Is UNC About To Fire Up Its Football Waiver Wire? (updated 12/16)

[Note: if you haven’t read the 2nd update, please take the time to do so.]

The News and Observer has finally noticed that UNC football’s scholarship count and recruiting numbers don’t add up:

The Tar Heels will lose 12 scholarship seniors after they complete the 2008 season vs. West Virginia at the Meineke Bowl on Dec. 27. But coach Butch Davis and his staff have already secured 24 verbal commitments for next season — and they’re still recruiting.

Football Bowl Subdivision teams are allowed a maximum of 85 scholarship players on the roster and can sign a limit of 25 athletes each year.

While it is true that every school has some attrition every year above and beyond graduation due to talented players leaving early for the NFL, others who don’t keep their grades up, transfers, injuries, etc., thirteen potential openings in the off-season seems pretty high, leaving one possibility: a certain number of UNC’s current roster players will be told that they no longer have a scholarship.  In professional sports, that’s called being “waived.”

Interesting, and something to keep an eye on.

Update #1: Jerry Petercuskie (NC State’s recruiting coordinator comments, via The Wizard of Odds)

The Tar Heel coach’s tactics have caught the attention of rival North Carolina State and its recruiting coordinator, Jerry Petercuskie.

“We’re not in the market of oversigning, unless there’s a case where there are some borderline students who may not make it,” he said. “And in that case, there’s a plan for them.”

This gets to the heart of the matter. Recruiting is about building trust. If you can’t be trusted to honor a commitment, your reputation takes a hit.

Update #2: Joe Ovies of 850 The Buzz Takes an Opposite View and Links Back Here

Here’s a somewhat lengthy quote from an article that popped up on 850 The Buzz’s blog this morning:

The “Waiver Wire” Isn’t As Bad As It Sounds

Rival fans look at the recruiting numbers and automatically accuse the coach of breaking rules or being unethical. NC State fans like to call this the “UNC Waiver Wire”, and have been harping about it since the days of John Bunting. [SFN  note: I suppose that’s us, since the link is to this article.  More in a minute.]

Until Nick Saban battled Alabama reporters over his own fuzzy math, Steve Spurrier cleaned house at South Carolina, and now the recent N&O story, the over-recruiting topic was largely discussed only by the hardcore recruiting freaks on messageboards. Now it has gone relatively mainstream, and too many casual fans will get duped into misinformation about how this all goes down. Bottomline is that the majority of cases where a player loses his scholarship is justifiable, agreed upon or inevitable.[…]

So where do rival fans start showing their ignorance about the topic? When they start throwing around the word “waived” as if the coaching staff yanked the scholarship from under them and left them on the streets to go hungry. In most cases, the 4th-year junior who had a chance to graduate isn’t really upset when his 5th year is not renewed. These guys probably weren’t playing much anyway, realized playing professionally is off the table, and will go into some other line of work. There are instances where sophomores and juniors won’t have their scholarships renewed, but it doesn’t happen often and typically the kid knows where he stands if his performance isn’t up to par. It’s no different from an academic scholarship failing to renew because the student failed to maintain a certain GPA.

At the end of the day, the act of over-recruiting is easily twisted by those who want to paint a program with a broad brush.

Interesting, and Joe makes some good points.  At the same time, however, I fail to see where I said Butch Davis was unethical.  I did, however, mention the possibility that players might have their scholarships removed from them involuntarily.  Sure, it’s true that the majority of the time, there are good reasons for it — for example when Tom O’Brien tossed Cedric Hickman off of the team for breaking the law.  Davis would do the same thing and that’s completely expected and understandable.  So would any decent coach.  At the end of the day, it looks like Joe Ovies should have read the post here a little more closely before he started making accusations of “ignorance‘ and falsely accuse SFN of saying the Davis was “breaking rules or being unethical.” There’s a big difference between pointing out the possibility of something happening that might seem unsavory and making an accusation of cheating or being unethical, neither of which were made here.

Football Recruiting

52 Responses to Is UNC About To Fire Up Its Football Waiver Wire? (updated 12/16)

  1. spanky 12/11/2008 at 9:31 AM #

    I must admit, I am truly amazed that the N&O even mentioned this. This truly does smell a hell of a lot like a waiver wire deal which could potentially piss off high school coaches who send kids to UNC only for them to get there scholarship pulled.

    I’m sure this has been going on for a while… how else have they been the youngest team in America since Mack Brown??

