In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the Georgia Bulldogs' decreased scholarship levels entering 2012, the Georgia recruiting coordinator, Rod Garner, mentioned attrition as the cause of the Dawgs only having 72 of the 85 possible slots filled:
"Well, we had a lot of attrition," Garner said. "But, you know, it's the way we run our program. I don't know what other people do, but I know we run a pretty stringent program and we've had some unfortunate incidents to pop up. I'm not saying it's a common occurrence, but there are probably other programs out there that are going through similar things, depending on what kind of structure they have."
Attrition is the most often-used word to describe the transfers, dismissals and academic casualties that a team absorbs on a year-to-year basis. Every team is subject to some level of attrition, as players leave on their own accord for more playing time or a better situation elsewhere, or they are forced to move on because of rules violations and academic shortcomings. Medical hardships, given when players are physically unable to continue playing football, make up another segment of the "attrition" portion of the puzzle.
Well, sort of. In this world, where over-signing has become quite the hot-button issue, folks are looking at this type of attrition as a method of cutting players. As with most things in college football, it all depends upon the eye of the beholder. One man's cut is another man's attrition, and the only people who truly know are the coaches and players involved.
Cuts are not the exclusive practice of teams and coaches that over-sign. Attrition is not reserved merely for the "upstanding" programs that fly below the scholarship limit. There is no black and white to the issue, and deciphering the difference between the two is not easy.
When a player who is not contributing gets a first-offense dismissal that likely would land a starter or key player a minimal suspension, that's a cut. When a player transfers after being buried on the depth chart after his second spring, that could be one of either cut or attrition. When a starter gets dismissed after multiple run-ins with the law and/or team violations, that's attrition.
Are you keeping up with us? Because it isn't easy.
There is no blanket methodology to determining whether a player moving on was a cut or merely attrition. As it stands now, USC pushing their scholarship limit is going to come under scrutiny for every player who leaves the program. Alabama and LSU get the same treatment.
Conclusions will be drawn, but it is not as black and white as folks want to believe. Attrition happens. Cuts happen. There is a fine line between the two, and most people have a tough time walking it.