Auburn and Oversigning


Before the Christmas Holiday, this post from Tony Gerdeman about oversigning was making the rounds. Specifically how it called out the "Big Bad SEC" for essentially playing with a stacked deck by oversigning players:


Every college football team is allowed 85 scholarships with which to fill their team, but only 25 of those scholarships are allowed to be given out in any particular year. Oversigning happens when coaches hand out more scholarships in a given year than they have available to give out.

For instance, if a team already has 70 scholarship players on its roster, they only have room for 15 new players. If they sign more than the allotted 15, then they will have to cut somebody to make room for every player over that 15 mark.

It's a sadly rampant and accepted practice in some parts of the country, but especially in the SEC. Though due to an unusual feeling of shame, the conference has recently instituted a rule that limits the number of signees per year to 28.


The difference here is a difference that both the SEC and the NCAA are keenly aware of: The magic number is 85. You can have 85 scholarships in any particular football season. That's it. There are no fudging those numbers. The second part (the 25 number) is where the fuzzy math comes in. Those 25 are deemed "initial counters". It's laid out here in the NCAA Bylaws: Bowl Subdivision Football. [FBS] There shall be an annual limit of 25 on the number of initial
counters (per Bylaw and an annual limit of 85 on the total number of counters (including initial
counters) in football at each institution. (Revised: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/92, 12/15/06)


(side note: I'm hoping my linkage works up there. If not, that's on page 187 of the 2009-2010 Division I NCAA Manual). Now, like I said, the Fuzzy Math comes in with all the exemptions and definitions of what exactly an "initial counter" qualifies as. There are actually 9 different subsections just on Initial counters. They spell out everything from "greyshirting" (If I'm reading it right, I'm pretty sure that's Section and the ever popular "sign-and-place" ( and It even spells out MidYear Replacements ( and awarding scholarships to walk-ons later ( In fact, if you award a scholarship to a walk-on (who is a junior and higher) it doesn't count against any initial qualifier limit. Only your total scholarship limit.


The long and short of it? Oversigning is a reality. It happens and it's legal. Blutarsky pretty much sums up my feelings in his response piece:

I’m of two minds about oversigning.  It doesn’t violate any NCAA rules and it gives certain kids a chance they might not otherwise have to play at a D-1 school.  As long as the process at a given school is transparent so that recruits know the nature of the bargain they’re striking, it’s hard for me to object.  The problems I see with it are two-fold:  one, it’s hard to believe that every head coach is straightforward about what he’s up to (I’m looking at you, Les Miles) and two, it’s anti-competitive to the extent that kids who go into a program that oversigns could perhaps be playing at another D-1 school.

I’m not sure if there’s a happy solution here, mainly because the real problem isn’t so much signing more than 25 student athletes in a given year as it is about how the slots come open to allow a school to sign that sort of class size.  And I don’t think the NCAA says word boo about that right now.


The real issue that I have is this notion that Auburn has had some sort of competitive advantage by oversigning. Back to Gerdeman:

It's pretty interesting to look at the contrast from team to team. Auburn signed 119 players over the last four seasons—an average of 29.75 per year! Their bowl opponent last year was Northwestern, who has signed 45 fewer players than Auburn over that same period.

The Tigers beat the Wildcats by three points in overtime last season. If Northwestern had 45 more players to sift through over these last four seasons, how much better do you think they'd be in 2010? Instead, they choose not to cut players or chase academic risks. The gall!


First, before I go any on any more, let's point out a big out one big difference between Northwestern and Auburn. NU is a private school. Auburn is public. NU has higher academic standards than Auburn. (Maybe they are comparable, at this point there is no real reason to look it up). Of course NU isn't going to chase academic risks. If you aren't going to qualify academically to attend Northwestern from the start. I'm doubting a semester at Hargrave Military is going to make our right as rain to play for the Wildcats the next season.


But did Auburn actually have 119 More players to "sift through" over the past years. Let's examine. Now, my numbers are going to be a little forward then the numbers Gerdeman is referring too. I'm using the 07, 08, 09, and 2010 class lists. Those would be the most up to date numbers. I think the point will still stand. Also, if you'd like to look at my full spreadsheet (with notes) you can find it here. I'll embed the Google Doc where needed throughout the post.


