DESTIN, Fla. – Over the unanimous objection of their football coaches, the SEC’s presidents capped football signing classes at 25 on Friday.
The conference’s governing body also tweaked some of its rules concerning what it has dubbed “roster management,” but it is the curbing of oversigning that will get the most reaction. Several of the league’s coaches made aggressive arguments this week during the SEC’s annual spring meetings to keep the practice in place.
The coaches “don’t agree with everything, but there is some about which they do agree,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “Obviously, they have their own interests to pursue. I thought their conversation was helpful. (On) some of the issues, we were able to accommodate some of their concerns. Some of them we were not.”
In the past, coaches could sign 28 prospects in February despite being able to enroll only 25 in August — a practice commonly called oversigning.
The change will not affect South Carolina’s 2011 signing class, which included 28 signees.
Every conference president voted to end the practice.
“We did the right thing today,” Georgia president Michael Adams said. “I feel good about being a part of the conference today.”
The SEC will ask the NCAA to adopt all the proposals it has enacted.
“We have an expectation that the NCAA should and will adopt the proposals,” Slive said. “It’s in the best interest of prospects, and it’s not only in their best interest here but in the nation. We will be aggressively pursuing them on the national level.”
Regardless of the NCAA’s actions, Slive said he believes whatever competitive edge SEC schools could lose without oversigning was offset by the abuses of the former system.
“No one wants to win more than I do, but we don’t want to win at the expense of young people,” he said. “We want to win for them.”
Many coaches argued that the three extra signees allowed them to protect themselves against prospects who failed to qualify academically. Opponents pointed to incidents where coaches had to tell qualified athletes at the last moment that there was no room for them to enroll in the fall.
In other roster management issues, the presidents:
-- Voted to put the SEC office in charge of medical scholarship exemption designations. The conference will now have to approve any player a school wishes to give a medical exemption, meaning that player can remain on financial aid but not play due to a medical condition. In disputed cases, the conference office will consult independent medical experts before making a ruling, Slive said. The change will keep schools from unjustly pushing out healthy but unproductive players to make more room on their roster
-- Voted to force players who enroll early from high school to wait until they are full-time students before signing an SEC financial aid agreement.
Schools still will be able to count mid-year enrollees back to previous year’s classes if those classes did not use all their allotted spaces and the player is fully qualified.
“I am delighted with where the conference is today,” Florida president Bernie Machen said. “The real change for me conceptually is now we are thinking of the whole system of roster management. I don’t think there is a conference in the country that is looking at the whole picture the way we are.”
The SEC also considered adopting a rule that would make athletes count toward scholarship totals as soon as they arrive on campus for summer school but decided to give the idea more thought.