I got yer plantation for you, right here.

I don’t know if any of you flipped through the rest of the NCAA override report I linked to yesterday, but if you didn’t, I suggest you pop it open again, turn to page fifteen and prepare to become pissed off.  I know I am.

It’s the response to proposal 2011-97, which allows schools to offer scholarships as multi-year grants.  As much crap as I toss in Mark Emmert’s direction, here’s something he’s pushed that deserves nothing but praise.  It’s laudable for at least two reasons I can think of off the top of my head:  it strikes a legitimate blow against the roster management excesses most of us find objectionable and it drills in the point to every student-athlete that a scholarship isn’t more than a one-year commitment unless it says so in writing.

Another plus is that it gives smaller schools a market-based tool to use in the recruiting wars.  Duelling one-year offers between an SEC school and a Sun Belt school may seem like a no-brainer type of decision for a recruit, but what happens when the mid-major’s offer is twice as long as the big boy’s?  Nothing wrong at all with a little leveling on the playing field, in my book, especially if it results in a win-win for the school and the player.

So you’d think the small fry would be all in on this baby.  Wrong, bacon breath.  Just read what Boise State “believes”:

2001-97 creates a recruiting disaster that affects both the prospective student-athletes and the institutions. Institutions will be competing for recruits by “making the best deal.” One school may only be able to offer a one-year grant while another offers 2-years and another 4-years. In order to be competitive, institutions may offer multi-year awards so they can sign higher level recruits. However, there is never a guarantee that the incoming student-athlete will be a good fit for the program and the institution. If it is a poor fit the program is put in a difficult situation to continue to keep a student-athlete on scholarship.

Please don’t make us pay for our inability to assess a kid’s talent and character, NCAA!

Part two is an even more naked assertion that the NCAA’s feature is the Broncos’ bug.

When you combine 2001-97 with 2001-96 it creates a culture of brokering. For a prospective student-athlete, the decision as to where to attend college and participate in athletics is most likely the biggest decision they will make at that point in their lives. That tough decision becomes more complicated when the student and his/her family have to factor in what school “offers the best deal” versus where they may want to attend if all offers were for one year without the enticement of 2,000.

God forbid we give these kids a little more control over their fates.

And that’s the real issue here.  Andy Staples’ righteous indignation is spot on.

So why does Boise State hate the idea so much that its officials wrote that the proposal would “create a recruiting disaster?” “When you combine 2001-97 with 2001-96 [the stipend proposal] it creates a culture of brokering,” reads the override request. “For a prospective student-athlete, the decision as to where to attend college and participate in athletics is most likely the biggest decision they will make at that point in their lives. That tough decision becomes more complicated when the student and his/her family have to factor in what school ‘offers the best deal…'”

Hmmm. People brokering the best deal for themselves. Why does that sound so familiar? It almost sounds like a school that by 2013 will have hopped conferences twice in two years. Apparently, that’s OK for Boise State’s athletic department, but it’s not OK for an 18-year-old. Hypocrisy, thy name is Smurf Turf.

All those people bitching and moaning about the NCAA’s amateurism fetish not allowing players to be paid being a form of slavery… folks, this is the plantation you should be itching to burn down.  Because this is nothing more than a bunch of schools seeking to hang on to power and control over kids with none once they sign on the dotted line.  As Staples notes, Todd Graham can skip from school to school without an issue.  Indeed, Graham’s former employer can jump conferences seemingly at a moment’s notice without any repercussion.  Hell, both do so because there’s a benefit to it.

But when it comes to the student-athlete, the free market, even the limited one granted by this proposal, is one of those “good for me, but not for thee” deals that simply can’t be tolerated.  More Staples:

… Each athlete’s eligibility is finite. He or she has five years to play four. That makes eligibility a supremely valuable resource. The schools know this, which is why, depending on if the athlete has already redshirted, he is tethered to the school by the threat of losing one-fourth or one-fifth of a career.

