Tennessee Football: Derek Dooley Defends the Practice of over-Signing

Blake Silvers@JBlakeSilversAnalyst IIIFebruary 15, 2012

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers Derek Dooley speaks turnover his players during a game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley recently spoke out on topic of over-signing while addressing the SEC’s new “roster management” guidelines and his comments were a bit surprising.  

For those who may not know, "over-signing" is the practice of offering more scholarships than are available, a practice which almost always leaves several players scrambling to find a new school come signing day.  

Over-signing has brought a lot of negative attention to the Southeaster Conference of late, most specifically with Alabama's so-called "gray-shirt" scandal, which was recently defended by Nick Saban when he recently let two players know that their services wouldn't be needed next season, only weeks before signing day.   

In a surprising public statement, Derek Dooley recently said:

"If there’s a way we can maintain over-signing and eliminate any of the abuses that caused the concerns, then that’s what I would be for. Because there are so many positive benefits of over-signing for the players.”

Dooley doesn't like the new rules, but also doesn't think they will curb the problem of over-signing: 

“Here’s the comedy of all of this. What we’ve done is not really eliminate over-signing. Here’s why I say that: if you have only 20 spots to give on your roster, you can over-sign by five. The only schools that can’t over-sign are the ones that have 25 openings."

He thinks other SEC coaches might agree with him, yet have chosen not to speak publicly on the issue.  Coach Dooley believes that "more [coaches] feel that way. It’s a matter of if they are willing to say it or not. I know Nick Saban feels the same way I feel. He may not tell you that. But a lot of us are at the mercy of our school presidents."

Saban also defended over-signing recently, saying,

"When you look at the numbers without knowing all the facts and internal information, I think that is a little premature and unfair. Then for people to go out and use that against you in recruiting is even more unfair. This is the number of players that we could take, and we could add one or so [more] if the opportunity presents itself in the future."

Other coaches, such as Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson, have recently come out against the practice altogether when he explained over-signing as:

"We go out there, we’ve got 15 commitments and we just keep recruiting over the top of them.  Now, people do that, but not many. And then they just come back and they tell ‘em, ‘Hey, sorry, you’ll have to come next year. You’ll have to come in the spring. We found somebody better than you. We over-signed.’ That’s wrong. And it’s wrong on both sides. It’s just wrong.”

This issue is certain to continue to be a talking point going forward, especially within the Southeastern Conference and other schools around the area that compete for the same recruits.