Will the NCAA start to overhaul football scholarships?
This week I finish up my 10 part piece on things I would like to see changed in college football. For reference, here are the previous articles:
For this installment, I am going to tackle scholarships.
In 1973, the first modern scholarship limit was set for D-I football by the NCAA at 105 players. It was reduced to 95 in 1978 and eventually ended up at the current level of 85 starting in 1992. Recently, a proposal to reduce the total number of football scholarships to 80 was introduced and defeated-for now.
Beginning this school year, the NCAA is instituting penalties for low APR scores. These penalties can include postseason bans, reductions in practice time (replaced with academic time) and even potential scholarship losses. In case you are curious, here is how the APR is calculated:
"Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for being academically eligible. A team's total points are divided by the points possible and then multiplied by one thousand to equal the team's Academic Progress Rate score. Example: A Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team awards the full complement of 85 grants-in-aid. If 80 student-athletes remain in school and academically eligible, three remain in school but are academically ineligible and two drop out academically ineligible, the team earns 163 of 170 possible points for that term. Divide 163 by 170 and multiply by 1,000 to determine that the team's Academic Progress Rate for that term is 959"
From NCAA.org "How is Academic Progress Rate Calculated?"
One other important metric to take into account is overall graduation rate. As most of the readers are already aware, Notre Dame led the way in the most recent numbers with a 99% graduation rate for D-IA football programs.
The first thing I would change regarding scholarships is to change them from a series of one-year renewable scholarships to a four year commitment from the school. While it is ultimately up to the student-athlete to stay academically eligible and out of trouble, I would imagine that coaches will still force marginal players out of their program. As a result, I also propose that players lost due to rules violations or academic issues cost their team a loss of that scholarship for a period of two years-which provides an incentive to programs to keep their players out of trouble and on track to graduate.
Secondly, I would take the APR and graduation rate evaluations to the next level. First, I think that universities that graduate players should be rewarded with additional scholarships. Conversely, the penalties for low APR scores or poor graduation rates should be more severe to help put the "student" piece back into the student-athlete.
As a result, I propose that the top 10% of schools in graduating players get a bonus five scholarships (for a total of 90) over the following four year period. Conversely, the bottom 20% of programs in graduation rate should be penalized five scholarships over the following four year period. While five scholarships might not seem like a big deal, I think it is enough of an incentive for programs to put an increased focus on graduating players.
In one final note, this series has been fun to compile--but it has been more interesting to sit back and watch the discussion. While we can all agree that the game isn't perfect, it is hard to come to a consensus on just what changes should be implemented and how to bring them about.