Be Careful What You Ask For

GTP digs into some NCAA reform here, so I thought I would provide a kindly response:

1) Pass NCAA proposal 2011-97, which allows schools to offer scholarships as multi-year grants.As I posted before, there isn’t a down side to this, other than taking some of the control of the signing process away from the schools.

Yes, there is a down side to this.

If I was handed a multi-year scholarship as a college freshman, how motivated will I be in that second year when I finally get the whiff that I’m not nearly as good as the hometown paper thought I was?

I have a good friend who is a former college football player (Division FCS level).  He started for several years and was a high-character guy; the kind of guy you want on your team.  But every year, he knew the coaches were recruiting to replace him.  It motivated him and fueled his fire to achieve at a very high level.  Multi-year scholarships will change that.

One year scholarships aren’t such a foreign concept.  Most other students on scholarship face annual renewal requirements as well.

2) Allow student-athletes whose scholarships aren’t renewed to transfer to any other school with immediate eligibility. If a coach transferring to a new program doesn’t have to sit out a year, it’s hypocritical to hold players to a more restrictive standard. And it’s harmful to deny them the opportunity to attend a school of their choice on scholarship.

On the surface this sounds good, but in reality creates the possibility of mass chaos. I’m okay with an unconditional transfer if a scholarship isn’t renewed, but I’m not in favor of immediate eligibility. There has to be some barrier that restrains the chaos and sitting out for one season makes the most sense.

Inserting the issue of coaches moving from one school to the next is really apples and oranges to the topic. Student-athletes should be comfortable with the school they choose, as well as with the coach. Unless there are extreme circumstances, a coaching change shouldn’t be the trigger for mass chaos.

3) Allow student-athletes to consult a third-party legal advisor before signing with a school. You know, Indiana State has a point. Signing is confusing enough for 17- and 18-year olds who aren’t exactly the most worldly people; giving schools the opportunity to propose different scholarship offers complicates things even further. The schools have their lawyers. The kids should, too.

Is there anything that now bars a prospect from retaining legal counsel?  I don’t think so.  Surely this isn’t a call for the colleges and universities to pay for that, too.

Let’s face it.  Thousands of students earn scholarships and retain them every year – without any sort of problem.  The last thing we need to do is to get more lawyers involved.

4) Adopt Andy Staples’ proposal to eliminate national signing day. As he puts it, “Want to offer a high-school freshman? Go ahead. But you can’t send him some empty promise. You have to send him a national Letter of Intent. If he signs, you promise one of your 85 scholarships to him for at least a year, and he promises to attend your school for at least a year, whether you’re there or not. Coaches wouldn’t have to baby-sit committed players as rivals swarmed, and players wouldn’t have to worry about a coach giving away the scholarship he already promised to them.” Trust me, that would do more to reduce grayshirting abuses than anything on the books right now.

Of all the proposals offered up, this one is perhaps somewhat workable.  I do think it’s ridiculous to offer scholarships to 15 year olds.  But in reality, how often does this really happen – especially at the major conference level?  In reality, how often is this sort of practice abused?  I honestly don’t know the answer to those questions, but I’m guessing not a lot.  I’m guessing most SEC level schools are wooing kids to get them on campus – either via a camp, unofficial or official visit.

Related to “greyshirting abuses” I would ask the same things.  Who is actually being abused?  Is it the actual player (yes, that does happen from time to time) or the fickle fan of an opposing school?  Correct me if I’m wrong, but there is nothing wrong with greyshirting a player.  Abuses come when coaches lie to prospects.  That’s always wrong and my hope for correcting this sort of thing is that the market takes care of offending coaches.  High school coaches and handlers like to be viewed as protecting their players and when guys like Steve Spurrier or Les Miles abuse a greyshirt, well, hopefully word will get out.  The assumption is that greyshirts are always lied to and that assumption is just wrong.

5) Allow student-athletes who are draft-eligible to sign with an agent. They’ve gone to school and developed marketable skills, supposedly the point of an education. Yet as they weigh the prospects of future employment against remaining in school, the only advice they’re allowed to get is from their coaches and the NFL. Good thing there are no conflicts of interest there. Like it or not, players need their own source for advice. To keep things on the up-and-up, agents would have to be certified by the NCAA and would not be allowed to pay players. It’s got to turn out better than the crap we’re seeing now.

“Certified by the NCAA and not allowed to pay players.”  Big chuckle.  We want the NCAA to be regulating something else???

