Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Must Read: President of the University of Florida Attacks "Grayshirting" as "Reprehensible"

Florida President J. Bernard Machen writes a piece for Sports Illustrated making a very compelling case against the practice of "grayshirting." Grayshirting occurs when a school offers more scholarships than it has to student-athletes. Before classes begin, schools inform the unlucky athletes (who signed letters of intent, thereby contractually binding them to the school, mind you) they don't have room for them, and that they will have to enroll at a later late (typically the next semester). To my knowledge, Vanderbilt does not engage in such a practice. If they do, they should stop.

President Machen is right, the practice is reprehensible. Moreover, it is yet another example of universities (and implicitly the NCAA) being more interested in protecting their own best-interests, rather than the student-athletes they purport to be educating. His criticism of schools failing to renew scholarships before a player has graduated (or decides to leave of his own accord) is equally relevant. President Machen, as the head of one of the most successful athletic programs in America, is uniquely suited to speak out, let's just hope others are listening.


A.J. said...

Is UF not one of the great overrecruiting schools in the country?

Being from the Florida panhandle, I was an FSU fan growing up and continue to root for them (after Vandy). I'm fairly new to following recruiting, but from what I've been told about the process, FSU grayshirts are told before they sign that that is the deal.

I'm not even sure that these guys actually sign LOI's on Feb.

I'm not sure that's how it always works at FSU, and even if it is, I'm sure some school does it in a more sinister way.

But that last bit about pulling scholarships is what really bothers me. UF (and all of the top SEC schools) recruit much more than 85 guys per year. They all are pushing guys who didn't achieve out the door whenever they get the opportunity.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that, at this point, Vandy BBall has overrecruited for next season. With only Duffy guaranteed to go, if McClellan doesn't transfer and/or if one or both of Andre and Jeff stays, do we start pulling scholarships? It's just not as simple as the article makes it seem.

I'm not saying some people aren't totally in the wrong in the way they screw over some recruits, but what I am saying is that there are good and bad ways to handle stuff like this and what's fair is to be upfront with guys about what they can really expect.

For the president of UF to come out the day before NSD and make a statement like this just smacks of recruiting itself.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Seems to me that Florida is taking advantage of their situation to make a pretty obvious political play here while they are in the midst of a tough recruiting season (transition to Muschamp set them back a bit and as a result they are way low on recruits in this class).

So before we jump to conclusions, it's worth considering that there is another side to the story. TTU Coach Tommy Tuberville makes the case in favor of "oversigning" (e.g., in this SI.com article) as well as anyone:

"Tuberville, who coached at Ole Miss before Auburn, believes oversigning can benefit certain players. It's no coincidence that most of the schools that engage in oversigning are either in states or border states that allow junior college football. A coach will sign players he knows have no chance of qualifying academically and then place those players in junior colleges. In return, the junior college coaches will feed the best of their players back to the FBS programs when those players are ready to transfer. Tuberville believes the practice allowed some players to reach college when they might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

"I always liked to oversign seven or eight just to sign kids, to motivate them, and then we're going to put you in junior college," Tuberville said. "Once you sign, then we can continue to call you and motivate you to go to class, get your grades higher. Then you go to junior college, and you'll be in a lot better shape. Now, [under the NCAA's new rule,] you're not going to be able to do that."

Bobby O'Shea said...

I'm biased, but I really don't think Vanderbilt would offer scholarships they didn't have. The powers that be almost certainly know that certain players will not be returning and are planning accordingly.

Bobby O'Shea said...

I think Seamus and A.J. raise a good point: all grayshrits aren't created equal. If schools are upfront with student-athletes, or they use the scholarship offer as a carrot to motivate a kid to do well enough in high school or junior college to qualify academically, that's great. But, to pull scholarships from athletes before they enroll in class is wrong.

Finally, Florida's President is doing this because they've made a calculation that restrictions on grayshirting helps them; that it might also be the right thing to do is a bonus

A.J. said...

I agree Bobby that CKS and crew are top class upstanding dudes are aren't going to be pulling the rug out from under guys.

I'm just saying that, it might look shady to the naked eye, but really, we are being totally honest about the situation and have it in hand.

Still someone could say that it's taking risks with guys future. That if things don't work out like we expect, that we'll have to refuse a commit or force someone out.

Technically, that's true, but to say that would be totally unfair to CKS because he would never purposefully do that.

Likewise, this talk that grayshirting is, without any wiggle room, a reprehensible practice (or that it is even in practice done as he describes it) is misleading.

Like you said, some of these are actually in the best interest of the kid and sometimes the kids are actually given the choice.

Also, I'd point out that grayshirting is different from JUCO placement, which is usually done because a kid doesn't qualify academically.

The JUCO kids when they transfer back can go to any school, and often do not go back to the schools they originally signed with.

There is some room for abuse in that system though, where schools mislead guys about their chances to qualify, then the guys are stuck when they find out they don't qualify because they missed a chance to go somewhere else where they might have qualified.

AMGTX22 said...

Apparently Nick Saban isn't so upfront with his greyshirt kids as others may be....


Apologies to those without access, here are some excerpts:

"On Aug. 5, 2009, just before Alabama's football team embarked on what would be a championship season, head coach Nick Saban delivered some unpleasant news at a preseason news conference. Four players hadn't been invited back to the program because they had "violated some type of team rule."

"These guys all did something," Mr. Saban continued, without elaborating. "It doesn't make them bad people.…These guys didn't do what they were supposed to do here, whether it was for academic reasons or whatever. They're not going to be part of the program." "


"The three players said they believe Mr. Saban falsely portrayed the circumstances of their departures to protect the image of his program. Mr. Saban had previously come under scrutiny by the media for offering scholarships to more incoming recruits than the school could accommodate under NCAA scholarship limits. This relatively common practice, which is known as "oversigning" is not prohibited by the NCAA. It allows a coach to improve his roster by giving him a larger pool of talent to choose from. But it also eventually forces the coach to get rid of a few scholarship players he no longer wants—which can put him at risk of scaring away future recruits.

If Mr. Saban had said the players decided to transfer because they didn't believe they would have a chance to play at Alabama, the players said, it would have provided ammunition for rival coaches competing for the same recruits. But if the players were seen as disciplinary cases, they said, Mr. Saban's recruiting methods wouldn't be viewed as the problem. Mr. Saban, Mr. Preyear said, "was just making himself look good for the media, and making us look bad." "

Seamus O'Toole said...

As long as we're trashing Nick Saban, how about his alleged practice of forcing players out by making them take medical scholarships? See this WSJ article.