Friday, the Division I advisory council changed the way college football is run in a few ways — some little, and some big. As explained by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and others, it’s a landmark day for reform.
1. The early signing day.
This one’s the big kahuna. It’s been debated on and toyed around with for years, but now it’s finally going to come to fruition. Barring a surprise by the Conference Commissioners Association, the early signing period will become officially official in June. It will create a three-day window for recruits to sign Letters of Intent in December right around Christmas. In 2017, the dates will be Dec. 20-23.
As always, some teams like it (small schools) while others don’t (schools that need extra time to finalize recruiting). New Mexico State coach Doug Martin told SB Nation in January that an early signing day would make it easier on his staff because they could know what they need to get for the second signing day in February and the process would be more streamlined.
Stanford coach David Shaw disagreed a few years ago.
Stanford coach David Shaw says an early signing day for football would be “catastrophic” for the sport. Wants to see date pushed back.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) November 13, 2012
But the real people to whom this will matter the most: the athletes. And because of some holes in the current proposal, it won’t be all gravy for them.
Those who have not made enough academic progress to qualify might not be able to sign early with their schools of choice and could see their spots go to less-talented players who are more certain to qualify.
Options could also be limited for prospects who are late bloomers.
Sometimes, prospects are not discovered until December or January, as programs review senior film. Under the old system, scholarships were not being filled en masse until February. With the new early date, the number of options for late bloomers could decrease.
Prospects who feel pressured to sign early could also lose out on offers from bigger schools, if they sign and foreclose the opportunity to wait for better options.
2. No more two-a-days.
Yeah, you read that right. The NCAA is banning full-contact practices twice in the same day. This was, frankly, a long time coming; they were being phased out anyway by most teams.
For instance, in 2015 Bret Bielema stopped doing them at Arkansas. Georgia Tech nixed them last offseason. And others scaled the practice back, like in 2015, when Georgia only scheduled one day of them, and it was rained out.
The paradigm has shifted to be smarter about how players train in a violent sport. You’ll never take all the contact out of the game, but reducing it is important to player safety.
Now, if teams want to have the extra session, they still can, but there cannot be any actual practice. It has to be film study or walkthrough, no conditioning can take place at the walkthrough, and players can’t be in helmets or shoulder pads.
3. Official visits moved up.
It adds a period for official visits that begins April 1 of the junior year and ends the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June of that year. Official visits can’t occur in conjunction with a prospect’s participation in a school’s camp or clinic (effective Aug. 1).
This is good for athletes. Prior to this, the rule stated that high schoolers had to wait until the first day of classes their senior year to take their five expenses-paid college visits. Now they have the entire summer prior to do so. This can create more breathing room and help high schoolers and their parents make more sound decisions.
4. The 10th assistant rule.
Pretty cut and dry: college football teams can now have 10 assistant coaches instead of nine, starting Jan. 9, 2018. The main opposition was the timing. If it went into effect immediately, it would have caused a problem for schools to figure out money situations during the middle of a budget cycle.
5. Making college football a bit more like college basketball.
Schools are now not allowed to hire people close to recruits (think parents, coaches, and trainers) for off-field coaching jobs in the two-year period before or after the recruit’s enrollment at a prospective college. This has been in basketball for years.
It sounds good on its face, but digging deeper, you can see how high school coaches specifically get screwed.
You can see how the rule would hamper a distinct advantage a particular former high school would have, and therefore make someone a less desirable hire for a college job.
But the problem is some of these non-coaching positions aren’t shams. There are analyst jobs, quality control posts, and grad assistant roles that are on-ramps to the college coaching profession but will no longer be available to some people.
Some high school coaches aren’t qualified enough yet to be on the field at the college level, and now the NCAA has cut off a simple way for them to work their way into one of those positions.
6. Camp reform came in two parts.
The first was a straightforward rule that makes summer camps less about the physical aspect and a little better for athletes. The NCAA:
It allows coaches employed at a camp or clinic to have recruiting conversations with prospects participating in camps and clinics and requires educational sessions at all camps and clinics detailing initial eligibility standards, gambling rules, agent rules and drug regulations (effective immediately).
The other part is a limitation on satellite camps and partly in response to Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camp crusade. They can happen, but they can’t happen for an unchecked period of time in the summer.
It limits the time for Football Bowl Subdivision coaches to participate in camps and clinics to 10 days in June and July and requires that the camps take place on a school’s campus or in facilities regularly used by the school for practice or competition. Staff members with football-specific responsibilities are subject to the same restrictions.
Besides the early signing proposal, the last hoop these rules have to jump through will be on April 26. The Division I Board of Directors are the last rubber stamp needed.