    Be prepared for quite a few ‘dismissed from team’ ‘s and left for “personal reasons” from now through next summer…

  2. old13 12/11/2008 at 9:35 AM #

    While I’m certainly no Holes apologetic, I think that the reason that athetic scholarships are renewable annually, and are not guaranteed for 4-5 years is that they must be earned. That’s the way that academic scholarships work – don’t make the grades and lose the scholarship. And there ARE transfers and scholastic losses. There have been years where the Pack took more than 25 verbals. I believe that the article points out that this approach is not unique to UNC, and is further a general practice among D1 teams. It also points out the use of “grayshirts” which the Pack has also used to meet NCAA recruiting limits not to mention January enrollments for the same purpose. Besides, excessive use of the “waiver wire” would seem to be self-policing as recruits would certainly note the practice and consider it in choosing a scholarship to accept. If it’s not violating any rules, why shouldn’t a coach use all the tools he’s provided with to put the best roster together!

  3. howlie 12/11/2008 at 9:47 AM #

    If it’s not violating the rules, why shouldn’t every CEO and top mangagement official in the world each suck out billions for themselves and create a economic world collapse.

    After all, I got mine, and sucks to be you.

    Who needs ethics or morals when we have …. “rules?”

  4. choppack1 12/11/2008 at 9:48 AM #

    One thing the article didn’t mention – is UNC at their limit? I’m assuming that they are. If they are, then they do have to do a phenagling to get under the limit or they’ll have to have a whole slew of guys not qualify and/or enroll early.

    Old13 – I don’t think the issue here is grayshirting or January enrollment. In the Heels case, I don’t recall where a lot of these kids are talking about enrolling in January – but that only deals w/ the annual scholarship issue. But the bottom line is this as I understand it – you can’t have more than 85 scholarship athletes on your football team. What happens if player X doesn’t want to give up his scholarship or transfer – he basically is told, sorry, we’ll make the decision for you. I think that’s where you run into problems. A college coach is “cutting” a player. This shouldn’t be good for relationships w/ high school coaches, but I doubt it matters in the long run for them.

  5. lsutton5144 12/11/2008 at 9:56 AM #

    It won’t matter to Butch. If Dallas loses another game, and they will, Wade P. is out and Butch will be on his way to Dallas to work for the biggest butthole in the NFL.

  6. old13 12/11/2008 at 10:11 AM #

    So, howlie, are you saying that athletic scholarships should be guaranteed for 4-5 years (except possibly for cause, such as committing a crime or failure to follow team rules or academic suspension?)

  7. BoKnowsNCS71 12/11/2008 at 10:11 AM #

    So BMFD would be Butch MF Dallas?

  8. Alpha Wolf 12/11/2008 at 10:15 AM #

    If Dallas loses another game, and they will, Wade P. is out and Butch will be on his way to Dallas to work for the biggest butthole in the NFL.

    I would give the Biggest Rear End award to Al Davis, but that’s just an opinion.

    I wouldn’t be so sure it will be Butch. They might go with Jason Garrett, make a strong run at Cowher (big, big $$) or any number of existing coaches. Butch wasn’t exactly Jimmy Johnson up in the League, and he hasn’t built UNC into an instant powerhouse either.

  9. BoKnowsNCS71 12/11/2008 at 10:26 AM #

    I think Dallas would need to make a bigger run at Cowher’s family. Until the little lady gives the nod — Cowher is playing golf and talking on Sunday TV shows.

  10. choppack1 12/11/2008 at 10:26 AM #

    old13 – I think what he’s saying – and what we’re all saying is that there’s “the rules” and then there’s “right and wrong.” Simply put, just because you operating w/in the rules doesn’t mean that you are operating ethically or doing things “the right way.”

    It’s totally understandable for a coach to kick a kid off the team if he breaks the laws, doesn’t make grades or causes friction w/in the team…many think it’s wrong for a coach to cut a kid just because he wants to bring in a different in a college environment.

    Every situation is different – and there are always degrees/levels of right and wrong. But if say, Butch has an “overage” of 10 scholies and he cuts 10 kids who are in good academic standing, good teammates, and have stayed out of trouble – well, he’s not running a program I’d probably be proud of and if I was a father or a high school coach of a prospect, I think I’d want to know that what he does when someone does work out the way he wants it to.

