I’ve thought this for a while, but with the confluence of a couple of things — the likelihood that Judge Wilken is going to rule against the NCAA in the Alston case and the concentration of talent at the elite programs we saw evidenced again yesterday — I think Dan Wolken makes some sense when he argues there needs to be a change made in the interest of competitive balance.
In other words, the college football world order doesn’t seem to be changing much. If anything, the bluebloods are strengthening their grip on the best talent, and thus, the championships for the foreseeable future.
But the NCAA, if it had the willpower and the mandate from its masses, could start to create more parity with the snap of its fingers. All it would take is cutting scholarships down to 70.
I’m always a little leery when someone goes “all it would take”, because nothing in life is ever that easy, but I do think are some obvious consequences in shrinking D-1 roster size that would be beneficial.
- At some level, the wealth would be spread. Georgia and Alabama are in load up mode; even those last five signees every year are studs. Go to a 70 overall/20 each year arrangement and those last five are going somewhere else. And that will ripple down to some extent, as well.
- If some of the root cause of transferring is driven by highly-touted kids who don’t pan out or are passed by other highly-touted kids, smaller rosters mean there’s less chance of those kids being blocked, because there will be less competition, or they’re not at the school being stuck in the first place.
- Smaller football rosters means smaller football expenses, especially if we’re about to enter an age of compensation being set by the conferences. (Who knows, maybe that will be an excuse to offer more scholarships to baseball players.)
- There are also Title IX repercussions. Dropping fifteen football scholarships might make the difference in a school’s decision to offer a new men’s program.
There’s probably more I’m not thinking of right now, but you get the gist of it.
Dan picked a limit of 70, because that’s the size of a travel roster these days, and I see the logic to that. I wouldn’t have a problem dropping down to FCS levels, for that matter, which would increase the effect on savings and competitive balance.
If you’re worried about smaller rosters and injuries, there are options to address that, from liberalizing the redshirt rules even further for greater roster flexibility to even dropping a regular season game.
The devil’s in the details, I know, but I think there’s sufficient merit in the idea that it deserves some serious consideration. I know the coaches would fight like hell against it, but if Alston doesn’t go the schools’ way, I wonder if that would take the debate up to a higher pay grade, so to speak.
Anyway, it’s worth a thought.