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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Live from Destin: Over-signing update

DESTIN, Fla. - The football coaches have closed the door and begun their meetings. I attempted to plant a listening device, but was thwarted at the last moment by the crack SEC staff.

Seriously, it’d be quite cool to be a fly on the wall there. I’m not sure how much consensus will be reached on the league’s most visible issue, over-signing. But I think it was summed up well by Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino when he met with the media beforehand:

Petrino stated bluntly that he over-signs and he thinks the issue is overblown, but commissioner Mike Slive wants something, so legislation will be pushed through.

"When you read what the commissioner wrote, there will probably be a change," Petrino said. "You can’t be stupid. When you see the head guy talking about it. ...

"I’m not sure they really understand it, but there will probably be a change. The people who criticize it. I’m not sure they really understand how you do it, why you do it, how you manage your roster and how you get to the 85."

At first, when Tennessee’s Derek Dooley spoke first to the media, it seemed Slive might have already arranged a consensus behind the scenes.

“That’s obviously been the big talk in the last couple of weeks. I think with any piece of legislation the first thing you have to be cautious of is not getting so caught up in the public outcry you over-legislate,” he said. “Here’s what I do know: Most of the complaints have been fair, it’s been because of some things that have been not so common.”

Then Dooley – who had come down publicly for over-signing before Destin, said he favored things in Slive’s package of proposals.

“It closes the loopholes, and still accounts for a little overage,” Dooley said.

There’s a difference between overage and excessive signing. … We just need to close the loopholes.”

So that sounded like a bit of potential consensus forming.

But then coaches like Auburn’s Gene Chizik, Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino and Mississippi’s Houston Nutt traipsed through, making clear they had no stomach for the proposal to limit signing classes to 25 players.

“I think the 28 (limit is) just right,” Nutt said. “Follow that rule, and you won’t have a problem with it.”

Chizik said the 28 limit hadn’t been given enough time to work, and was surprised the issue was even being discussed again.

“In my opinion it’s worked,” Chizik said. “In my opinion I’m very comfortable where it is now. For us to turn around a year late rand try to change it again, I have my doubts about us having given it enough time to see whether it’s worked or not.”

Then came Mark Richt, who didn’t appear comfortable being the outspoken voice against over-signing. He started out by saying he would just “listen to what everyone has to say” in the meetings.

“First of all, I think everyone should have a right to manage their numbers,” he said. “I think every university should be able to do that.”

Then he said over-signing would be okay if the players know in advance they would gray-shirt.

“If everyone knows that on the front end, then I don’t see anything wrong with that ethically,” Richt said. “But what I’ve said, if you sign five over, and you get to the moment of truth, and you have to tell two or three kids that thought they were coming in with everyone else, and then all of a sudden you spring the news, all of a sudden there’s no room, you’ve gotta come in in January, I don’t think that’s right.

“But I never said anyone did that, I wasn’t accusing anybody of anything. I was just saying if everyone knows on the front end what’s going on, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Nick Saban spent his media session discussing other issues – the tornado, Jim Tressel, NCAA compliance issues – so he didn’t field anything on over-signing. But doubtless, the Alabama coach is talking about it behind the scenes.

We’ll see soon what comes out of all this. Stay tuned.

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