  11. VaWolf82 12/11/2008 at 10:40 AM #

    It also points out the use of “grayshirts” which the Pack has also used to meet NCAA recruiting limits not to mention January enrollments for the same purpose.

    Define what you mean by gray shirt.

    I’ve seen the term “gray shirt” used when a kid is qualified, but enters school late (usually one semester) to keep a team under the 25/85 limits.

    All of the January kids at State (that I am aware of) either graduated early from HS or weren’t qualified until the fall after graduating HS. These kids don’t qualify as a gray shirt.

  12. old13 12/11/2008 at 10:43 AM #

    choppack1, understood and agreed – at least on the 10 in, 10 out thing, which, as I said above, seems to me would be self-policing. But didn’t TOB do a little of that this year with the QB’s in encouraging two to transfer? And what’s wrong with that if they can transfer and get another gig plus have a better chance to play in another program?

  13. Par Shooter 12/11/2008 at 10:52 AM #

    I think the QB thing was totally different. TOB informed those guys that they were not in the mix so that they could transfer before the school year started if they so chose and use this year as their “sit out”. It clearly had nothing to do with scholarship limts since we were well below the limit and its not like we could fill the slot in August even if we had been at the limit. Also, as evidenced by Beck, there was no mandate that the kids transfer or lose a scholie and in fact the evidence shows that TOB gave Beck a fair chance to play and start a game.

    I’d also like to add that I’m damn glad Beck decided to stay. We may not be bowl eligible without him (think W&M debacle with Evans). Credit to the kid to stick around even though its clear he’ll never be “the guy” here. Shows a lot of maturity.

  14. old13 12/11/2008 at 10:55 AM #

    VaWolf82, maybe I wasn’t clear. “Grayshirt” is defined in the N&O article. I pointed out that several Pack recruits enrolled in January to be counted in the previous recruiting class – often times at the encouragement of the coach. I have no problem with that or “grayshirting” for that matter if the kid wants to do it. I’m only saying that the N&O article only uses UNC as an example of things that go on in recruiting across the board – good and bad – and that some of the bad have repercussions that discourage coaches from doing it – at least excessively.

  15. Wolf Dog 12/11/2008 at 11:04 AM #

    Butch recruited like this before and it makes local high school coaches pissed. Some will not qualify, some current players will not have their scholarships renewed, Butch has had some kids change thier mind at last minute, and some recrutis will be told they don’t have a scholarship for them even though they have verbaled.

    Butch will ditch the two and three star recruits if he can get a kid to committ that is better talented and higher rated. Butch not working on long term relationships with high school coaches. He needs to to win now to get out of Chapel Hill and get a bigger pay check.

  16. SouthernWolf 12/11/2008 at 11:08 AM #

    Clearly UNC is bringing in a lot of talent this year. However I wonder about the accuracy of many recruiting website rankings. Marvin Austin (UNC DT) was supposed to be the number 1 DT in the nation several years ago and he had almost no impact in the state unc game and I have not seen any highlights of him (though I must admit i dont watch carolina play except when they play state) It seems to me That Allen Michael Cash is a much better DT although he was ranked much lower as an incoming recruit. Personally I dont really see unc getting that much better next year.

  17. choppack1 12/11/2008 at 11:19 AM #

    old13 – I think you are getting thrown off the path here.

    The grayshirt only matters as it pertains the total # allowed in a recruiting year (25)- not the totall # of scholarships you can have for football in a given year. In other words, you can sign 30, have 5 grayshirt and enroll next winter and count them towards the next year’s class. But, if you have 70 returning kids on scholarship, you can’t sign 25 for that year, unless you “grayshirt” 10 of them.

    I can’t recall any year when NC State has actively had kids “grayshirt” as part of the #s game. In every case I can recall, NC State wanted the kid, they just weren’t qualified at the end of that school year. For some reason, I do recall this w/ Bunting a few years back when he over-recruited the Tailback position – I think he may have tried to get a kid to grayshirt, I think the kid may have walked the other way.

    About this being self policing – it all depends. If a school is TV every week, and you’ve got announcers, and the local media spinning the program positively, I don’t think you see much of an impact. Of course, when Amato went after alot of Florida’s player’s, it shouldn’t have mattered -but UNC’s then coaching staff – and even some of the minions in the media, sure made it so.

    Give the N&O credit – they are clearly singling out UNC for this (on a local level) and they offer a contrasting picture in Raleigh.

