NCAA rules limit the numbers of players who can be signed in a recruiting class to 25, and teams are allowed to have 85 players on scholarship. The NCAA accounts for attrition in a four-year cycle, figuring that 15 players will either fail to qualify academically, become injured and have to end their career or — in rare cases — leave early for the NFL.
The 15-player cushion helps teams keep their scholarship level at 85.
The reality is that many coaches continue to exploit the rules, then run kids off who are deemed not talented enough to contribute in order to get back to 85. The practice is called oversigning, and frankly, there is no place for it in college football.
Think of it this way: Some teams are exploiting the rules to such a degree that they are signing an extra recruiting class every four years.
Now there is a website that tracks teams and the number of players signed in a class. Oversigning.com went live in February and already has nearly 500,000 hits.
The site defines oversigning this way: "Oversigning is not signing more than 25 players in a single recruiting class; it is going over the 85 scholarship limit. For example, if you have 65 players returning on scholarship and you sign 23, you have oversigned by 3 because 65+23 = 88. Therefore, even though you didn't go over 25 in a single class, you have oversigned."
Oversigning goes into great depth covering the practice. From 2006-10, Southeastern Conference teams signed an average of 103.08 players, making the league a runaway winner among Bowl Championship Series conferences. Auburn signed 119 players, Mississippi 115, Mississippi State and Alabama 113 and Arkansas 109.
The Big Ten had the lowest average at 86.82.
Oversigning goes into more detail by breaking down the numbers by conference from 2002-10.
After Mississippi signed 37 players in 2009, the SEC legislated that a recruiting class could not exceed 28. But the rule didn't stop Auburn (32), Alabama (29) or Louisiana State (29) from exceeding that number this past February.
The losers in oversigning are the kids.
"There are varying degrees of oversigning, some not quite as bad as others," according to Oversigning. "Regardless, we believe any time you sign more players than you have room for and you have to depend on either the player you signed to not be academically eligible or for a current player to be cut from a team in order to stay under the 85 scholarship limit and bring in the newly signed commitments that it hurts the kids involved and the sport as a whole."