A Quick Note on Tuberville Before We Proceed:

Below, you will meet what's left of Tommy Tuberville's penultimate and his final recruiting classes. 2007 was Probably his last solid class. I don't want to turn this into Tuberville bashing. It can't. Tommy Tuberville brought in some solid and gamechanging players during his years at Auburn. However, his recruiting strategy was questionable towards the end and this class (and especially his final class in 2008) showed why some Auburn fans were ready for a complete change at the Head Coach position. For a coach who lambasted Terry Bowden for "leaving the cupboard bare" when he left; Tuberville didn't really leave much to work with when he left either. Still, at the end of the days two facts remain: 1) Tommy Tuberville brought in some truly great players to Auburn and without a good core of those players, Auburn wouldn't be in the position we are today. 2) There were decisions made and choices pursued that set Auburn up for feast or famine years instead of consistent production every year. Personally, I think the practice of "sign and place" is asinine. Yes,  we benefit tremendously from guys like Nick Fairley (who famously said something to the effect of, "Auburn stuck with me, so I stuck with Auburn") you have 4 players that DON'T come back. Just look at the numbers from the class above. 10 Guys DNQ and only 2 returned. That's a 20% success rate. However, this blog post is not to bash Tuberville. I've already done that in the past. No, this is just to highlight the supposed "advantage" some people think Auburn has by oversigning and to catch up with some of the "could have beens" in past classes. As with anything there are other factors (the move to the spread his last year didn't help things). In the end, the words in this paragraph will be all I need/want to say about Tuberville as it relates to this blog post.


The 2007 Signing Class:


The Color system is pretty straight forward. GREY means the player did not qualify initially or did not enroll initially and never came to Auburn. GREEN means the player did not qualify, but returned to Auburn. PURPLE means the player enrolled (and was an initial counter) and then left. YELLOW means the player stayed all four years. BLUE means they graduated.


The numbers boil down like so: In 2007, Auburn signed 30 Players. 10 of which Did Not Qualify. So, in 2007, Auburn's actual number of initial counter? Was 19 because we have to exclude Brent Slusher who was an early enrollee and actually counted for the 2006 Class. My math could be a little fuzzy, but 19 is less than 25. So we're ok in that regard. 19 Actual Initial Counters.



But how many players are actually still around? How many are still with the team and should honestly be used when comparing numbers? 13. That's it.



In case you are wondering about some of the DNQs: I couldn't find any information about Brandon Earl or Tim Lamb, other than the fact that they did not count initially. Carlton Johnson ended up at Arkansas-Monticello. Chris Zinn went to Hargrave. Enrique Davis infamously went to JUCO and then decided Ole Miss was better for him than returning to Auburn and the new Tony Franklin mess. More on Jermaine Johnson later. Johnnie Lee Dixon went to Pearl River CC and then played Canadian Football with the Calgary Stampeders. Wilfred Journet went to Copiah-Lincoln Juco and before he could re-enroll at Auburn, he dropped out of Co-Lin.



As for the transfers? Mike Slade left the team (possibly after being put on the Scout Team). Kyle Coulahan left the team for Academic Reasons. Adam Herring took a medical hardship (but is still in school). Bo Harris transferred, possibly to Co-Lin, but nothing new has come up about him. Chaz Ramsey and his/Nall/Tuberville's mess are in this class. Chris Slaughter, he of the perennially doghoused, is now at Fort Valley State. John Douglas recovered from his DUI arrest and has found solace/happiness at Georgia Southern. Brent Slusher will be a Tennessee Vol next year. Finally, Bailey Woods graduated in 3 years but will finish his playing career at Georgia State.

The 2008 Signing Class:


Auburn signed a total of 28 players. 4 of which DNQ and never enrolled, making the actual list of Initial counters at 24. 1 Below the scholarship limit. Even with that, 4 of these signees (DeRon Furr, Chris Todd, Raven Gray, and Deshaun Barnes) were early enrollees and actually counted back to the 2007 class. That puts the 2007 class back at 23 as well. 30 signees minus 10 guys who failed to qualify (the 8 who DNQ originally and Eltoro and Fairley who DNQ and would not count for that class yet). Also, factoring in Slusher's early enrollment plus 4 early enrollees.

So what does that do number wise for the 2008 Class? We start with the 28 players. Now subtract the four early enrollees and the 5 guys who DNQ and you have an actual class of initial counters at 19. That's the total class for 2008. 19 Guys. Only 9 of which are still with the team. Of course, this would be Tuberville's first class with the knowledge that the Tony Franklin Offense was being installed/switched to, so that hurt the numbers.

Let's quickly catch up again. The DNQs? Reggie Hunt went to Co-Lin and is now at Southern Miss. Ken Adams enrolled at JUCO and will play at LSU Next Year. As for Jermaine Johnson, the mammoth OT that Auburn tried to sign TWICE? He's now at Miami. Oh and Freddie Smooth? Another Stud D-Lineman? Yep, he's wanted for Murder in New Orleans.

