will allow coaches to offer recruits four-year scholarship offers.
The impact of what this will do to football recruiting is mixed, though.
Shurburtt thinks that it won't affect schools like Alabama or LSU at all, but instead could hinder programs in the tier below the elite. If a four-year scholarship athlete doesn't pan out, he notes it would affect a program like Georgia Tech a lot more than it would for Alabama.
One of the downfalls of the rule is that it could limit the options for players of questionable pasts. Coaches might have been willing to give athletes that made a few bad decisions a chance to turn it around, but Shurbutt questions whether those coaches would commit to a four-year scholarship to a player that might not pan out.
You might not know if they are problem child children or not, there are guys that have issues in high school at 15 (years-old) or 16 (years-old) and then at 20 (years-old) the light comes on and they become successful members of society, he said. You are going to have coaches that think they are psychologists and if a red flag comes up, they won't give him a scholarship.
How does that benefit the student athlete?
But there could still be loopholes to the four-year deal that deal with those exact issues, according to Farrell. He said he expects there to be clauses within the offer that deal with off the field issues, which could still be used as a way to run off players that aren't playing well enough.
You're still going to be able to run kids off if they make mistakes, he said. If a player goes out and gets into a drunken car accident or if he hurts someone, you should have every right to rescind his scholarship.
But with loopholes to kick off players for major mistakes like a drunken car accident, it could allow for coaches to kick off players for violation of team rules -- such as missing curfew or getting a public intoxication citation. There could be some negative PR that comes with running a player off for something as benign as missing curfew, but that doesn't mean coaches won't try it.
For every ingenious thing the NCAA does, there's always 15 ingenious ways to get around it.
Will Every School Offer Four-Year Scholarships?
One of the biggest question marks with the recent rule change is what schools will utilize the new scholarship rules? Will big-time programs like Alabama and LSU begin to offer four-year scholarships or will it be mid-tier programs and below that benefit the most from them?
Farrell thinks that even big-time programs like Alabama and LSU will be forced to offer four-year scholarship offers for big-time recruits. It would be extremely difficult for Alabama to win a recruiting battle against LSU if it was offering only a one-year scholarship, while Les Miles was offering a four-year scholarship.
I think they will essentially all have to offer four-year scholarships, Farrell said about big-time football schools. All the big-time kids will insist on four year offers. For a No. 1 player there is no way on earth he will accept a one-year offer. He's going to say 'you have to match that four-year offer.'
Shurburtt doesn't dispute that the absolute top recruits could garner four-year offers, but questions what the trickledown effect will be for lesser regarded players.
You might have a lesser kid that only gets offered a one-year deal if it's based on talent now, he said. You might give only your top guns four years guaranteed. Is that fair?
I think it's the middling kids -the kids that don't have a ton of options that will be offered a one year, Farrell said in agreement. The kid that has four nice offers that are maybe lower tier BCS or non-BCS will have four year offers and maybe a one-year offer from a super power.
But with the rules only beginning to take place, it's truly anyone's guess as to how much the new options are utilized by schools. It could become the ultimate poker game on how long of a scholarship to offer, or it could be universally accepted and utilized by all of the major powers.
The important thing is that it's an extremely complex issue that can be looked at from multiple viewpoints. 247Sport's Shurburtt greatly dislikes the rule, while Rivals' Farrell thinks it is a great first step by the NCAA -- the key is that there is no accepted point of view.
Many coaches in the SEC would agree with Shurburtt's point of view, while coaches in the Big 10 would likely stand with Farrell. Whether you agree or disagree with the new rules, there's no escaping that they will have an impact on football recruiting.
The fun part will be seeing just how big that impact is.