Wishes it would have provided relief with eligibility extension
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is happy to comply with the NCAA’s one-year eligibility rule, which was approved in August in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will grant an extra year of eligibility to all fall sport athletes, regardless of whether they compete this season.
However, Swinney knows the eligibility extension will create challenges in terms of recruiting and roster management, so he wishes the NCAA would have tweaked the rule a little bit to accommodate college football programs from that standpoint.
Based on Swinney’s understanding, although every player will have the opportunity to receive an extra year of eligibility if they want it, only current seniors that accept the additional year of eligibility will not count against the maximum of 85 full-ride scholarships that Division I FBS teams are allowed to give out per year.
So, while the 2021 recruiting class won’t really be impacted by the rule, Swinney expects to have limited available scholarships for the 2022 class as current juniors who decide to play an extra season will count against the scholarship cap.
“Everybody gets another year,” Swinney said Monday night on his weekly radio call-in show. “Basically, the true freshmen right now all get five years to play because they can all play now and four more years. If you are a redshirt junior like (linebacker Baylon) Spector right now, let’s say, this year doesn’t count so you still have two more years. (Redshirt senior linebacker James) Skalksi could come back.
“So, the way they’re doing it is if you’re a senior this year, you can come back next year and not count on the 85. So, for this ’21 class, it’s not going to affect anything. But for the ’22 class … So the junior group on the team, if those guys wanted to come back for another year, then they would have to count on the 85. So, it’ll be a smaller class in ’22. It’s probably where it’s going to be affected the most. Maybe it’ll shake out a little bit in ’23, we’ll have to see.”
Because of the impact on recruiting, Swinney would have liked to see the NCAA not count current juniors, sophomores and freshmen against the scholarship cap, as well, if they decided to return for a fifth year.
“Recruiting is interesting,” Swinney said. “I was hoping that they would kind of give us a relief and basically just say OK, from this freshmen class on, basically give us the next four years to kind of cycle this out before they got back to counting everybody in our 85.”
But that is not the case, so Clemson and other programs will be forced to adapt and try to manage their rosters and recruiting to the best of their ability.
Despite the challenges presented by the one-year eligibility rule, Swinney is supportive of the NCAA’s decision to give student-athletes the chance to get another season to play given the current college football landscape that has been dramatically altered by the coronavirus.
“Since they’re going to count them outside of this senior group, (roster management) is something we’ll have to take into account, make sure we know what everybody’s plans are and do the best we can,” Swinney said. “That’s always the biggest thing you have to do is manage the roster, but it’ll all work out.
“Either way, I’m happy to do it. I’m glad that it’s worked out that way because it was the right thing to do for the guys.”
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