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Oversigning: football’s latest overindulgence

Oversigning. It’s when a school signs more recruits than it has roster spots available. The gods of college football’s recruiting gluttony?

The SEC.

Today is National Signing Day, college football’s version of the NFL Draft. However, instead of the pro teams picking players, the players choose their schools. The NFL Draft is spaced out over three days. ESPNU has dedicated 10 straight hours to coverage of Signing Day. There’s no such thing as excess when it comes to football in this country.

Schools are allotted 85 total players on scholarship at a given time. Last year the SEC implemented a rule limiting its teams to 28 signees between Signing Day and May 31. The rule, now adopted by the NCAA, isn’t being strictly enforced.

One reason schools are circumventing the rule is the spacing of the two dates. Auburn signed 32 players last year because it brought in five players, including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton, in January. The Tigers had 27 players signed between February and May — one below the limit.

According to a January Sports Illustrated report, LSU had to use more cutthroat methods in 2008. Coach Les Miles misjudged how many of his borderline academic qualifiers would become eligible. By summer’s end, Miles had to cut quarterback Chris Garrett because he had two more newcomers than available scholarships.

He then had to tell signees Elliott Porter and Cameron Fordham — both of whom declined scholarship offers from other schools to accept Miles’ and LSU’s promise of playing football in Baton Rouge — that there wasn’t room for them. Porter had already moved into his dorm room and started classes when he received the news.

The same report stated that eight of the 12 SEC schools had averaged 25 or more signees over the past five years.

The website Oversigning.com, which chronicles the practice, lists six SEC schools projected to be over the scholarship limit following Signing Day. The leader of the clubhouse? Ole Miss, which has a projected 14 players over the limit.

The website projects Ohio State, which is normally far from the oversigning hoopla, to be right at the 85-man limit following Signing Day.

I love college football. I love the pageantry and the rivalries. I spend my Saturdays in the fall glued to the television. The sport dominates my life for a little more than three months.

But this practice is bad belly fat on the sport. The presidents and athletic directors of every school around the country — not just those in the SEC — need to step up, show some accountability and actually police the guilty coaches. Whether it’s stricter NCAA laws or a shake weight for SEC schools, something has to be done.

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