The NCAA announced some new rules on Wednesday afternoon, and they deal with a variety of sports, but mainly college football. As a whole, the NCAA made two really good rule changes, and two pretty lame ones, in my opinion.
1. The good: Alcohol will now be sold at championship events. Good news national championship and conference title game goers — you can now booze it up in the stadium or arena! This decision isn’t too surprising — the NCAA has been using a “pilot program” for selling beer and wine to patrons at certain NCAA championships.
2. More good: A silly (and obscure) recruiting restriction is going away for FCS teams. The NCAA tries hard to prevent people from using recruits to get jobs — and to keep schools from making hiring decisions based on which parent, uncle, or high school coach might give them the best shot to land some particular recruit. The main rule that enforces this goal is a restriction on FBS teams hiring any of these people to “non-coaching” staff positions for two years before and after a recruit arrives on campus.
Another rule has prevented both FBS and FCS programs from hiring “individuals associated” with recruits to work at camps and clinics. The NCAA has rolled back the FCS part of that rule, because it turns out programs luring recruits by hiring their family members and high school coaches is just not that big an issue in FCS football.
3. The bad: College football programs can no longer allow former players to practice with their past teams. BOOOOO ... this is so dumb, NCAA. For the past couple of years, teams have been using their former players as valuable assets on their scout teams, which was completely allowed under NCAA rules.
Alabama has used former Tide quarterback Blake Sims to simulate former Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight, for example. For Alabama’s game against LSU in 2016, former NFL running back Trent Richardson and NFL quarterback John Parker Wilson were brought in to simulate LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Danny Etling. Clemson called back Tajh Boyd to simulate Jalen Hurts ahead of the 2017 national championship.
Look, this rule doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s silly to do away with it. Sure, teams like Clemson and Alabama are at an advantage, given their talent-level in the past, but don’t punish them for being smart and using some of those guys even after they’ve left.
4. The ugly: The NCAA is tabling a proposed redshirt rule change that would allow true freshman to play up to four games and not burn their redshirts. This rule would be beneficial to young players for a number of reasons, including seeing if they’re really ready to play at the next level without costing them a year of learning and growth.
It also would greatly help teams that have to burn a redshirt after a starter goes down with injury. We saw this play out with former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, with the former five-star recruit having to burn his redshirt in 2016 after Chad Kelly went down with a torn ACL. Patterson ended up throwing for 880 yards and six touchdowns, along with a win over Texas A&M as the Rebels’ starter in the final three games of the year, but Kelly’s injury cost Patterson a season of eligibility. A season in which Ole Miss finished 5-7, mind you. Patterson has since transferred to Michigan.
Coaches were in favor of it, too. During the SEC’s 2016 spring meeting teleconference, several head coaches were in favor, as transcribed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Nick Saban, Alabama: “I absolutely would be in favor of that. One of the most difficult things for players is they can’t play at all when they’re freshmen to be able to gain a redshirt year. They all want to play. This would give them an opportunity to play some and would actually enhance their development to some degree. With the numbers we have right now and the number of games we’re playing, you might be able to play a few more players in some of those games. That would help other players on your team as well.”
Mark Stoops, Kentucky: “I think that rule change would make a lot of sense. We were in that situation last year when we had a quarterback hurt early in the year, Drew Barker. We played most of the year with our backup quarterback being a redshirt guy. We decided to keep that redshirt on Gunnar Hoak in Game 11. Played our third-team quarterback, who did some good things. But it was a situation that could’ve benefited us a year ago. It can protect the player in a redshirt year, it can help gain experience for the following year.”
“We really haven’t addressed the redshirt rule in quite some time,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said during last year’s Big 12 meetings, via Fox Sports. “We’re playing way more games than we used to — there used to be a 10-game season. They’re looking at it, and I would support it.”
As far as a reasoning goes, this is what the NCAA offers:
Others wonder whether the proposal could be applied to other sports, as well, whether the number of games in the proposal is appropriate, and whether the timing of the four games matters.
All in all, the NCAA took two steps forward and two steps back with these. It’s nice to see them come to their senses in some areas, but changing some of these is just as head-scratching. Par for the course with the NCAA, I guess!