Also, it seems to me that the biggest problem with kids turning pro is that agents and outside advisers DO get in the players’ ears and whisper pipe dreams to them.  The NFL really doesn’t give a rip about college football and will take the best players available.  Period.  College coaches, by default it would seem, would want top pro prospects to return, if possible.  That may not be a perfect system, but there is enough tension for the players to get decent advice.

I’m actually for players being able to retain agents – and I’m even for agents being able to pay players.  I haven’t quite figured out how to manage this to protect the integrity of the game, but I’m for it.  In general, if an agent advances a player money, that should be between the player and the agent.  If the player never produces and the agent takes a loss, so be it.  However, I do recognize that there’s a ton of room for inappropriate behavior in this arrangement.

6) Either the players get to profit off their likenesses, or nobody does. Of all the bullshit that emanates from the NCAA and the schools, there’s nothing bullshittier than how the institutions are allowed to generate revenue from a player’s name, but the player isn’t. It’s a corrosive practice. It demeans the NCAA official stance on amateurism. Either end it completely, or devise a system that lets the players share the wealth. What’s wrong with a 50/50 split on jersey sales, for example? Yes, guidelines would need to be put in place to make sure that rogue boosters don’t game things, but if schools stay in the loop, I think the NCAA can come up with something that’s fair. (And for those of you about to get on your high horse about players receiving pay for their ability to play well, let me remind you that the NCAA allows for student-athletes who are professionals in one sport to play as amateurs in another. Hard to see how one’s okay and not the other.)

Its ideals like these that wind up banning collegiate apparel sales.

“It demeans the NCAA official stance on amateurism. Either end it completely, or devise a system that lets the players share the wealth.”  Really?  I though paying players demeaned the idea of amateurism?

Yes, I know that Bama fans are buying a ton of #3 jerseys and I know why – because of Trent Richardson (sorry Vinnie Sunseri).  But I fail to see the correlation between a player earning a $100,000 (or more) education and the responsibility to pay him a percentage of revenue from jersey sales.

By the way, how would we calculate the checks for Mark Barron and Marquis Maze this year and when would we stop sending checks to Kenny Stabler, Joe Namath and Greg McElroy?

College athletics is a mess, I’ll grant you that.  Over the last three decades it has grown into a huge business – a huge business based on a fundamentally flawed model.  But just because it sports a flawed business model, that doesn’t mean that any old change is good.  So we better be careful what we ask for.



2 thoughts on “Be Careful What You Ask For

  1. BD, a few thoughts in response…

    1. The one-year renewable scholly is a fairly recent development (mid-’70s, I think). You think players were less motivated before then? I also suspect the kids who are going to get multi-year offers are going to be motivated about their professional futures. And playing time is always going to matter.

    2. I don’t get your point about mass chaos. If a school chooses not to renew a scholarship and that player can find another school willing to take him on and sign him to a NLI, what’s the problem. And how does making him sit out a year address that? (Note that I’m not arguing that all kids can jump ship, just the ones who lose their free ride.)

    3. Current rules prohibit recruits from consulting with counsel about signing NLIs. It’s a pure “take it or leave it” situation.

    4. Ask Mark Richt about coaches throwing out blanket offers like candy. It’s a more widespread practice than you believe. The grayshirting abuses I was referring to was what happened at South Carolina this past year when the ‘Cocks were caught with more final offers out there than they had slots to fill and wound up reneging on a couple of kids.

    5. There’s an easy way for a school not to have to share with S-As on apparel sales: don’t put names or numbers on jerseys being offered. Otherwise, if you want to make money off a player’s image, you ought to pay him for the privilege. And, yeah, that would include after the player’s left school.

    • Wow. A comment from the Senator. I’m a little in shock. 🙂

      1) What were the scholarship limits back in the 70s and before? I would argue that multi-year grants could take some of the leverage away from coaches. If it was strictly player vs. NCAA, I would probably agree with you.

      2) I think mass chaos is a possibility when players are allowed to transfer unfettered.

      3) News to me. 🙂 I guess dad could ask an attorney without junior knowing about it. I would also guess that the process is fairly static from year to year and that, by and large, there are enough people involved in the process (coaches, school counselors, etc.) to guide prospects through the process. Not saying the process couldn’t be changed somewhat, but I do think it would be chaos for 25 signees to engage legal counsel.

      4) As a Bama fan, I always assume folks are including Saban in the conversation. Best I can tell, he’s straight up with recruits. I also seem to recall him honoring a recent scholarship offer to an injured recruit as well.

      5) I don’t disagree with leaving names off. Numbers, now that’s a different story. I saw the comment on your post that players wouldn’t earn much on jersey sales…to that point I would add that many, many players get post-playing career benefits that are only available because they played at a particular school.

      Thanks for the comments.

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