The NCAA, markets and the law of unintended consequences

Last week, I posted about how the relaxation of a NCAA requirement for bowl eligibility was a major factor in the rise of FCS schools appearing on D-1 schools’ schedules over the past few seasons.  The market ain’t dumb, even if some shoppers may be.

Now comes a post from John Infante that looks at what might spring up as a result of three unrelated proposals being considered by the NCAA.  They are:

  • Proposal 2010-52, which allows a student athlete to transfer and be immediately eligible for competition without seeking a waiver if certain conditions are met.
  • Proposal 2010-59-C , which requires that football student-athletes earn 9 credits (8 for quarter schools) in the fall term – an increase from the current requirement of 6 credits.
  • Proposal 2010-78, which allows a school that has used all of its 85 football scholarships for the year to replace a student-athlete who graduates or has already graduated and finishes his eligibility in the middle of the year with an incoming prospect.

Add them all up, and you can see where that could be headed faster than Nick Saban can say “Aiiight?”.  As Infante puts it,

… The end result could be increased transfer movement in football. If the higher academic standards really take hold, it may become the norm for football student-athletes to graduate in 3-3.5 years. That means more student-athletes eligible to transfer and play immediately, and more student-athletes eligible to be replaced at the midyear with incoming prospects. That could mean a lively market for experienced student-athletes with one or two years of eligibility left who are no longer in the plans for their current football program.

Call it a kindler, gentler version of oversigning since these student-athletes will have degrees and the opportunity to play somewhere else. Call it a retention non-crisis since they will have earned full APR points by graduating and improve the APR scores of the new school as well.

That sounds like a win-win in my book.  The school reaps the rewards of the kid succeeding academically and having an additional roster slot to fill while the student-athlete has a degree and the opportunity to go to a program that wants to use his skills on the playing field.

Well, except there’s that pesky problem of too much freedom.  Nick Saban may be happy to find that open roster spot, but his joy may be tempered by the departing youngster contemplating enrolling at a rival program.  Or worse, what if the light bulb goes off and multiple players realize that this gives them the opportunity to be recruited all over again (what Infante calls a “transfer market”)?  Most coaches – certainly most successful coaches – are control freaks.  A transfer market isn’t likely to be a development they welcome.

This gets back to a question I continue to raise about oversigning:  is it bad for the players, or bad for competitive balance?  (In this context, Infante asks, “Do we want to avoid expanded free agency and player movement in college sports if there isn’t an academic casualty as well?”)  If this turned out to be a development that is good for student-athletes, but objectionable for coaches, how long do you think it would be allowed to stand?

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5 Comments

Filed under College Football, The NCAA

5 responses to “The NCAA, markets and the law of unintended consequences

  1. GreenDawg

    This seems to work out great for marginal players that probably would have seen little to no playing time. The scene changes drastically the first time an All-American tries to make use of these rules. The “transfer market” recruiting frenzy would be out of control. You know coaches like Saban or Houston Nutt would happily greyshirt another freshman for a one- or two-year rental of a Patrick Peterson type player. And the incentive to give illegal benefits to a known entity is much greater than for an unknown high school prospect.

  2. AthensHomerDawg

    “The school reaps the rewards of the kid succeeding academically ….” but does the student athlete?

    This fall my son entered Georgia in the honors program. He was considering a social science major with dreams of going to law school in the future. This choice was a reflection of his Uncles career choice. His choice was not governed by economic security, advancement with the opportunity to fulfill his financial needs immediately. I explained that there was no dearth of smart white males at U of Ga with dreams of going to law school. Furthermore, he might want to rethink the major as I didn’t see a lot of upside to it. Ultimately, he became a business major in finance. My point is student athletes being steered toward degree programs that enhance their eligibility for sports but not for life after sports aren’t being benefited even if the school is. There is no dearth of talented athletes with aspirations of going to the NFL.
    “A major in eligibility, with a minor in beating the system,” says C. Keith Harrison, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida, where he is associate director of the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports.
    If you are a student athlete who graduates ahead of schedule but can’t find a job is that still a success?

  3. Stoopnagle

    Good posts above: secondary recruitment? Cam Knewton likes this. Funnelling? Already common practice, so I don’t think this rule will make that any better or any worse.

  4. shane#1

    1- More fooootbawwwl. 2. More Fooootbawwwwwlll! What new formations would you like to see Bobo use. Double and triple TE sets for instance. Do the Dawgs need more movement on D to confuse the QB?