| RECRUIT How did Bama sign 27 players and maybe up to 29? From The Athletic


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Recruiting never stops. Neither do your questions. Let’s get to it.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and length.

Alabama recently signed 27 players and is saving room for five-star defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau and former Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o. Just a weekly reminder that over-signing, thy name is Alabama. Wasn’t over-signing supposed to have been a thing of the past? — Scott C.

I’ve been reading a lot of questions about how Alabama could sign more than 25 players and a lot of accusations that Nick Saban is cheating. No, what Saban is doing is well within the rules — and pushing it as far as he can is the reason he continues to win championships.

Each school is allowed 25 initial counters per class as long as it doesn’t go over the 85-scholarship maximum. But there are ways around this because not every player in Alabama’s 2021 class is technically counted toward the 2021 class’ allotment.

For example: Schools are allowed to count early enrollees against the previous class’ limit (if they didn’t hit the 25-man limit in the previous year).
Blueshirting is likely a part of the equation, as well. The blueshirt rule permits schools to put “unrecruited” prospects on scholarship once they arrive on campus, but that scholarship doesn’t count against the school’s allotment until the following year. However, that player isn’t permitted to play until the following season.

You may ask: What does “unrecruited” mean? If a player is in the class, he has to have been “recruited.” Well, according to the NCAA, a prospect has to have had one of three things to be considered a recruited player:
  • was provided an official visit to the campus;
  • had arranged, in-person, off-campus contact with a coach; or
  • was sent an NLI or other written scholarship offer.
During the coronavirus pandemic when visits weren’t happening, taking advantage of this loophole was much easier.

This may sound confusing … because it is. But here is the bottom line: Scholarship numbers are an ongoing math equation, and the best coaches figure out a way to make the numbers work. Saban isn’t a villain — he is just taking advantage of everything within the rules.