How is the school tethered to the athlete? By that one-year, renewable scholarship. Schools can drop a player for no reason, and the player has no recourse to get his scholarship back. If an athletic director fires a pro-style offensive football coach and replaces him with a coach who runs the option, every quarterback on the roster becomes expendable. If a run-and-gun hoops coach gets canned in favor of a bleed-the-shot-clock defensive whiz, then the hair-trigger point guard becomes dead weight. Can these athletes leave for another school of their own volition? Sure. If they want to sit out a year or fight for a waiver they may not get that would allow them to play immediately.

This is the part where the anti-athlete faction usually chimes in to say athletic scholarships should be no different than academic scholarships, which are almost universally annually renewable based on a series of scholastic benchmarks. That argument works only to a point. Here is where an athletic scholarship differs from an academic scholarship: Georgia Tech will not allow a new president to suddenly convert the campus to a liberal arts college and yank the scholarships of engineering students so he can recruit more philosophy majors. Universities do not alter their missions overnight. College sports teams — especially college football and basketball teams — alter their missions overnight relatively frequently.

Indiana State officials believe the system “isn’t broke” because it is so ludicrously tilted in favor of the schools. As long as the schools make rules to give the Todd Grahams of the world all the power, the Todd O’Briens don’t stand a chance.

It’s outrageous.  It’s just wrong.  And, by the way, as Staples notes, they’re only three schools short of derailing this proposal with the start of an override process.

Brian Cook shares some additional, caustic thoughts on the matter here.

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45 Comments

Filed under College Football, The NCAA

45 responses to “I got yer plantation for you, right here.

  1. Go Dawgs!

    Has anyone ever performed an analysis of how Boise State has managed rosters over the years? I wonder if their much ballyhooed success is owed in part to dumping players frequently to make room for newer, better athletes to get them those Fiesta wins over Oklahoma? With them being out there in the sticks, nobody really pays attention to how they manage their roster, certainly not to the level that Alabama is scrutinized. Perhaps it’s time for that?

    • The objections aren’t about nuts and bolts roster management. If they were, you could expect to see schools like ‘Bama and LSU front and center. That they aren’t should tell you something.

      • Cojones

        Besides, Ole BS keeps players around for 5-6 yrs consistently such that they field a semipro team every year. They just have to plug in a good QB every 3-4 yrs.

  2. Nate

    Sometimes I wish you ran a political blog Senator. I wouldn’t mind hearing your take on a few things. Then again, if that meant losing GTP, I’ll have to pass. Great work as always.

    • It’s stuff like that which keeps me saying that if Congress really wants to get something done on a D-1 football playoff, it ought to try bribing the schools with an antitrust exemption instead of threatening them.

  3. Always Someone Else's Fault

    I don’t oppose a rule which allows schools to offer multi-year deals, but some of the justifications have real flaws.

    1 – The right to play football at LSU or Georgia should be an intense competition. They are the top of the ladder.

    I don’t see MIT letting a kid stay four years because someone thought he had the right mix of brains and drive coming out of high school. They have to perform to MIT’s standards. If they don’t, they can transfer to Georgia Tech or Clemson – but they can’t stay at MIT. Sorry – best of the best and all that. This rule applies to high school sports and pro sports. It applies to 16 year-olds working at McDonalds. Why it suddenly no longer applies when a kid’s playing ball for State U, I have no idea.

    2 – Kids do NOT get kicked out of college. They just start paying tuition like the rest of us. Or transfer to a smaller school which covets their services (see 1).

    3 – Yes, the schools hold all the cards, except one: kids can walk out of an athletic scholarship any time they choose. They can even transfer to another school, any time they choose. They just can’t play for a year if the school that they are leaving won’t sign a release. Yes, that power gets abused occasionally. So would the alternative if the restriction were lifted. Pick your poison.

    Kids do not lose control over their own fate if they lose an athletic scholarship. They just lose a free ride at that particular school.

    The NCAA rulebook isn’t perfect, but I’m growing tired of the constant theme that an athletic scholarship is an evil akin to slavery or segregation.

