2018 NCAA Rule Changes—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
NCAA President Mark Emmert (USA TODAY)
It’s that time of year when the NCAA passes rule changes to
clear up muddy college athletics. In the last few days and weeks there have been several controversial moves that could possibly have a big impact on college football.
As one who doesn’t like to see a lot of changes, I have to admit some are good for the game. Take for example the new rule passed last week that will allow redshirt football players to play up to four games without losing the redshirt status. Under the new rule, if a school finds its depth chart depleted by injuries late in the season, a redshirt player can step in and gain valuable game experience without losing his eligibility. And that’s a good thing—a positive move for both the school and the athlete.
The NCAA also just passed a new no-permission transfer rule, long supported by NCAA President Mark Emmert. The change, although applauded by many, leaves this writer with a lot of skepticism. While on the surface it sounds like a positive, in the long run it could wind up being bad for college football.
Prior to the rule change, a scholarship player wanting to transfer needed a release from his school to play at another institution. While that may be a positive for graduate transfers, it could be another step toward making the college game like professional leagues. What the rule does is essentially grant “free agency” to student-athletes. Therein lies the problem.
When a player announces he wants to transfer, a school will be required to enter his name into a national transfer database within two days of his announcement. Then he essentially becomes a free agent (just like in the NFL), and coaches across the country will be free to recruit him.
However, players are not professionals. They are “student” athletes. If they can transfer any where, any time, how can a coach enforce discipline? Under the new rule, if a player gets upset when benched for a discipline reason, he can opt to transfer somewhere else. That ultimately hurts not only the program but the player himself because he misses out on a life lesson. Many a student-athlete has thanked a college coach later in life for the discipline he received, though at the time he didn’t like it.
Or what about a running back or quarterback competition? If a kid doesn’t get the starting position, he can take his frustration out by transferring to your rival, thereby hurting the depth chart. Again, if a player can transfer whenever he wants, for whatever reason he wants, how can that help the game? We’re not talking about hardship cases like transferring to be near a sick relative. It’s the apparent free-agency that makes this a bad rule change for both the players and the programs.
If the NCAA really wants to look out for the student-athlete why not do away with the rule that prevents a football player from returning to play for his college after he has declared for the draft? Now that one is really a bad rule. I have never understood why basketball and baseball players can test their draft status without losing their eligibility but a football player cannot.
The end of May saw another inexplicable rule change that limits the number of headsets coaches and players can utilize on the sideline to communicate with the coaches in the press box as well as the number of analysts that can help out in the box during the game.
It’s a change that could result in producing ugly games across the nation this fall. Analysts gather a lot of information that can help the coaching staff both during the game as well as with halftime adjustments. The rule was ostensibly passed to control the number of analysts a team can have, but in reality it just limits the ability of the coaching staff to produce the best quality game possible.
Gus Malzahn called it a joke and said, “I don’t know why people care [,but] it’s a game changer with just the way you go about getting information for your game and halftime approach.” Nick Saban was even less charitable. “I don’t know how we’re going to manage all of that. I think it’s very short sighted,” Saban said. “I don’t know who is driving all this stuff? But it’s kinda like [dealing with] mouse manure when you’re up to your ears in elephant doo-doo.”
The answer to that question is the NCAA has a lot of people making decisions who have little or no experience in playing or coaching football. The game would be more attractive and better off if there were some retired D1 coaches helping with the decision-making process. But that would make too much sense to an organization that is used to doing things the hard way.