The biggest surprise in this class are the number of guys who transferred/quit/were booted from the team. You'd think with a coaching change that this would happen, but in this class, a staggering 13 guys went to greener pastures. Harry Adams was dismissed from the team but is still at Auburn running track. Marcus Jemison was dismissed and ended up at Grambling. Christian Thompson transferred to South Carolina State. D'Antoine Hood is now at Alabama State. Cam Henderson went JUCO but will be at Central Florida next year. Raven Gray left and ended up at Delta State. Dax Dellenbach is now at Florida State. JoMarcus Savage left and ended up at Grambling, where he seems pretty happy. Finally, DeRon Furr left the team and is now at Memphis, possibly after getting into a fight during practice.


There were also a high number of guys who took Medical Hardship waivers: Vance Smith, DaShaun Barnes, Spencer Pybus, and Andre Wadley. However, each one of these guys is still in school. The whole concept of Medical Hardships and Oversigning is debatable and controversial. In fact, that's the truly disheartening part of the whole deal. However, I've yet to hear anything from these four guys saying they were "forced out" and Medical Hardships have not become the norm for Auburn over the past four years.

The 2009 Class:


Here's where things start to get a little tricky with the numbers. In this class, Auburn signed 28 players. 7 Did not enroll. Putting the number back down to 21. Eltoro, OMAC, and Fairley were all early enrollees. The 2007 Class sits at 24 now. 20 Guys Originally, plus the 4 Early Enrollees. Eltoro and Fairley are able to be counted with the 2007 Class (their initial class), which sits at 25 now. OMAC now counts with his original class (2008), which puts it at 20.


Let's briefly go over the DNQs: The only real significant things to know here are that Brandon Jacobs decided to play baseball instead, Terrance Coleman decided to enroll in JUCO before Auburn, Tyrik Rollison transferred to Sam Houston State, Dontae Aycock transferred to South Florida. Izauea Lanier might resign in the upcoming class and Taikwon Paige is now at Toledo.

So that's 28 who were signed. 4 that count to previous classes (bringing us to 24) and 7 who did not sign. That knocks the number of initial counters all the way back down to 17. This is significant because of:


The 2010 Signing Class


That's a lot of yellow. However, it's not all that it seems. That's a total of 32 Guys Auburn signed this past class. 2 of which Did Not Enroll (Shon Coleman and Jeremy Richardson). That brings it down to 30. Still, that's over the limit. Or is it? 3 guys (Cam Newton, Roszell Gayden, and Brandon Mosely) were December enrollees and 2 other guys (Craig Sanders and Jessel Curry) enrolled in January. 5 total guys who count back to the previous years recruiting class. That puts Auburn at...wait for it...25 Initial Counters for the 2010 Signing Class. Right at the limit.  It actually puts the 2009 Class at 22 players. Meaning guys like Terrance Coleman, Izauea Lanier, and even Brandon Jacobs could all be "signed" in the 2011 class and still be counted back towards the past (2009) class.

All of this blasting Auburn for "oversigning" is bull. This statement that Auburn signed 119 players and had "45 more players to sift through" just doesn't hold water. If anything Auburn needed MORE players to get back up to a full 25 man a class limit:


Class Signed Initial
A I C Adjusted
2007 30 19 +6 25 13
2008 28 19 +1 20 10
2009 28 17 +5 22 16
2010 32 25 0 25 30


AIQ= Adjusted Initial Counters (guys who re-signed or were added from early enrolling), and TPI= True Player Impact. Meaning how many of these guys who signed with that class are actually still with Auburn (i.e, What was the true value of the class?)


So Did Auburn oversign? No. The actual and initial counters were still at or below the 25 a season limit. In fact, Auburn is still 8 players short. Well short of the "119" that was initially thrown out there.  Plus, if you factor in how many of those players are still with the team?  Auburn is at 69 players. A full 31 short of their goal. Thankfully, Auburn has Redshirt Seniors to fill in the gaps.


Bottom Line? All this talk about Auburn oversigning is bunk. The numbers are right there. Just because Auburn is actually USING the rules to fill in lost classes then why should the Tigers be punished? They are doing everything by the book and by the rules. So the next time someone says Auburn is "cheating" because we are oversigning, just refer back to this.


As always, I welcome any comments/feedback below. You can always tweet me (@auppl) or email me (


Anonymous said…
The question is not making it under the 25 mark. It is filling available spots. Just because the limit is 25 doesn't mean you have 25 scholarships available. If you sign more players than available scholarships then someone is getting left out in the cold. Some of the transfers were likely involuntary.

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