With signing day looming next week and several quality recruits heading to South Bend this weekend Brian Kelly and the rest of the new staff are facing an interesting situation. For the first time in what seems like forever the NCAA limit of 85 scholarships is a limiting factor for the Irish. For starters I need to say that I consider Subway Domer to have the unofficial blogger copyright on the ND eligibility charts so I don't ever publish the one I keep. For this one post I’m going to make an exception only because that’s what I was looking at when I did the below math. So if you want to see where I got these numbers you can find it HERE. I keep the players in their columns by class and just note a 5th year of eligibility with a # symbol after the name. It helps me to keep the classes straight as they progress and also prevents me confusing the actual classifications of individual players. So here are the numbers heading into 2010.
5- 5th Year
25- Scholarships Available
The 25 available scholarships for this class also happens to be the NCAA limit for a single season so the Irish will hit 25 and 85 at the same time. For more info on the NCAA numbers game I have an archived post HERE. With 17 current verbal commits Coach Kelly only needs 8 more to reach 25. If he does so Coach Kelly will start his first season with something his predecessor never quite managed to attain, which is a full roster of 85 scholarship players. It also creates a very unusual situation for the 2011 recruiting cycle. Of the 2010 seniors 7 are eligible for a 5th year and I would imagine most of them will be approved for it. For this example let’s say all of them do. If that happens a year from now the numbers will look like this heading into 2011.
25- Sophomores (assuming a full class is signed next week)
7- 5th Year
13- Scholarships Available
Thirteen scholarships available next year! Man that would be a small class. One would think that a little bit of normal attrition due to injury or other unforeseen issues might free up another couple of slots but the possibility of only having 13 available scholarships in 2011 makes me a bit nervous. That isn’t to say that I think Coach Kelly should turn away good players this weekend but it does make the flurry of names that have popped up in the last few days a bit more intriguing. Is Coach Kelly really going to take 3 more quarterbacks with 2 already committed? I realize that Massa, Roback and Spond could all possibly end up playing other positions but it definitely stokes the fires of the debate. Do you sign potential project type players or keep those scholarships available to concentrate on positions of need in 2011? It looks like Coach Kelly is going with the former. It might work out in the long run but in the immediate future it is a bit of a gamble.
That said I am a big fan of Notre Dame utilizing 5th year players. I think it is great for program health and will ultimately improve the overall quality of the team. But this numbers issue is going to remain complex for the foreseeable future. As of today 13 Juniors and 10 Sophomores will also be eligible for a 5th year. Where Coach Weis spent five years struggling to get to 85 scholarship players Coach Kelly will be spending his recruiting cycles struggling to stay below 85. It will be very interesting to see how he manages it. One more thing to consider this weekend as Coach Kelly and the rest of the staff host a group of prospects that is multiplying at the rapid rate. I'm not sure there is a "right" answer but I'll be looking forward to seeing what everyone else thinks in the comments.