    If it’s truly that bad, you would have stopped watching in protest years ago.

    • 1. I have no problem with requiring a kid to live up to standards. Here’s the problem with your argument: what standards are spelled out in the LOI/scholarship? Does it say the S-A has to crack the two-deep? Play on special teams? What? None of the above, of course.

      2. “They just start paying tuition like the rest of us.” At least like those of us who come from disadvantaged families suddenly forced to pay out-of-state tuition.

      3. “They just can’t play for a year if the school that they are leaving won’t sign a release.” Good thing you qualify that with a “just”.

      The scholarship isn’t an evil. It’s schools exercising total control over a kid that is. Big difference.

      • Derek

        How about a provision allowing a kid to transfer w/o penalty if he feels the coaching has been less than optimal? That would balance things out wouldn’t it? Rather than coaches worrying about who isn’t cutting it they can worry about whether their best players could leave for greener pastures.

        If you think that players should be stuck but coaches ought to have flexibility you are an authoritarian hypocrite.

      • Cojones

        Senator, this is not meant to be picky, but doesn’t a student have the right to establish residency if he resides year-round as many players do? Can’t out-of-state residence be waived by appeal due to circumstances?

        The point is that these arguments are not black and white as presented. The gray areas are great fodder for grey matter, but you lawyers like to take positions of depth on each side and hurl biased positions at us lay jurors. I try to take a position so as to be cannon fodder to be used and later be the target in order that more info is placed on the decision table. Then I try to take a position. In this case, I’m torn.

        I can see nothing but your “slippery slope” for increasing stipends. I embrace the thought of fairness to the individual, but succumbing to my heart creates a chaotic view. That’s because I’m ignorant as to how you would make sure it (2k additional stipend) could not be bastardized into opening some girl’s Box. On the other hand, the arguments against that position are shot full of “Glass half” conundrums.

        I don’t feel you have substantiated your case against ASEF’s comments.

        • So what you’re saying is that disadvantaged families can’t afford out-of-state tuition, but in-state’s no problem?

          This isn’t a post about increasing stipends. It’s about giving the typical student-athlete some control – although far from equal to what a coach or school has in the open market – over his or her college career.

          Speaking of lawyers, you realize that coaches have Jimmy Sexton to scrutinize deals. Schools hire $500/hour lawyers to do the same thing (or have ‘em on staff making six figures). You know who a recruit has? Nobody. Because that’s an NCAA requirement.

        • Macallanlover

          Cojones, as someone who felt that would be easyily done for my two who chose to go out of state for college, I can tell you that wasn’t an option in the state of Florida unless they dropped out of scool for a year and worked. May be different in some states but the loopholes were closed up pretty tight when I last looked at that approach.

      • 4.0 Point Stance

        When a player transfers, do they have to pay their own way in the “sit-out” year or can they be on scholarship? To me that makes a big difference.

      • Always Someone Else's Fault

        Of course the deal doesn’t specify standards. You know what? They don’t have to sign it. They can go to college the same way everyone else does.

        Disadvantaged kids: Talk to me about the ones who lack ball skills. A kid who has been accepted at State U because of an athletic skill can stay there through loans, part-time jobs, or even an academic scholarship – any number of means besides a free ride on the bench. It’s still far more of an opportunity than we give it credit for.

        If you want to lift transfer restrictions, go ahead. The current penalty attempts to curb year-round recruiting and mercenary players, and other mechanisms could do the same thing. I honestly don’t care. But sitting out a year while practicing with the new team and getting a free ride at the new school isn’t exactly torture.

        The school does NOT exercise total control over the kid. It retains total control over their obligation to keep him as a university representative and on full scholarship. You know what? I have no issue with that.

        • Of course the deal doesn’t specify standards.

          So why the insistence on your part that S-As have to live up to the schools’ standards? In the absence of a contract that specifies what those are, do the coaches just get to make things up as they go along?

