At least not with only Nutt in mind.
NCAA rules allow teams to award only 25 scholarships in a recruiting class, but the governing body of major college athletics places no limit on how many prospects can sign letters of intent with a school.
The bottom line had always required coaches to whittle their numbers to 25 before the start of August practice.
Now that’s changed. At its annual business meetings in May, the conference membership voted to limit the number of football signings at 28.
“I was disappointed by the change, but we can live with it,” Nutt said. “If that’s the rule, that’s the rule, but we didn’t break a rule.”
The legislation was sponsored by Auburn, whose athletics director, Jay Jacobs, says the over-signing is “not fair to the student-athletes.”
Nutt announced 38 signees in his second Ole Miss signing class back in February, knowing a large number would not be on scholarship.
The benefit of over-signing, in Nutt’s mind, is to create a sense of belonging with recruits who would have to go off to community college or prep school. That might make them more likely to re-sign with Ole Miss when the time came.
The approach also helps Mississippi’s community colleges, as recruits end up at schools within the community college recruiting district with little effort or financial resources expended by the two-year schools. It’s a process that also strengthened relationships between the senior college and the community college.
“One of the reasons for over-signing is the sign-and-place approach. There was a desire to stop or reduce the frequency of that approach,” said Greg Sankey, an associate commissioner with the SEC.
Sankey said the academic preparedness on newcomers coming into the SEC was a concern. The rule change was not strictly a reaction to Nutt’s signing class, he said.
“Clearly a tipping point had been reached, but I would not isolate the impetus for change to one issue,” Sankey said.
In preparing the legislation the conference looked at the four previous recruiting years. Schools generally landed in one of three groups, Sankey said, those that signed 25 or fewer, that signed in the 25-28 range and those that hit 29 or above.
Nutt, who reviewed the existing rules with his compliance officials before announcing his 2009 class, views the situation as an attempt to fix something that isn’t broken.
“There had not been any parents we were dealing with who were going to write the commissioner and say, ‘I was promised this but didn’t get this,’” Nutt said. “It’s always been a tool for incentive for the player. I just don’t understand why now.”
Nutt said the practice of over-signing also helps protect against recruits who indicated they would sign with one school but changed course at the last minute.
“When young people say, ‘I’m coming to Ole Miss,’ we don’t know for sure,” Nutt said. “You might feel solid about these 22, but these three over here might make any decision other than Ole Miss during this time. It used to be, ‘I’m committed, and it’s over,’ but that’s not the world we live in these days.
“And that’s why you have to give us some leeway.”