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2018 NCAA Rule Changes—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

By on June 18th, 2018 in Football, News 16 Comments »

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.


  1. neonbets says:

    As a fan, I don’t like the rule either.

    But–If colleges don’t have to guarantee scholarships (and very few of them do so voluntarily), then a kid should have every right to change schools without penalty. As it is, the school can kick a kid to the curb for any reason–with or without cause.

    But the athlete can’t transfer without losing valuable eligibility? No way–it just ain’t right.

    The NCAA is implementing this for one reason–its desperate attempt to maintain amateur status i the face of many legal challenges.

    • jbellison56 says:

      Ditto that. ‘bout time transfer rule was changed

    • AtkinsonTiger AtkinsonTiger says:

      Don't disagree about new transfer rule being needed, but I can't see how it is an attempt to maintain amateur status. Looks like a move in the direction away from amateur status to me.

  2. AUglenn says:

    i see another problem: What will prevent a rival coach or booster from trying to entice a player to transfer to their school?

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Until a student-athlete makes an announcement, coaches are not permitted to make contact. But, make no mistake that 'will' take place.
      Coaches, through emissaries (boosters etc) will still be courting disenchanted elite players. It has the appearance of an NFL style set up, which IMHO can't be good for college football.

  3. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    The redshirt rule is a good move and way over due. I can see your point about the transfer rule but I agree with Neonbets above that a player should be able to transfer wherever he wants to, but, I think he should still sit out a year. Feel the same about basketball. But I differ with Neon on NCAA doing this to keep ameteur status. Seems to me it puts CFB closer to semi-pro status.

    As regards allowing football players to test their place in the draft and still not lose their eligibility, I think that's something that needs to be addressed. I remember Darvin Adams declaring early because he was a man with a family. He didn't get drafted and lost his eligibility too.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Darvin Adams is a good example.
      It would be hard to find another receiver who had a better year in college football than Adams did his junior season. He set an SEC Championship Game record with 217 receiving yards and caught 52 passes for 963 yards and 7 touchdowns during the 2010 season to help Auburn win the National Championship,

      YET, he went undrafted.

      Had he been a baseball or basketball player, he would have been allowed to return his senior year and maybe improved his draft worth. Just doesn’t seem right to treat football players differently.

  4. Jason Wright says:

    My thoughts:
    – Just give every player five years of eligibility and do a way with the redshirts.
    – Allow players to transfer without penalty to wherevr they choose but not during the football season.
    – Allow football players to test draft without penalty or do not allow baseball and basketball to do it. Should be the same across the board.
    – And WHY in the world does the NCAA care how many headsets are on the sideline and in the box? Just another thing that makes NCAA look out of touch with the game.

  5. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    Think the transfer rule is well intended but like you ATM, I think it may present problems down the road. Most schools have quarterback competition and someone has to be No.1 and someone No.2. I can see schools having a little more trouble holding on to those No.2's now.

  6. tigrrr tigrrr says:

    The transfer rule will bring about parity.

  7. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Fortunately on the transfer rule, they still do have the mandatory one-year sit-out. Had they axed that as well, we would have transfers all over the place!

  8. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    ATM, I am pretty much on the same page as you. I’ve always supported a transfer where a player wants/needs to be closer to home for a sick parent but not just for the sake of transferring with no “real” reason. And, like Acid states, there is still the one-year sit-out period which I am also glad they haven’t changed. (I’m not sure but I think in hardship cases the NCAA can waive the one-year “penalty” and, if so, I’m not opposed to that.)
    And you are also correct in that coaches are not allowed to contact current players whether on scholarship or not, it will happen. Boosters already do this anyway.
    I do really like the red-shirt rule, though. That should have been in place well before now.

    The countdown to the Huskies continues — Sending War Eagle greetings today from beautiful Alaska!

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Alaska! I’m envious. Lisa and I have always wanted to travel there, but it was always going to be a two-week deal, and dicey to arrange with work. Getting to California’s central coast last year was challenge enough!

      • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

        We are on our way back to Vancouver as this is being written. We did spend a couple of days in Vancouver prior to our cruise and we are spending a couple more following the cruise and doing a day trip on Monday up to Whistler.
        I highly recommend that you guys make the visit if at all possible. You certainly will not regret it!

        War Eagle!

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