          • Always Someone Else's Fault

            It’s not my insistence. It’s an inevitable reality stemming from an arbitrary NCAA limit on the number of players that a school can have on scholarship at any one time. Coaches get paid $2-$4 mill a year to win games. Coaches with the best players win the most games. Coaches make sure they have the best players, 1-85, that they possibly can.

            My point was – and remains – that kids who accept an offer to play football at a top 10 program should understand how much competition exists for those spots. If some organization capped Ivy League school enrollment at a level far below their real capacity, you would see the same thing — academic programs which retained their brightest talents and encouraged the lesser lights to pursue their engineering or business degrees elsewhere to make room for those with greater potential.

            Again, I am not against a multi-year scholarship or S-A advocacy in general. I just have a hard time understanding how easily people can blow by the benefits, opportunities, and alternatives in their attempts to isolate the flaws. And in the long run, I think that tendency actually degrades advocacy efforts.

            • My point was – and remains – that kids who accept an offer to play football at a top 10 program should understand how much competition exists for those spots.

              For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right about that – even though the NCAA expressly prohibits them from retaining an advisor who can properly explain the context of the NLI they’re being asked to sign.

              Once ruthless Darwinian selection kicks in and a program is ready to throw one of its S-As on the scrap heap, explain to me why it’s necessary for the kid to obtain a release from a school that no longer wants his services in order to sign somewhere else and why it’s also necessary for the kid to sit out a year at another D-1 program even if he gets it.

              • Always Someone Else's Fault

                If a school does not renew a kid’s scholarship, then the rules should permit the kid to go play wherever he pleases for whichever team might want him immediately.

                IMO, the NCAA cannot prohibit anyone from retaining an adviser. No one has that legal authority, even the Federal government, unless you’ve been determined to be a terrorist under provisions set forth in the Patriot Act etc. If they have that rule, it would not survive a legal challenge for 5 minutes, and I have a hard time believing someone like the SPLC wouldn’t hammer that one out of the park. But I defer to you on that one. If you have more details, I would be happy to hear them.

                Once again, S-A advocacy makes perfect sense on a number of fronts. But when it ignores or trivializes the real and substantial benefits in the equation, I think the efforts tend to stall. I certainly tune them out or even play devil’s advocate when I have the time.

                Boise opposes this because the measure threatens them. It doesn’t threaten Georgia, LSU and Alabama at all. The kids who want to play and can play for the SEC heavyweights have enough confidence in themselves to take the one-year option and believe they can make it stick for four. It’s the smaller schools who will be forced into an arm’s race.

                And I have no problem with that. Again – I do not oppose multi-year deals or other changes.

                • If a school does not renew a kid’s scholarship, then the rules should permit the kid to go play wherever he pleases for whichever team might want him immediately.

                  But they don’t! Maybe there’s something after all to what I’m complaining about. ;)

                  • Always Someone Else's Fault

                    Hmm. Show me where I said critics of the system were wholly without merit. I believe I’ve said multiple times that multiple problems exist, but that criticisms also need to admit some context to gain and hold a wider audience.

                    I read your blog, strong evidence that I tend to agree with you most of the time.

                    • I never said you did. But you seem quite willing to dismiss my objections to the deck being stacked so blatantly in favor of the schools.

                      I’m not advocating anarchy. I don’t particularly like pay for play, for that matter. But I don’t think some basic human respect on the matters I’ve touched on is unreasonable.

                    • Always Someone Else's Fault

                      I am not dismissing them. I am frustrated that the conversation about S-As ALWAYS begins with the premise that the deal stinks, that the kids are totally exploited, and that they get nothing of real value in return… and then heads south from there. When people start throwing slave analogies around, then things have gone WAY too far, in my opinion.

                      Most kids are shown basic human decency, and the ratio of callous A-hole coach-administrator: student-athlete is no different than the ratio in any other walk of life.

                      I’d love to see some NCAA rules changed. But the conversation has to start with some recognition that the system gets many things right.

  4. 4.0 Point Stance

    Can we all stop pretending, Easterbrook-style, that Boise is some plucky “small fry” program that emphasizes academics over football yet still manages to bravely stand up to the mean “football factories?” Just because they have a small stadium doesn’t mean they automatically hold some ethical higher ground.

