SEC clarifies rule on ‘back-counting’ recruits

semerson@macon.comJanuary 30, 2012 

ATHENS -- Last summer’s burning issue in the SEC was over-signing and how the conference acted to stem it.

So far, it seems the signing limit of 25, with minor stipulations around early enrollments, is having the intended effect.

The SEC’s new rules state that programs can only sign 25 players between Dec. 1 and May 31. The previous limit was 28.

Most players sign on National Signing Day, which is always the first Wednesday in February.

But programs also accept early enrollments -- such as Georgia did with Keith Marshall and two other recruits earlier this month. Under the old rules, teams had back-counted early enrollments toward the previous signing class, as a way of signing more players. That is still allowed.

But the programs were also allowed to not count players who signed but failed to qualify academically or didn’t enroll for whatever reason. The SEC clarified Monday that the new rules prevent teams from doing that anymore.

“If a player signs, he counts without regard to whether or not he actually enrolls,” SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said in an e-mail Monday. “ ‘Back counting’ is only permitted for mid-year enrollees who are able to be included as an initial counter for the academic year in which they enroll. ‘Back counting’ is an artificial term for this discussion and not accurate as the question is about the signing limit.”

So essentially under the old rules, what mattered most was who actually enrolled. But the SEC’s new rules are directed at who signs.

Alabama, one of the teams often targeted for over-signing critics, already has had to tell one recruit it can’t sign him this year. Georgia could technically sign 27 players this year, because two members of last year’s class enrolled early. But the Bulldogs are not expected to sign any more than 23, and it isn’t likely to be that many.

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