The NCAA Division I Council implemented several changes to the off-the-field administration of college football. In the spirit of the uplifting Easter holiday, we’ll review the one that everyone likes first and then get into the others.
In a move that almost everyone liked, the Council passed the popular proposal to expand college coaching staffs from nine full-time, on-field assistants to 10. The rule won’t take effect until January 2018, a reasonable compromise for Group of Five and smaller schools, most notably the MAC, which worried about expenses but also about the possibility of losing staff members in midsummer as they took higher-profile, higher-paying jobs in the Big 10, SEC and other Power Five conferences. Ultimately, the proposal passed unanimously.
Even Alabama coach Nick Saban liked it.
“I’m very much for that (10th assistant),” he said on Friday. “I know there are a lot of people out there that complain about staff sizes, but we actually have the fewest number of coaches per player of any sport in college, ratio-wise.”
To illustrate Saban’s point simply look at three major sports. The ratio of player to coach in men’s college basketball is 3.25 to 1. In women’s basketball it is 3:75 to 1 and in baseball it is 6.25 to 1. Even with the addition of a 10th coach (and counting the head coach, as in the other sports), football will still be 7.7 to 1, with 11 full-time coaches for 85 players. The new rule does reduce that ratio and improve the teaching time for proper technique.
“To have a 10th coach really balances the staff better, so you can have special teams coach and not have a position coach that has to double up and do that,” Saban noted.
The rest of the rules that passed, or were facilitated (a December signing date for football still must be approved by the Conference Commissioner’s Association in June but passage is expected), were more of a mixed bag.
A quick rundown of rules changes in addition to the 10th assistant and the three-day December signing date:
- A change in the calendar for official visits, allowing prospects to visit from April of their junior season into June. The move is complementary to an early signing period since official visits are difficult to coordinators during the high school (and college) season.
- Restrictions on hiring of individuals associated with a prospect to non-coaching (analyst/administrative) jobs. Saban has already taken a couple of heathy whacks of outrage at this rule (as has Gus Malzahn, among others) but he once again broke out his trusty verbal cudgel on Friday.
“I guess it’s the paranoia that we all have that somebody else is doing something that I’m allowed to do,” Saban said. “Everybody else is allowed to do it, but you choose not to do it. Just like when I used to go on the road in the spring. Everybody could have gone on the road in the spring. Urban Meyer and I were the only two that went out every day like assistant coaches. Everybody else complained about it, but they could have done it. It wasn’t against the rules. So they just don’t want to work?
“All these people that complain about staff sizes, we pay interns really, really little money. A very small amount of money. You would be shocked at how cheap the labor really is. Almost criminal. And why we have administrators complaining about how many cheap labor you have, trying to promote the profession, trying to do something to develop our game and the coaches in the game. How else do you develop guys? Then you pass the rule where we can’t ever hire a high school coach to do anything here. You can’t have a high school coach do camp. So do we do anything to develop coaching in high school? Pretty soon they’re going to make it so they can’t speak at clinics, because we pay them for that, so we can’t do that, either. So we really can’t do much to promote our game, so we can’t do anything to develop coaches either, by having a few extra guys on staff?”
- Restrictions on satellite camps.
Saban didn’t gloat about this one, but this was a clear SEC win, returning the “satellite camps” to their proper place on campus. There was no reaction from Jim Harbaugh, who is not talking to the media this spring.
- Limitation of annual football scholarships to a “hard” 25.
This was a major issue for the “oversigning” critics a few years ago. Technically, there has been a 25-scholarship limit all along but schools could sign more than that as long as they made their roster numbers work by August. Alabama, among others, has done that, and will probably continue to add top-ranked recruiting classes under the new rules, when all the ramifications are shaken out.
- In a safety-related move, two-a-day practices were banned. Saban’s view was that by eliminating two-a-days and pushing a team’s reporting date into late July, you create as many safety issues as you solve.
“I cannot see bringing our guys in in July to start practice and having four or five weeks for practice before we play our first game with summer school still going on,” Saban said. “I don’t disagree with a day off. I think if we thought two-a-days was too much we should have not made it longer. We should have just eliminated two-a-days and kept the number of practices a little less because its a long season.”
Saban indicated he may choose to take less than the full amount of allotted practice opportunities in order to avoid a six-month season and the toll it would take on players.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.