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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

More NCAA Changes: New Limits On
Initial Scholarships--(Apr. 11,  2000)

The NCAA Division I Management Council, meeting in Indianapolis, continued its tinkering with Division I basketball yesterday, voting on a variety of proposals which had come from the two-year long study, the "Division I Basketball Issues Working Group".  The "Working Group" was a large committee composed of university presidents, athletic directors and staff persons, which was then broken down into various sub-groups, each of which was charged with examining particular "issues" involving Division I basketball, and men's basketball in particular.  The Working Group solicited surveys, wrote papers, and ultimately wrote a lot of "legislation" which consists of many changes to the NCAA Bylaws.   For those of us mortals, and for all you non-lawyers out there, a lot of this stuff is highly technical and it will probably never affect your lives.

But a lot of it will, some of it in major ways.

One of the proposed changes which will certainly affect every D-I men's program if it is finally adopted is the limitation on the number of scholarships which can be offered in any given year.

Currently there is an overall limit of 13 scholarship players that can be carried by a Division I school which offers "grants-in-aid".   There is currently no limit to the number of  new scholarships which can be awarded during a given year (however, 13 is the overall limit). 

Scholarships are only offered on a year-to-year basis, and as such they are only a one-year deal for the athlete, and have to be renewed.   There's no such thing as a "four-year" commitment.  A coach can tell you that's the deal, but under NCAA rules, he not only shouldn't say such a thing, it's not really the "deal."   If a coach doesn't recommend to the AD that a scholarship be renewed in a given year, the athlete can still (in most cases) attend the school, but he won't recieve financial assistance in the form of a free ride, and most likely, the coach is sending a not-so-subtle message that a player's services won't be required or utilized any longer.  A coach who doesn't renew one of his 13 scholarships for an underclass player can go right out into the "recruiting market" and pick up a graduating high school senior or a JUCO transfer player who might help the team be more immediately productive.

Likewise, other than the overall limitation of 13 rides, there is no dis-incentive currently for coaches to attempt to "stick it out" with borderline or marginal student-athletes, or those who might just be having a tough time but who could otherwise contribute in time.  College coaching is such a pressure-packed job, a huge business with 7 figure salaries for coaches and impossibly high expectations from fans and alumni, that many coaches truly feel they can't afford to allow a player to take the time to develop.  So few coaches think they have that luxury, so the reality is that their players don't get the luxury of time to develop either.  It's the alumni motto:  "Win or you're fired."    "Now."

Theoretically, if a coach decides to let an entire team go, he could, under current rules, do just that, and then go out and recruit 13 new scholarship athletes (assuming that any player would want to actually commit to play for such a coach). . . That's an extreme example, but instances where players are "cut" from college programs abound. There are numerous instances of the phenomenon which occur every year.  The most recent examples are guys like Rafael Berumen at New Mexico, Ruben Douglas at Arizona, and now possibly Kent Dennis and Keith Kincade at West Virginia (which we've been told is not the "University of West Virginia" but "West Virginia University").   Guys who were thought to be sure-fire bets but whose playing careers just didn't turn out like everyone thought they might.

The NCAA has recognized the tension that exists, and has tried to do something about this non-renewal of scholarships and the attrition rate among student-athletes.  In in some instances, the whole notion of not sticking with players is contrary to what college athletics should be about (notice we didn't say "is" about, because while many long for the days of freshman ineligibility, that's not likely to happen again in our lifetimes).    For the past two years, the NCAA Basketball Working Group has been looking at ways to decrease the incidence of enrolled student-athletes transferring after just one year of attendance at a D-I school, and how to provide an incentive to college coaches to continue to work with players who are "borderline" or just plain having a bad year.

Evidently, one method which the NCAA and the university presidents thought might curtail such one-year "tryouts" was to limit the number of athletic scholarships that schools can offer in a given year.  In other words, limit the number of new players who can be recruited, and you'll get the coaches to think twice before they recommend non-renewal of an athlete's grant-in-aid.

Of course, such a proposal could have just exactly the opposite effect, and it would serve to deter a coach from recruiting an athlete in the first instance who might have "potential" but who can't immediately contribute. . . We can hear the college coaches on this one:  "Redshirt"?    "Forget it, man, we need production, and we need it now, especially if a scholarship can't be replaced for possibly two or three years. . . ."

But yesterday (April 10), the NCAA Management Council voted to approve a proposal which would limit the number of "initial counters" (i.e., first year scholarships) for incoming freshmen and two-year transfers.  The council voted to recommend approval by the NCAA Board of Directors of Proposal 99-122-A (as amended), which would establish a limit of eight on the number of initial scholarships in men's basketball during any two years with a limitation of no more than five initial counters in any given year.  The proposal will become effective next year right before the early signing period (i.e., it will become effective on August 1, 2001) if it is finally approved by the Board of Directors.

What this means is that a school will be able to only recruit 8 new scholarship athletes over a two year period, and there will also be a limit of 5 during a single season.

Why does the NCAA believe that this will help to curtail attrition?  We're not sure, but here's what the NCAA Working Group's stated rationale was for the proposed legislation which was approved by the Council yesterday:

Rationale: This proposal is among a package of proposals designed to enhance the educational and cultural opportunities for current Division I basketball student-athletes so as to increase the likelihood of academic success and more fully prepare them to contribute to society as productive citizens. The limitations on the number of initial counters in the sport of men's basketball should alleviate the pressure to award a high number of scholarships to incoming freshmen and two-year college transfers each year, instead of renewing the aid of enrolled student-athletes who may not be performing athletically as well as the coach may have hoped. The numerical limit should translate into lower attrition/transfer rates by reducing an institution's ability to replace student-athletes after a one- or two-year "tryout." The proposed legislation is modeled after the current rule that appears to be working well in the sport of Division I football.

Like the other proposals approved yesterday, this one will go to the Board of Directors later this month for approval. If you want the complete text of the legislation, here's the link for Proposal 99-122-A.

Something to think about.

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