  5. Seems like you could offer a multi-year athletic scholarship that, in the event the kid was no longer wanted on the field after a minimum of 2 years, could be converted into a partial academic scholarship. You could have the Athletic Association fund the scholarship, and, assuming the kid continues to meet the normal academic/disciplinary standards of the institution, it would allow the kid to finish his education at his original school, if he chose to do so.
    The partial scholarship would cover everything that Pell Grants did not, unless the kid was ineligible for Pell, in which case, the kid or his parents would be responsible for whatever amount Pell would have covered, were they eligible.
    You could also make it so that the kid loses a year of eligibility for every year he attends the institution on this type of “converted” scholarship, and that the school itself irrevocably loses its access to the student for athletic purposes (at least for the sport in question), in order to preventing teams from creating and stockpiling “grayshirts on scholarship”
    To help address over-signing, you could potentially have one of these “converted scholarships” count as 1/2 a scholarship, for roster purposes.
    Most of the time, I imagine the kid would want to play ball, and thus transfer to another school (subject to the current transfer rules), minimizing the # of athletes that would play 2 years and then quit. Of course, the school never has to offer a multi-year, if they don’t want to.
    Any comments on that plan?

    • Of course, the school never has to offer a multi-year, if they don’t want to.

      The rest of your proposal is just commentary.

      • Hence, its posterior placement.

      • Derek

        Suddenly I am reminded of a situation perhaps 5 years ago or so where a 5 star recruit with some well informed parents indicated that they would accept a scholarship but not on the condition that they sign a letter of intent. The idea being that they would not be bound by its draconian terms.

        Do you either recall that or remember what happened with it?

        • It’s not ringing a bell. But if a kid doesn’t sign the NLI, he can walk away from a school. Hard to see who would give him a full ride under those conditions.

        • mp

          I think it was the lineman from Minnesota who signed with Miami – Seantrel Henderson.

          • Newt

            Beat me to it mp.

            • Derek

              I also found this:

              Don’t have to sign

              There is a simple way around the National Letter-of-Intent. A prospective student doesn’t have to sign one to play college football, basketball or any other sport.

              It says so on the official NLI website: “The NLI is a voluntary program with regard to both institutions and student-athletes. No prospective student-athlete or parent is required to sign the National Letter of Intent, and no institution is required to join the program.”

              So why do so many players and schools play along? The NCAA says 620 of its member institutions participate in the NLI program.

              “The problem is,” Jackson said, “the vast majority of student-athletes and their families are not knowledgeable enough about the process to make an informed decision.

              “The school will say, ‘If you don’t sign, we can’t guarantee you a spot (in the signing class).’ If I’m a four-star recruit or a McDonald’s All-American, you can guarantee me a spot.”

              Brandon Knight followed that road less traveled.

              One of the most highly touted basketball prospects in the class of 2010, the point guard signed only a scholarship agreement with Kentucky, which guaranteed that UK would provide him athletics-related financial aid. He didn’t sign an NLI, which must be accompanied by a scholarship agreement anyway. In short, the scholarship agreement alone obligates the school to the student-athlete but doesn’t obligate the student-athlete to the school.

              His mother told the Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader it was “a precautionary measure” to give Knight the freedom to play elsewhere should coach John Calipari leave.

              Isenberg argued that more players don’t follow Knight’s example because they’re not aware it’s an option, but they do understand “the mythology of National Signing Day.

  6. cousin eddie

    I have thought that the scholorships should be a two year deal anyway. Something to the effect that would punish a school the next year for a student that transfers (or cut) just as the student has to sit out so does the scholorship the student would have taken had he not transfered.

  7. Chuck

    The single most egregious thing in college football — off this topic somewhat but I gotta vent — is that Todd Graham isn’t sitting out a year after his “transfer” from Pitt to Az St. Kids shouldn’t be expected to make a commitment coaches don’t.