Recruits: Georgia coach Mark Richt wants you to know that he's not going to oversign, not like some other coaches in the SEC.
That was the message Richt was trying to convey during a Q&A session with fans in Greenville, S.C.
So what's oversigning? It's basically giving recruits scholarships that don't actually exist and then thinning the herd at the end of the summer or season. It's long practiced tradition in college football and one that has come under fire, especially in the SEC.
Teams are allowed up to 25 new scholarships per season as long as they don't go over their 85 total scholarships for any given year. If a school goes over that number, it has to make a decision whether to greyshirt the player, which means deferring their joining the team until the next semester, or releasing the player altogether.
"If you bring them in in the summer, and you work them and you let your strength staff work with them, and you kind of decide which ones you like the best, and you tell five of them, 'Hey we know we signed you, and we expected you to be able to come in, we don't have space for you, we're really sorry about that but we don't have space for you — you're gonna have to leave and come back in January.'
"I think that's an awful thing to do, I think that's the wrong thing to do. And it's nothing that we've done since I've been at Georgia."
Richt went on to differentiate between this practice and being upfront with a player about greyshirting, what it entails and what it means for a player's scholarship opportunity. Richt told the crowd that he has at least one player greyshirt in each class.
"Not that we haven't greyshirted, or talked to guys about greyshirting," Richt said. "If you tell five of those guys 'Hey we've got 20 spaces. I can sign 25. There's a good chance that by school starts there'll be room for you, because of the attrition that happens every year everywhere you go. If there's space for you, you come in with your class. If there's not space for you, are you willing to come in in January?
"If you tell them on the front end and they know that, everyone understands that, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. And that's how we go about it if we're going to talk to a guy about greyshirting."
Despite Richt's justification, not every SEC coach is on board with greyshirting either. New Florida coach Will Muschamp said he has no intention of greyshirting any players while he's with the Gators.
"At Florida, we don't greyshirt," Muschamp said during an SEC conference call in April. "That's not something that we do; it's not a policy of ours. We don't place students; that's not a policy of ours. That's not something that I'm going to cross that bridge on right now because it's not something that we do or is part of what we're going to do."
The SEC West has been tabbed as one of the worst offenders when it comes to oversigning. The SEC West schools have signed ad average of four or five extra players per year, which over a five-year span can add up to an entire recruiting class and it's far more than any of the other major conferences.
Recently, the NCAA introduced a bylaw that limits teams to 28 signees between Signing Day (first Wednesday in February) and May 31. However, that doesn't stop schools from bringing in early graduates in January and junior college transfers. And since scholarships are awarded yearly and not in four-year chunks, any player could find themselves without a school at the end of the season to make room for another player.
Richt assured the crowd that that won't happen at Georgia as long as he's there.
"These other coaches have been over-signing, trying to grayshirt, trying to make sure they never come up short of that 85 (scholarship limit) number. But in doing so have they done it in an ethical way, which is what you're asking. And I'd say not. That's why the NCAA is trying to change its rules.
"There's been a bit too much of the winning at all costs in college football and I hope the tide turns in the other direction."
Graham Watson is a regular contributor to Dr. Saturday. Follow her on Twitter: @Yahoo_Graham