Last year, the NCAA awarded an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes who played fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And though the NCAA is not counting that against football teams’ 85-scholarship limit this year, it will, beginning in 2022.
That is just one issue for head football coaches across the country when it comes to managing their rosters, especially when you throw in the transfer portal, the one-year transfer rule and the freedom players have to opt out at any point in the season.
Since 1992, the NCAA has limited all Division I football teams to 85 scholarships. But Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson believes that is an archaic rule that needs to be updated.
“What did a college football season look like in 1992? It was 10 or 11 regular-season games, and maybe if you were lucky a bowl game,” Clawson said at the ACC Football Kickoff this past Thursday in Charlotte. “So, the maximum amount of games you were playing back then, when they put the 85-rule in, is I believe 12 games. There weren’t playoffs. There weren’t conference championship games.
“To constantly be adding games, conference championships, rounds of playoffs, and then the roster pressure you’re now getting from a one-time transfer rule, the roster pressure from people who opt out, and they’re not just opting out for bowl games, they’re opting out in October if they don’t have the role they want or their agents are telling them in November, ‘Hey, you don’t need to play anymore, you’re already a first-round pick.’ At a certain point you just can’t keep burning it at both ends.”
That is why the ACC football coaches sent a proposal to the NCAA asking for five more scholarships to alleviate some of the headaches that have come with the optouts, transfer portal, one-year transfer rule and now the extra year of eligibility because of COVID.
“If we’re going to (expand the playoff), and it looks like there’s a good chance it’s going to happen, add a tournament, add games, at a certain point we have to go back and look at the rosters,” Clawson said. “We do not have the ability to sign guys off the waiver wire of another team’s practice squad when we get hurt at a position with injuries or opt-outs in November.
“I really think if this is good for college football, the powers that be deem that we should add games, make it a tournament, expand the playoffs, at a certain point you have to do things to help coaches manage the roster to make it safer for players.”
And that is the point. Coaches having the ability to manage their rosters freely, helps the players more than anything and limits the risk of injury.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney points out over the next three years, coaches are going to have to figure out a way to manage their rosters if last year’s freshmen, sophomores and juniors want to stay the extra year the NCAA gave them due to the pandemic.
“It is a real problem for coaches moving forward from a roster management standpoint,” he said. “We are fortunate this year. We only have eleven seniors and I have had conversations with all of those guys, so we are able to project and do what we need to do for this class of 2022. The problem for me is the class of ’23.
“For some schools, the class of ’22 is a real problem. They may have a lot of seniors and a lot those guys might want to come back. So, how do you go and recruit? You don’t know how many scholarships you have. It is hard to ask a kid right now, ‘In two years, are you going to want that COVID year?’ These guys are just trying to be great today. So, it is very complicated and frustrating.”