DESTIN, Fla. — Two years ago, the Southeastern Conference was the pacesetter in getting the rest of the NCAA to create restrictions to allow football programs to sign up to 28 players per year.
Now the SEC wants to be the conference to lead the NCAA in becoming even more restrictive.
SEC presidents and chancellors voted Friday to eliminate oversigning for its football teams, limiting them to 25 signees per year except under rare circumstances.
The new rule will go into effect with the 2012 recruiting class in the SEC, with the conference proposing NCAA legislation on the matter that would go into effect in 2013 at the earliest.
The rule capped a week of intense debate on a variety of football-related matters here at the SEC Spring Meeting, which Commissioner Mike Slive referred to as “roster management.”
“Clearly, recruiting and signing is an inexact science,” Slive said. “With that in mind, rather than address what was simply known as oversigning, we sat down and developed a concept called roster management.”
Schools and football coaches were divided on oversigning. Some coaches, like LSU’s Les Miles and Alabama’s Nick Saban, support it. Florida already had a policy disallowing oversigning, a practice Florida and President Bernie Machen called “morally reprehensible.”
Despite Florida’s protests, a majority of SEC football coaches voted this week to keep the current limit of 28 signees, but they were vetoed by the SEC presidents and chancellors.
“On some issues, we’re able to accommodate their concerns, on some we are not,” Slive said. “It’s as close to a full consensus as we could get. Obviously, some coaches would prefer 28 to 25.”
Slive dismissed the notion that the rule could put the SEC at a competitive disadvantage.
“No one wants to win more than I do,” Slive said. “But we don’t want to win at the expense of the young people. We want to win for them.”
“I’m delighted where the conference is today,” said Machen, who is also the current president of the SEC.
“I don’t think any conference in the country is looking at the whole picture as we are.”
In addition to repealing the “Rule of 28,” the SEC will also be more restrictive in terms of allowing transfers to play for their member schools.
The SEC voted to put teeth back in its rule requiring transfers have at least two years of eligibility remaining. The rule may come be known as the “Jeremiah Masoli Rule” after the quarterback transferred to Ole Miss last season with one year of eligibility remaining after being dismissed at Oregon.
The transfer rule won’t go into effect until October, so any transfers with one year left intending to play at an SEC school this season will be allowed to participate.
“A year or so ag,o we passed an exception to our rule that said if you were a graduate and were looking for a different program to play for, you could come (to an SEC school) even if you have just one year remaining,” Slive said. “What became clear is when it became an athletic rule, we should no longer have the exception. It’s an academic rule.”
With an eye to curbing the growing influence of third parties in football recruiting, the SEC also passed a rule prohibiting its coaches from attending or its schools from hosting seven-on-seven football camps.
Such camps have become a potential red flag because they are often run by coaches not affiliated with high schools or colleges.
Slive said the vote on seven-on-seven camps was unanimous.
“There’s a lot of involvement of third parties in basketball recruiting,” Slive said. “The sentiment among football coaches and us is that there is a bit of a creep, and it’s in our best interests to do what we can to stop it.”
SEC members also voted to allow the conference office to review all plans by schools to keep players on scholarship whose football careers have ended because of injury. Such student-athletes on scholarship do not count toward a team’s overall 85 scholarship limit.