By Greg Johnson
The NCAA Division I Football Issues Committee agreed recently to continue monitoring a new rule designed to address the problem of oversigning football recruits.
This is the first year for a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision rule establishing a limit of 28 signees. Coaches are limited to 25 new scholarships per year, but with 28 prospects committed via the National Letter of Intent, at least three would be left without a scholarship if a program signed the full complement.
From the coaches’ perspective, the concerns include the fact that recruits often sign a National Letter of Intent and then don’t qualify academically or change their minds about attending the school. Either occurrence could leave a coach with a shortage of athletes. By signing extra prospects, a coach avoids being left short.
Also, because football is such a physically demanding sport that creates attrition, some student-athletes may not be able to return for the next season. A high transfer rate in football adds to the problem.
But if the anticipated attrition doesn’t occur, a coach can be left with more scholarship promises than actual scholarships. In those situations, a prospect can elect – or be persuaded – to delay enrollment until the spring (a practice known as “grayshirting”). The spring enrollees then take the place of any fall graduates from the team, take advantage of spring practice and begin the next fall already conditioned and prepared for the season. Often, the student-athletes will take part-time classes in the first fall to keep pace academically.
Susan Peal, who administers the National Letter of Intent program, said the Collegiate Commissioners Association (the program’s governing body) doesn’t support grayshirting. The program has a policy that nullifies the National Letter of Intent if an institution or coach asks the student-athlete to grayshirt. However, if a student-athlete decides to delay enrollment, the national letter remains valid. Determining the instigator of the decision can be difficult.
Because the effect of the new rule may not be apparent immediately, the Football Issues Committee decided to remain diligent about monitoring it.
“This rule has only been in effect for one year, and we want to take some time to see if that’s the perfect number,” said committee chair Nick Carparelli. “Certainly, the committee will continue to monitor it, and we can re-evaluate to see if there is a more appropriate number if necessary.”
The Football Issues Committee also responded to a request from the Division I Legislative Council to review the issue of Division I institutions hosting non-scholastic camps and competitions on campus.
The committee had supported Proposal No. 2010-44, which would have prohibited an institution or conference from hosting, sponsoring or conducting non-institutional football camps, clinics, group workouts or combine events at any location that provides instruction to prospects, but that proposal was defeated in the Football Championship Subdivision by a membership vote and not moved for a vote in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Third parties are hosting 7-on-7 events in the summer that feature a collection of prospective student-athletes. Many people are concerned that the influence such outside parties could have on prospects could introduce some of the same problems facing men’s basketball recruiting.
The NCAA’s agent, gambling and amateurism activities staff and enforcement staff are monitoring these types of events to get a better sense of what is occurring across the country. They will provide feedback to the committee in the future.
“In general, most institutions would like to eliminate third parties coming onto their campuses,” said Carparelli, associate commissioner of the Big East Conference. “Coaches want to deal with parents and high school coaches, because those are the people who have the student-athletes’ best interests in mind.”