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Updated: May 17, 2022 @ 7:00 am
West Virginia coach Neal Brown reacts during a game.
West Virginia coach Neal Brown reacts during a game.
College athletics have long felt like an endeavor where many skirt the rules.
But what about a football system where there are basically no rules at all? You can’t be an outlaw if there are no laws.
Nothing is definite yet, but some of the ideas in the college football world that are floating around include:
• Coaching staffs of unlimited size. An FBS program currently can have a head coach, ten on-field assistant coaches, four on-field graduate assistants and five strength coaches. There is already no maximum for the off-field staffs allowed, which includes people like operations administrators, analysts and recruiting personnel. Eventually, all restrictions on the size of coaching staffs may be lifted. Thus if a program wants and can afford 15 assistant coaches, which is the average number of NFL teams, it could employ that many or however many it wants.
• No restrictions on the number of days a coach can be on the road for recruiting. A college football staff is currently limited to 42 days of evaluation visits during September, October and November and 168 from April 15-May 31. Staffs can go out for evaluations at any point during those periods, and every day an individual coach is on the road counts as an evaluation day. So, if a staff breaks up the evaluations evenly, each of the nine assistants can be on the road for 18.7 days in the spring and 4.7 in the fall. An individual recruit can be evaluated in-person by a college no more than seven times, and coaches can actually talk to the prospect and/or his family on only three of those occasions. Under the proposal, all those limits would be thrown out, and the spring and fall calendars likely would be gone as well.
Such a move would also eliminate a massive amount of record-keeping that programs are currently mandated to perform.
• No limit on the number of official visits a recruit can take. He currently can take no more than five official visits. In the future, if that prospect wants to take 20 visits, and schools are willing to foot the bill, so be it.
• A huge change would entail having no limit on the number of scholarship players for a Division I football class, either annually or maybe even in total.
There is normally an annual scholarship cap for FBS programs of 25, though this year schools that lost players to transfer could use up to seven additional scholarships, so 32 overall for those that lost seven or more players to transfer. Some projected that the seven additional scholarships would remain in the future, but now there is a proposal to do away with the annual maximum altogether. Thus a school could award as many new scholarships per year as it wants as long as it stays under the total cap, which is 85.
But even that no-annual-scholarship-limit referendum may be outdated before it is approved. Because what if there were a college football world with no limits at all on the total number of football scholarships? That’s also something that is being discussed, so instead of a max of 85 scholarships, a school could award as many as it wants and can afford. One hundred, 125, 150, 200?! There would be no limit. This would take college football back to the past.
College scholarships for football players first began to be awarded in the 1890s, and the number given out was up to each individual school. Some conferences put restrictions on scholarship numbers over the next 80 years, but many did not, and by the 1950s and ’60s, there were football programs with upwards of 150 scholarship players. In 1973, the NCAA stepped in and imposed a limit of 105 scholarships for Division I football programs, which was done in part to help with Title IX conformity, which was enacted the year before. The scholarship number was reduced to 95 for I-A schools in 1978 and to 85 in 1992; it has remained at 85 ever since. (FCS programs are allowed 63 total scholarships.)
Now there are some suggesting that college football return to the days prior to 1973 when there were no scholarship limits, at least as it is enforced by the NCAA. Like all these and other areas where the rulebook is being reformed or completely scrapped, the NCAA may be getting out of the legislation business altogether.
College football probably won’t turn into complete anarchy, as conferences would almost certainly step in and set up rules and limits of their own. But, still, in doing so, uniformity and creating a level playing field would be lost.
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