With only the best of intentions

So, there’s this.

The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday evening released a set of recommendations that could have far-reaching impact on college football for years to come.

While sandwiched in the middle of the release, this section is the meatiest issue the Council addressed on Wednesday night:

Members also recommended the board give all fall sport student-athletes both an additional year of eligibility and an additional year in which to complete it, a recommendation that is even more flexible than what it endorsed last week.

They don’t just want to give seniors an extra year to compete, they’re giving all fall student-athletes an extra year of eligibility.

My first thought upon reading that was, if you’re a head coach, you aren’t going to redshirt any player in 2020.  There’s no incentive to do so; the NCAA has invited you to call for all hands on deck.  And, given the nature of the coronavirus, that makes sense.

But if there’s ever a devil’s in the details decision, this surely constitutes one.

So while the Council had to make that concession to make 2020-21 work, that could have massive, massive implications that might not fully untangle themselves until 2025 or so.

Let me explain.

The way I read this, not only do all 2020 seniors receive the opportunity to play a second senior year in 2021, all 2020 juniors get to be juniors again in 2021, etc. And while 2020 freshmen get to repeat their freshmen year in 2021, another crop of freshmen will arrive behind them in 2021 as well. The Council essentially just created one mega-freshman class of 2021, and either schools will have to respond by signing tiny classes in 2022 and ’23, or the NCAA will have to relax the 85-man scholarship limit until the 2020-21 classes exhaust their eligibility.

Or Saban’s roster management protocols will have to be put on steroids.  As I can’t imagine the NCAA changing the 85-man rule, something that would bring its own set of unintended consequences, that’s going to be one big challenge.

No matter how this shakes out, this could have a major chilling effect on competitive imbalance in major college football. Consider the following:

— If the NCAA doesn’t relax the 85-man limit beyond 2021, suddenly Alabama has much less room in its 2022 class and beyond. Players that normally would have signed with the Tide now go to Ole Miss, players that would have gone to Ole Miss go to Memphis, and on and on it goes.

— If the NCAA does relax the limit and temporarily pushes it to, say, 105, there are still only 11 spots on the field at a time. Players that waited their turn to play suddenly find themselves stuck between a veteran repeating his senior year and two groups of freshmen nipping at their heels. Now, for example, redshirt sophomores with four years in a Power 5 strength program (not three, because 2020 doesn’t count) are going to hit the Transfer Portal in even greater numbers than they were before.

— The most likely scenario, particularly at the bottom of the FBS food chain, is that schools who were already struggling to pay the bills before the pandemic hit find themselves unable to fund an extra 20 or so scholarships in a time when they can’t sell football tickets, and a lot of players’ careers are prematurely cut short.

A choice between the Alabamas and the bottom feeders of the college football world?  Gee, I wonder which way the NCAA will jump.

Oh, and here’s the topper:

Update: The NCAA got back to me on Thursday morning. Here is their response:

If the Board of Directors approves the Council recommendations tomorrow, it is accurate that the recommendation to allow all fall student-athletes a season of competition waiver will – in effect – give any fall student-athlete that competes in 2020-21 five total seasons of competition (including this year).  And six years in which to complete those seasons.

The only student-athletes whose aid would be exempted from the limits next year would be those who would have exhausted eligibility this year under normal circumstances. The Council has noted the issue you raised, and will continue to work through that and other effects of the new flexibility provided to student-athletes in this challenging time.

In other words: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Yeah, this is gonna work out just fine.

11 Comments

Filed under College Football, The NCAA

11 responses to “With only the best of intentions

  1. Adam Cantrell

    They did this to baseball and the other spring sports in March….but nobody really seemed to care. It will be interesting to see how football limits are handled and if this will change how the 2020 spring sports were as well.

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  2. sniffer

    Sounds like the association is a hammer looking for a nail.

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  3. godawgs1701

    Keep this in mind in a few years when you’re trying to remember how long that Tennessee punter or Auburn receiver has been in school. He’s a redshirt corona senior this year.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. practicaldawg

    They should expand the scholarship limit so Kirby can do what Bear Bryant used to do: sign mega classes just to keep kids off the other sideline.

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  5. mddawg

    I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I raised this question about the scholarship limit in another thread a week or two ago. If I could see the 85-man limit being an issue, why can’t the people who get paid the big bucks?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. FlyingPeakDawg

    Freshman football Spring games for 2 seasons. Kids play, rosters stay full, TV gets content, schools get $$$. Lots of logistical problems but it could happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. cltdawg

    My daughter is a ’21 pitching prospect, and we’ve been told that this would affect rosters & scholarship offers until at least ’24. Now, softball is obviously different from football, but I could see the same thing happening if the 85 man limit & signing class limits aren’t adjusted.

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  8. Russ

    I’ve been wondering about this issue for a while. Guess I’ll just keep wondering a little longer. It will be very interesting to see how all of this reverberates throughout college football over the next several years.

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  9. :Gee, I wonder which way the NCAA will jump.” Isn’t obviously better to effect the fewest number of people?

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  10. ASEF

    They’re going to have to allow schools an extra signing class. Otherwise, allowing players an extra season is just meaningless. You’re just shifting the loss of opportunity down the line.

    Nothing a few stories about a kid who desperately wants to play football at Georgia and otherwise would get that opportunity getting instead the NCAA “Sorry, Charlie” treatment won’t fix. A dozen of those seems to have an outsized effect on Mark’s finger in the wind.

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  11. W Cobb Dawg

    You get an extra year of eligibility! And you get an extra year of eligibility! And you get an extra year of eligibility! And you…oh, you’re Cade Mays aren’t you? Never mind.

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