Player development? Why bother?
While others are bemoaning the transactional nature of the portal, roster management and the new one-time transfer rule, Spavital has embraced all of it. More than three months after the traditional National Signing Day in February, he still has eight scholarships to offer.
The rest have gone to transfers, 11 of them. That after Spavital lost 12 players to the portal. He has not signed a high school prospect at Texas State in his Class of 2021…
“My whole argument is I can take the [high school] kid down the street that no one wants and no one offers who, after three years, you develop him into a good player, and he can leave,” Spavital said. “Or you can [go to the portal].”
Okay, so he’s at a shitty mid-major program that has trouble attracting quality recruits, so I get it. At some point, though, the check is going to be presented, and it won’t be pretty.
There is a yearly limit of 85 scholarship players for FBS teams. However, a program may sign only 25 per year. Rosters are in flux as coaches decide whether the portal is a gift or a curse — or maybe both. So-called “super seniors” aren’t counted against the 85 this season as they were allowed an extra year of eligibility in 2021 due to COVID-19. They also could leave giant holes in rosters after they leave after this season.
“They kind of mask some of your issues,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “If you have six super seniors, so you’re really not under the limit, but when those guys leave you’ve going to have an even bigger issue.”
Coaches in Fickell’s AAC are already in favor of expanding annual scholarship limits from 25 to 30 as a stop gap. A blanket waiver to surpass that 25-scholarship limit for at least one year has been discussed in coaching circles. The Big 12 and MAC proposed a two-year scholarship limit of 50, spread out any way a coach wants. That was shot down. The possibility of allowing an extra scholarship for every player lost to the portal — the so-called “one-for-one” approach — isn’t likely.
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the NCAA’s bag isn’t being proactive, man. Again, though, if you’re Jake Spavital at Texas State, the portal is simply the best option from a set of bad choices and you’ll deal with the consequences when you cross that bridge.
But what if you’re Bryan Harsin at Auburn?
Auburn has already secured commitments from four transfers and could add as many as eight more this summer. If that takes away from the initial number of scholarships that the new staff can sign in the 2022 class, I’m fine with that too…
Auburn can certainly win some battles and land good players in the 2022 class. I’m not suggesting that Harsin has or should throw in the towel. But in a class where AU is behind and doesn’t have the long-term relationships that other staffs do with elite prospects, it’s important to supplement the group with some instant impact players.
The best way for Auburn to do that right now is the transfer portal…
As far as the numbers go, transfers currently count against the 25 initial scholarships schools can offer each year. If AU had three scholarships still available from 2021 and took 12 transfers, that would mean nine would have to count toward the 2022 class.
The author assumes some sort of roster fix from the NCAA is forthcoming, but if he’s wrong about that, Harsin’s blowing a hole in his program’s roster that will take several classes to fill. And he’s doing it in his first season! Why? Well, in the immortal words of Jake Spavital,
“That is what are we trying to do especially in a time when, [if] you don’t win, you get fired,” he said. “Instead of waiting around, it’s given life to our program. We gotta think outside the box here.”