Thursday, January 13, 2011

A pre-2011 reading assignment: Predictions, Tarkenton and oversigning players

In the three weeks we have until National Signing Day and the two months or so before spring practice rolls around, let's catch up with a little reading.

First, AJC Columnist Mark Bradley offers his 2011 SEC predictions. No surprises at the top: The two best teams are in the West and are LSU and Alabama.

Two things to watch here. Both teams are scarily deep with talent. But LSU has its quarterback. Alabama must find one. Possibly mitigating that edge is Alabama's home field advantage when the two teams meet next November.

Other Bradley predictions:

Teams on the rise: Tennessee, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Arkansas. Teams on a decline: Ole Miss, Auburn (not so fast, my friend) Florida. Teams in limbo: Georgia. Teams in a stupor: Vandy, Kentucky and Ole Miss.

Speaking of the Dawgs, this is a few days old now, but if you haven't heard it, take a couple of minutes to hear UGA alum Fran Tarkenton's thoughts on Mark Richt and the state of the Georgia program. It easily would qualify as a rant, if it didn't ring so true. Georgia fans chime in, if you please.

Finally, with National Signing Day three weeks off, a note on recruiting.

In his post-BCS Championship column on the SEC's fifth straight title, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated pointed out that the conference has a clear advantage over other teams because of its practice of oversigning players. NCAA teams are allowed to have 85 kids on scholarship. The SEC caps the number of signings at 28 a year. Do the math: That means teams like Florida, Alabama, LSU and Auburn bring in a lot more players every year than most of their nonconference peers. But to make the numbers work, older players on the roster have to go away. (Staples' SI colleague, Stewart Mandel, has more abut the subject here.)

In the case of the championship game, Auburn had signed 19 more players over the four-year recruiting cycle than Oregon. In fact, in the top-tier bowl games, the SEC had signed dozens of more players than their opponents.

Is that an advantage? Certainly. Interesting to point out that among the SEC's traditional football powers, only Georgia doesn't adhere to the practice, and look where the Dogs have fallen.

Granted, on the academic side, kids lose scholarships if they don't keep their grades, or they don't continue to excel as musicians or dancers or burgeoning scientists. Faculty members disappear if they're denied tenure.

Still, the NCAA should do what it can to instill a standard policy. Until it does, our pride in the SEC's accomplishments can only go so far.



ecdawg said...

Re: Oversigning - Kids on academic scholarships keep them if their GPA is at the minimum acceptable level. They are not cut because the school identifies a high school senior that the school thinks will have a higher GPA.
The solution is to end the 85 scholarship rule and replace it with a fixed annual signing limit. I suggest 30 - 35. Additionally, eligibility should be for 5 years.

Michael said...

Good point, EC. Just because the practice is legal doesn't make it any less questionable.

Not sure how many teams outside the conferences with the big TV money could afford another 10 scholarships. Which brings up the fairness thing.

What about Tarkenton's appraisal of your program?