‘Momentum’ for dumping yearly scholarship limits in football

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — College football coaches are pushing for changes to NCAA rules to help stabilize rosters depleted by transfers.

The proposals would lift the yearly cap on how many players a school can sign and create designated windows in which a player must enter the transfer portal and retain immediate eligibility.

Support for the changes appear to be gaining “momentum.”

Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said Tuesday after a meeting of the group’s board of directors that the changes would help bring some order to what has become a chaotic time in college football.

The coaches’ proposal would scrap the current cap that limits schools to signing 25 players per year. Those players can be either high school recruits or transfers. The overall scholarship cap of 85 would remain in place.

The problem is, Berry said, a large number of players transferring out can leave rosters well short of 85 scholarship players if only 25 can be signed in a single year.

“We’ve always been real supportive of (the yearly cap) because we felt like that it had some controls to it, but we’re in kind of in an uncontrollable space right now,” Berry said. “For the health and safety of our athletes, not being able to try to get to an 85 number at the FBS level, that’s hard.”

The proposed transfer windows would require football players to enter the portal from the final Sunday in November until the early signing date in mid-December or from April 15 to May 1.

Berry said both coaches and players would benefit from more certainty.

“When you have an open portal like that, it’s hard for young people sometimes to make great decisions because they don’t know the impacts of their move. They don’t know what their competition is at another school, they don’t know about competition coming into their own program,” said the former head coach at Louisiana-Monroe and Army.

The NCAA changed its rules last year to allow all college football players to transfer one time as undergraduates without sitting out a season at the new school.

That move, along with lifting a ban on athletes being compensated for their names, images and likenesses, has created unprecedented transfer movement in major college football.

The number of FBS football players entering their names in the transfer portal in 2021 was 1,427, up from 896 in 2020, according to the NCAA.

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day doesn’t have any concerns filling out his roster, but can see how problems doing so can quickly mount for a coach. Especially one taking over a program. Coaching changes tend to trigger transfers.

“For some programs, and certainly for guys who are going into new spots, that’s almost an impossible feat if you only 25 spots to fill,” Day said. “So what are they supposed to do?”

Whatever the reason for the change, if it happens, it would qualify as big news for the Kansas football program, which has been in constant pursuit of reaching the 85-man limit since Charlie Weis and David Beaty were in the head coach’s office.

Junior college recruiting efforts gone wrong under those two coaches put the Kansas roster in a hole, and the 25-man limit on each recruiting class made it harder to play catch up.

Although both current KU coach Lance Leipold and his predecessor, Les Miles, gained on it, the Jayhawks have remained in an uphill climb toward a full, 85-man roster of true scholarship players. The rise of the transfer portal has slowed some of that progress, but this move — whatever the reason behind it — would be a big lift for KU’s pursuit of the 85-man maximum.

West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, who is the chairman of the NCAA Division I Council and also part of the NCAA’s Division I transformation committee, said he would like to see the changes go through the legislative process instead of a temporary waiver being passed.

“There’s a lot of momentum going into it,” Lyons said of the proposals.

He added that he believes the changes could in place by the upcoming football season.

“You can even put a caveat on it, saying we’re going to lift the cap limit and go to 85 scholarships, and we’re going to continue looking for two years and then come back and revisit it,” Lyons said. “And maybe it’s working in two years. Maybe it’s not.”

— Journal-World Sports Editor Matt Tait contributed to this report.

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