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The South Carolina Gamecocks and Oversigning, Continued: The Latest from the Wall Street Journal

We obviously broached the oversigning topic at the right time here at Garnet and Black Attack, because the issue came home to us as hotly as ever today in this WSJ piece, which features provocative responses to the issues from Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, and the crown prince of oversigning himself, Houston Nutt. The issue has become more compelling than ever, and I expect it to be the topic du jour this summer. Moreover, as Blutarksy points out, Spurrier has become one of the focal points of the conversation, so it's going to be something that's on our radar even more than it is for others.

Based on my reading, I took two things away from the article. First of all, Spurrier comes off very badly, and that's not good for Carolina. As always, it's worth questioning the way Spurrier is being painted here. Jordan Montgomery's coach goes on the record as calling Spurrier scum, and the article makes it appear that Spurrier doesn't have a rebuttal. Is that the case, though? With the Lorenzo Mauldin story, the AJC crapped on Spurrier's handling of the situation, but Chris Low and other scleaned up Spurrier's image somewhat when they pointed out that Spurrier and his staff had, in fact, been more upfront with Mauldin than the AJC suggested. The same may be the case with Montgomery. That said, lines like this from Spurrier don't make a believer out of me:

"What we probably could've done earlier in the recruiting is tell them that this could happen," he said. "But then again, we didn't know it was going to come up. It's a ticklish situation."

Characteristic of this sort of journalism, the quote lacks the context needed to sufficiently clarify some of the points--i. e., what was said to Montgomery and what wasn't?--but still, it doesn't inspire confidence. As I've said before, I'd like to see the NCAA and SEC construct a sensible solution to make it more difficult for unscrupulous coaches to exploit oversigning loopholes, and I'm definitely against any coach who fails to transparently convey a recruit's situation to said recruit and then cuts ties with the recruit when it becomes convenient. The above quote makes Spurrier appear to be in this category. If that's the case, we need to hold him accountable and voice our opinion as fans that this behavior is not acceptable. It will eventually come back to haunt us on the recruiting trail and, moreover, is ethically dubious. That's not what we want for our university.

Continue reading after the jump.

The second thing that jumped out at me about the article is that it broaches what might be the fundamental issue at stake in the oversigning problem in the SEC: the low socio-economic and educational status in lower-class, primarily African-American communities in the southern states. In other words, the coaches interviewed seem to suggest that what's driving oversigning is that they know that there will be frequent academic casualties due to the poor academic background provided by their recruiting pools, which prompts oversigning as the coaches attempt to compensate for anticipated holes in their rosters. As Blutarsky says, the article steps gingerly around the issue, as the point doesn't lend credence to the picture its trying to paint of the coaches. Evil sells, as the saying goes, and pointing out more fundamental, structural socio-economic problems makes this a much less appealing problem to many readers.

I'll go ahead any lay my cards on the table, here: I think that if one accepts what the coaches and WSJ are implying, one has to at least entertain the possibility that, depending on one's perspective, we should be ascribing oversigning not just to the coaches and institutions but also to either individual students' failures to make the grades or to our states' and nation's failure to foster the educational needs of these students, who are again mostly poor and African American. Being someone who recognizes the role history has played in bringing us to where we are today, I'm in favor of the latter option, which means that, as we discussed in yesterday's comment thread, the state of Georgia has a lot of responsibility for how the Mauldin scenario played out, perhaps a more fundamental responsibility than Spurrier. I'm not, by the way, picking on Georgia here; certainly, the state of South Carolina has its own problems to deal with.

With this in mind, my question to critics of oversigning is this: if and when the oversigning problem is dealt with by the NCAA / conferences and your football team's lack of a competitive advantage on the playing field is no longer at issue, what else are you going to do to solve the real issues? My guess is that there are a lot of folks out there who only care about this issue in terms of how it relates to their football team, and that doesn't sit right with me. It goes without saying that those whose only motivation is football are going to frame the issue in a way that doesn't deal with the real problems; they're going to approach it in a way that ensures their football programs' success, not in order to benefit the kids involved.