By now I’m sure you heard the SEC Commissioner being lionized in the media for his new agenda to reform college football. John Infante does the best job I’ve seen laying out Slive’s series of proposals item by item here.
I don’t want to wade through all of it, but there are a couple of significant parts worth discussing.
First is his idea to do away with the one-year award of scholarships, to be replaced with multi-year arrangements. There’s no question this is a terrific advance for student-athletes. There’s also no question that it’s poison for a number of SEC coaches.
… South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who earlier this spring suggested paying his football players a $300 stipend for each game played, said he disagreed with most of Slive’s proposals.
“I think most coaches feel like a one-year [scholarship] is more fair,” Spurrier said. “That’s a terrible idea, Commissioner. If you go bad, don’t show up to work, your butt will be out on the street. Everybody has to earn your way in life. Go from there, that’s the way I believe.”
As dramatic a change as that would entail in recruiting, it’s nothing compared to what Slive proposed on the academic front.
… Slive wants to increase recruits’ minimum high school GPA from 2.0 to 2.5 in 16 required core courses to be eligible for first-year competition in college.
He also suggested a “satisfactory progress rule,” where prospects must complete a certain number of core courses in each year of high school in order to be qualified to compete in their first college year.
This rule, he said, would reduce the number of athletes who attempt to cram too many core courses into their senior year of high school — a common set of circumstances where prospects often qualify though questionable academic means.
“This would avoid the last-minute effort of high school seniors when they finally realize what they need to do to become eligible to try to cram together too many core courses,” Slive said.
Talk about shrinking coaches’ margin for error! This, too, is likely to be met with a great deal of hostility from SEC head coaches, and no wonder.
“I’ve never felt like, ‘Let’s put things back on the high schools.’ Let’s make sure we do it on the college level,” Petrino said. “To me, it’s hard to justify you need a 2.0 or a 2.5 coming out of high school, but to be eligible after your first year of college, it’s a 1.8. That’s where I struggle a little bit.”
As Infante puts it,
… But the infrastructure to guide a prospect through this new environment simply doesn’t exist. High school guidance counselors struggle with the requirements already. And current recruiting rules prohibit any sort of direct contact until a recruit is finished with their sophomore year. To make annual progress work, the NCAA needs to allow and in fact encourage early recruiting.
Unless Slive could get the NCAA to buy into this on a national basis, were the SEC to adopt this on its own, it would go down as the moment when Troy University began its rise as a national power. That’s not going to happen, of course.
In the end, this is little more than getting a serious conversation started, not that Slive doesn’t deserve credit for doing that. But this isn’t Destin, where he pitched some concepts that basically nibbled around the edges. The coaches realized five minutes after those meetings ended that they could still game the system. What’s being discussed this time is a much bigger threat to the way they do business and they will fight it. The question is whether those on the administration side are willing to pick up the gauntlet Slive has thrown down and fight back. For now, color me skeptical on that.