Posted by Bryan Fischer
As fans, coaches, administrators, boosters and the media eagerly await National Signing Day on Wednesday, one recently enacted rule change has flown under just about everyone’s radar. While most in the media have talked about a new oversigning rule put in place this year - one that limits schools to 28 signees during the signing period - there’s another impactful rule also on the books.
Passed in early January at the NCAA's annual convention, the new rule – Proposal 2010-78 – specifies that an initial counter (an incoming player who receives financial aid in a sport for the first time) can replace a midyear graduate in either the current or following year's class. Like the rule limiting schools to 28 signees, 2010-78 was sponsored by the SEC.
“We really started it at the institutional level and, on this particular proposal, about a year ago one of our universities submitted the idea to change the rule as it’s presented,” Greg Sankey, SEC Associate Commissioner of Compliance said. “The basis was before 2010-78, if you had a midyear graduate and you’re at your 85 maximum (number of scholarships), you can replace that person but you’d have to count the initial counter forward.
“If they’ve done things well and graduated a player and been under the initial counter limit for the current year, why not allow us the flexibility to count that individual for the current year as an initial counter?”
The proposal sailed through the NCAA pipeline without comment or challenge from any cabinet or committee. NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn confirmed that the rule is in effect now unless an override vote is called for.
“It was ultimately seen as a good idea nationally based on the outcome of the convention vote,” Sankey added.
In essence, if a school fails to use the full initial counter limit in a recruiting class and graduates a few players early, they can maximize the number of players they can bring in. Oversigning though, is not the term one uses when talking about 2010-78.
“It’s actually tied to not oversigning,” Sankey said. “You would have to have someone on your 85-man limit leave for graduation. I think we all agree that’s a positive. And then you have to have room in your current initial counters to bring someone new in. You’re not, in any way, disenfranchising someone.”
Indeed, the new rule should provide a competitive advantage to schools that graduate players early. Many would consider this a good thing. It could also mean some players are pushed to graduate early in order to get them out and bring new players in. Given the time constraints already placed on some student-athletes, it could be something schools use to push their athletes academically to their detriment and the school's benefit.
Regardless of how the process is played out and the rule used, the topic of signing players is not going away in the near future.
“At our annual meetings, I anticipate there will be some ideas that will alter what was identified as the signing limit in the past,” Sankey said. “It’s been an active issue, certainly before any attention this week.”
With Signing Day approaching, you bet that this is an issue that will continue to be a topic for discussion.