  18. Daily Update 12/11/2008 at 11:24 AM #

    Vawolf82: Grey shirt just means to ask the player to wait until the Spring to enroll so that he counts against the following years class of 25 scholarships.

    Just a heads up for everyone on this thread…we could face a similar situation if we land two more basketball recruits this year. As things stand now, we will have 12 scholarship players next season. Landing two more guys, means someone is going to leave the program early for whatever reason.

  19. Alpha Wolf 12/11/2008 at 11:30 AM #

    ^ There’s a difference between a consistent practice and it happening from time to time.

    For whatever reason, sometimes players *need* to have their schollys pulled — attitude, discipline, whatever. Using scholarships like the pros use contracts is another thing. doing it year after year is another thing entirely.

  20. vtpackfan 12/11/2008 at 11:35 AM #

    I don’t care how BMFD counts to 85, he has the power to manipulate those kind of numbers how ever he pleases.

    The math that makes him look rather harmless is 2 > 0 and specifically 41 > 10.

    I’m sure this practice will ever lead to restricted numbers handed down from the NCAA because guys leaving the school after not “earning” another scholly offer. If teflon UNC ever had a finger laid upon them that it would have to go front page of the N & O

  21. vtpackfan 12/11/2008 at 11:38 AM #

    As things stands right now, if you thing Brandon Costner see’s himself playing basketball at NC State you would be in the small crowd

  22. old13 12/11/2008 at 11:42 AM #

    I wonder how many academic scholarships are not renewed every year because new students who would be better “for the good of the university” come on the scene. It’s a competitive world. What’s the difference whether it’s in academics or athletics? I don’t like the practice in either academics or athletics. But both areas are dealing with limited resources and, hopefully, trying to improve their areas. Otherwise, all scholarships should be awarded on the basis of say “for five years to be used for either undergraduate or graduate programs,” which would allow both athletes and non-athlete students the same chance to attain a bachelors degree in 4-5 years, or a bachelors degrees in four years with the athlete still eligible to participate in D1 athletics (with a redshirt) while working on a graduate degree (e.g., Daniel Evans.)

    If the “waiver wire” is undesireable, what should be done to eliminate it and how should/could it be administered? Would such a move create a different approach to administering athletic scholarships, that is, a special scholarship guarantee for athletes, that is not afforded non-athlete students?

    I don’t remember any “grayshirts” at NCSU either. But I do remember recruits being encouraged to enroll in January rather than going through their spring HS graduations which has a similar affect as the “grayshirt” in that it credits the recruit to a class other than his HS class year.

  23. choppack1 12/11/2008 at 11:44 AM #

    Alpha – in all fairness, it’s probably too early to judge. We have to wait and find out how many kids qualify, what happens if he hits that “overage” #. One can also make the argument that Butch gets a couple of passes so he can get “his kids” in the program.

    I do think Bunting definitely engaged in this behavior when he was at Chapel Hill. He was never called on it, but he never really ruffled the blue bloods’ feathers like Butch has w/ his dalliances to other schools in 2 short years.

  24. Wolf74 12/11/2008 at 11:45 AM #

    The haves of College Baseball have been doing this for years and UNC-Ch has always been one of the worst. Now they have caught on for the other sports.

    The NCAA stepped in and put in new rules to tone it down in baseball, maybe they’ll do the same in the “major” sports also.

    I personally feel a kid should get a scholarship for 4 years unless he gets in trouble. Not panning out shouldn’t be an excuse for a coach to dump a kid. These coaches should look closer at a kids makeup prior to offering and stop the scattergunning style that is common at UNC-Ch and other schools.

  25. Par Shooter 12/11/2008 at 11:53 AM #

    The fact that the N&O has already highlighted this story may make it slightly tougher for chief to thin his tribe. This underbelly of football recruiting is not pretty and it seems that he has gone pretty far out on the limb this year. Public scrutiny and publicity are going to make it harder to wiggle out of this.

    For all of the screams of bias, etc. the thing the N&O loves above all else is creating news. They seem to be getting even worse about this as they get more desperate to survive. It seems like every couple of weeks there is some investigation launched by the paper and then days of follow-up that always include “as originally reported in the N&O”. It’s their current style and this is exactly the type of thing they can recycle at a later date. I know I’ll probably get laughed at for saying this but I think the N&O would be all too happy to uncover a scandal at unc-ch right now. They need eyeballs or they are all going to be out of work. The dynamic is totally different than 25 years ago.

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