The Problem with Oversigning: The Case of Bryce Sherman

By now, most of you probably know that Bryce Sherman is no longer with the football team. What you might not know is that Sherman is apparently the latest victim of oversigning. Sherman has been told that his scholarship, which he earned for the 2010 season after walking on in 2009, would not be renewed. It's too early to know why Sherman was given the boot, considering that we've yet to see an official statement from the University on the matter. Therefore, take some of what I'm about to say with a grain of salt. However, one can only assume that this was done in order to make room for our incoming recruits.

If that's the case, it's a shame, and it illustrates the problems with oversigning. I can see the rationale for cutting Sherman loose. Although some might believe that Sherman would again return kickoffs next year, with Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, and Shon Carson joining the team, Sherman's days were numbered. He never produced as a kickoff returner, and with better prospects on the way, he was expendable.

However, at the same time, Sherman was committed to this football program. After he earned his scholarship and worked hard to retain it, we owed him better than this. Now, after pouring his soul into the program, he'll have to pay out for his final year of college, simply because he wasn't going to get much playing time and because we signed more players than we had room for. Presumably, it's too late for him to find some other school that will give him a scholarship, considering that we waited until this late to cut him. His options are limited.

Continue reading after the jump.

I've seen some people defend the coaches' decision by suggesting that Sherman's case is unique because he's a former walk-on to whom we don't owe a long-term commitment. According to this argument, the case would be different and less excusable if Sherman were a player to whom we had offered a scholarship out of high school. I don't buy this. Sherman wasn't cut because he's a former walk-on; he was cut because we treat football scholarships as one-year commitments. What happened to Sherman could have happened to any scholarship athlete on our team who wasn't slated to be a major contributor next year. Sherman was simply the player our coaches decided they needed least.

There's only one way to solve this problem from a regulations standpoint. The SEC's newly adopted 25-player-per-year limit won't do it, and nor will the Big 10's prohibition of signing more than 85. In both cases, it's possible to can players in order to make room for more; the difference between B10 and SEC regulations is that the B10 programs have to do it before they offer their recruits Letters of Intent, not after. The way to keep this from happenings is to make scholarships a long-term commitment from the school to the player. Football programs currently treat football scholarships like free-agent contracts. They shouldn't; the market isn't always the best arbiter. Avoiding the minor impact keeping Sherman on board would have on USC isn't worth the major impact this will have on Sherman's life. A long-term commitment from the school that assures the player that his education will be paid for as long as he fulfills his obligations to the football program would be more ethically defensible.

(I should note, by the way, that I thought we were already at or under 85 after losing a few upperclassmen like Mike Triglia and learning that several incoming recruits did not qualify, but I'm guessing I'm wrong. I suppose I could go get a roster and do the math, but I'm a bit too busy for that right now. I'm just going to assume that we're not quite at 85, because otherwise I don't see why we would cut Sherman's scholarship.)

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