- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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DESTIN, Fla. -- The SEC presidents and chancellors will have the final say, but the football coaches said Wednesday that they were in agreement with keeping the number of players a school could sign to letters-of-intent each year at 28.
The whole oversigning issue has been a hot topic at the SEC spring meetings, and there was a lot of talk that the league was eyeing legislation that would effectively end oversigning and the grayshirting of players, or at the very least, significantly curb it.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, a proponent of oversigning as a way to effectively manage scholarship numbers, said the coaches were 12-0 in favor of keeping the number at 28.
“Hopefully, they will leave it there,” Spurrier said. “But if they don’t, we’ll keep playing anyway. They’re not going to cancel football.”
Even Florida’s Will Muschamp voted along with his coaching colleagues to keep the number at 28 despite Florida’s policy as a university not to oversign. The most the Gators sign every February is 25, which is the maximum number a school can enroll on scholarship each August under NCAA rules.
Critics of oversigning say existing players are squeezed out to create additional scholarship room and that grayshirting players (asking them to defer enrollment until the next January) is an unfair practice that leaves players scrambling at the last minute.
“As long as you’re up front and honest, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said.
There were several proposals tied to the oversigning issue that were discussed this week, including the current practice of players being allowed to go on scholarship for the summer and then delay enrollment until January.
Another proposal would give the league office increased oversight on those players placed on medical scholarship.
There’s a chance that some of the proposals could be tabled and some could be passed.
“There have been a lot of different philosophies and scenarios offered,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Likely, there will be some change, some now and some later.
“I think the coaches have a really good feel for the issues, but we don’t have the authority to make the decisions that give us a comfortable, easy alternative.”
That authority will fall on the chancellors and presidents, who will vote Friday.
How much the coaches’ voices will be heard remains to be seen.
“I don’t know that it’s a competitive advantage. I don’t necessarily know that is accurate,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik, responding to those people who say the SEC is at a distinct advantage over other conferences that don’t allow oversigning.
“I just know it’s very difficult to try and hit a home run 100 percent of the time, signing 25 guys and expecting 25 guys to be on your campus for fall practice. I just think there is too much margin for error in there with all the variables that can happen with a student-athlete.”
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said there’s a difference between oversigning and excessive signing.
“What I would be for is to close the loopholes and track the 28 and see if it leads us to any abuse, and I don’t think it will,” Dooley said.
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