I had a chance to catch up with Coach Mark Richt at today's Peach State Pigskin Preview here in Macon. A lot of the expected subjects came up, and I'll certainly discuss those in the coming days. But a topic that everyone expected to come up, oversigning, actually drew a response that I thought was pretty darned telling.
First, a little background. As you'll recall, at the recent SEC Meetings in Destin SEC coaches unanimously voted against a "roster management proposal" crafted by the league's university presidents and put forth by Commissioner Mike Slive. The presidents passed the proposal over the coaches' objections, and one consequence of that is a new cap of 25 players per signing class in football, down from the prior limit of 28. The skepticism about the proposal became evident from the get-go, and it appears that Mark Richt shares that sentiment, as he led a group of assembled media members through a little math lesson:
"I'll just say this, you guys can figure it out. 85 on scholarship. If 15 guys leave, how many do you have room for? It's not a trick question. How many do you have room for? . . . [A media member responds "15"]. . . Is 25 more than 15? So I don't know if you're catching my drift of what I'm trying to say, but . . . all I'm saying is you could still oversign with 25. If you only have room for 15 and you sign 25 you're still signing more than you've got. The question is everybody's integrity. That's the question. Are we all going to do things in the right way? And I think everybody's trying to do that.
But it's not an easy thing, it really is not. Because on Signing Day if you sign right to the 85 number by the time August rolls around you might have only 79 because of the attrition that happens from Signing Day to August, and that's what everybody's trying to figure out. How can we start the season at 85 and not oversign, you know what I mean? And it's not as simple as everybody makes it out to be."
Mark Richt's not the kind of guy to call anyone out publicly. But that's about as close as he's going to get. Reading between the lines I think he's acknowledging that by agreeing to a hard scholarship limit some of his fellow coaches are definitely hampering their ability to compete. There's a natural tension there. Everyone wants to win, and everyone wants to do everything within the rules to win. But at the same time, giving out 25 scholarships when you have 70 eligible scholarship athletes who want to return to your school and compete the following season requires either hoping for divine intervention or creatively pushing some guys aside whose parents were recently promised that their son would be taken care of. The numbers simply don't lie. Mark Richt is right. 25 is more than 15.
Over the next couple of days it will be interesting to see how this very public proclamation of basic arithmetic resonates across SEC country. I'll be waiting here with my popcorn. Until later . . .