Daily Archives: April 18, 2011

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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Filed under College Football, The NCAA