Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Multi-year scholarships ... changing the recruiting world?

Based on what we can see after National Signing Day last week, it’s hard to discern the effect of multi-season scholarships on recruiting. Those multi-year schollies are now allowed after the NCAA enacted a package of reforms, at the behest of NCAA president Mark Emmert, last fall.

To be sure, some schools reported signing new recruits to multi-year scholarships (Auburn, Florida, and all but three Big Ten schools – Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue) last week. But there’s no word from so many others.

Did the offer of a multi-year scholarship at a particular school win any recruits over the offer of a single-year, renewable scholarship at a competing school? There’s not much, if any, news on that. Possibly this change is so new that is simply isn’t on the radar of many potential recruits and their parents … and therefore it doesn’t play much of a role in their decisions. It should.

Prior to this change, Division I (Football Bowl Subdivision, or FBS) football programs could offer only single-year scholarships that had to be renewed from one year to the next.  Although not tremendously common, a scholarship that is only guaranteed for a year at a time can be pulled at the end of that year and awarded to someone else if a student-athlete isn’t deemed to be performing well enough for the team.  In contrast, a multi-year scholarship is cannot be pulled based on performance on the field – it’s more of a guarantee that the student-athlete will always have a scholarship throughout his football career in college.  

From the point of view of student-athletes, multi-year schollies could help control oversigning – a big and seems-to-be-growing problem among Division I FBS schools. Those schools are limited to 85 full-ride scholarships at any given time. So if a school signs, say, 25 recruits every year, they are oversigning student-athletes. That school obviously expects that quite a few of those recruits will not be on scholarship every year of their eligibility. Some of that happens through regular attrition … players decide they don’t to play football any longer, fail to make necessary academic progress, etc. But single-year, renewable scholarships also give those schools needed flexibility when they need to pull scholarships from some players, maybe only because the school needs that scholarship for an incoming recruit expected to contribute more over the long run.  And because student-athletes cannot transfer to another Division I school without sitting out a year, that’s seen as a bit unfair when coaches can take a job at another school without any such penalty.

Multi-year schollies are concern to schools that don’t have the financial resources to guarantee such a commitment. They’ll be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting, widening the gap between the haves and have-nots in the world of college football, they say.

For all of these reasons, enough schools expressed concern that the NCAA is reconsidering its decision to allow multi-year schollies. Members will vote next week, from February 13 through February 17. Stay tuned.


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