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Program Twilight: Gobbler Country Looks at a Collegiate “Draft”

It’s easy to say the word “Draft” and really difficult to put a finger on the actual execution of something like a Collegiate Player Draft, but we’ll take a shot. Some good players never receive an offer while some who have hit the golden tone are swimming in them. How do you even that out?

Would Sam have been “drafted”? Dunno but he sure was a winner.
John Schneider - SB Nation

Putting it on the Programs

Okay, don’t panic too hard, what we are talking about is part of recruiting, which will be a full article that’s up next. This is about some ideas on how to spread the top-level talent around the various leagues (no matter their conference or how NCAA sports is organized). The factors in dealing with a Collegiate draft aren’t long, but solving them is a serious issue (sometimes simple problems defy simple solutions):

  1. Regional attendance and availability to the athlete’s support group/family.
  2. Understanding that the athlete is supposed to be a student and may prefer a specific school environment for non-athletic purposes. (The student might not want to go ‘there’ for reasons other than sports.)
  3. The voluntary nature of the attendance must remain with the athlete. A professional style draft would require a professionalization of the participating teams and that will be covered in a future article.

So, the goal is to make this “voluntary” that means doing some work on the Program side of the process to provide some sort of limiting factor that balances out their access to available talent, no the other way around. There are at least three functional things that might be able to be leveraged to help limit the size and talent factor of players that would function like a ‘draft’ of sorts; available scholarships, number of personnel on the squad, and limits to the quality of the players on the squad.

Laying out the Initial Rules

There needs to be a set of fixed or updated ‘givens’ before talking about limiting the access to high value talent. Let’s highlight those first:

Squads Must be Limited to Scholarship-only Players

The first potential limiter is scholarship availability and fielding potential. As a practical matter, there are currently 85 active athletic scholarships allowed each normally enabled FBS football team. Each sport has limits, but we are talking about football at the moment. The reality is also that many athletes on a team are not actually on a scholarship. There are active and inactive rosters that push the 100 mark, or more. Negotiate a uniform roster size, and then prohibit non-scholarship players from being in the program. Most folks think that 85 scholarships are fine and I’m inclined to agree. I’d bend in negotiations and make it an even 100, but that’s a huge amount of money to carry especially for out of state students.

Star Scholarships are Bi-directional Five-year Obligations

That means an offer of a scholarship involves both player and program to commit to a full five-year program. Make this a mix of year to year and full five-year contracts if necessary. Only 4- and 5-star players are limited to 5-year contracts. This means that a program would be required to only offer a 5-year scholarship offer to high end recruits. The return is that the player would be required to finish his eligibility in that program and be liable for the entire balance of the 5-year scholarship if he leaves without a degree, or eligibility exhaustion. So, a redshirt Sophomore with a full scholarship who went out for the NFL draft early would have to pay back the entire amount paid; presumably at least 3 years. Of course, there is the reality of voluntarily surrendering scholarships, academic ineligibility, and other contractual concerns that would require ironing out.

These two rules would tend to militate against program hopping and early outs to the NFL. Only eligible graduates would be able to leave the program without penalty.

Incentivizing Good Shopping Habits

Now for some ideas about how the NCAA could promote the spread of high value talent across the existing structures.

Build a rational NCAA approved rating service and process that grades a player and assigns an NCAA approved grade to that player’s potential. Once that is done, then assign grade totals to each program based on a fixed formula that includes program success, coaching tenure, and existing program class availability.

Example: Alabama, LSU, and Clemson would have a total of 1000 points for recruiting at the end of the 2019 season. Purdue, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt might carry 2500 points. This would be based on the fact that within the last 5 seasons for the same program there were so many draftees, championships, wins and losses (whatever the formula is). With the grading system for the players put into place, a 4-star player might be graded at 450 points. If the player is offered a scholarship by LSU, that gives them a balance of 550 points for other players.

A rational point system would self-limit the programs by making them balance grabbing superstar players with normal work-a-day players at 3- and 2- star ratings.

Using the 5-Year Scholarship Requirement

Another approach would be a strict limit on the number of 4- and 5-star scholarships in that list of scholarships, and the player would be obligated to complete their undergraduate eligibility.

It’s really important to make the process open, honest, and fair between all of the programs in the leagues. If you haven’t found it alarming that you see players shrinking their offers down to 10 from a supposed higher number, then you are happy with the current situation and winning at any cost is how you see your program operating. Most collegiate bound athletes are lucky to get one or two offers. There is nothing “healthy” about programs shot-gunning offers. Offers made in conditional faith are accepted on condition and consequently are meaningless.

If you have ideas, comment below. The poll is a simple one this time.


Simple Question: Does FBS Need Some sort of Collegiate Draft?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Emphatic YES.
    (3 votes)
  • 11%
    Maybe? Even if it could be authorized would it actually work?
    (4 votes)
  • 63%
    Absolutely No... Not an idea worth considering. There is no practical way to implement one.
    (23 votes)
  • 16%
    I’d like something, but really there isn’t the functional movement to design one that was fair to everyone. Too Much Money involved.
    (6 votes)
36 votes total Vote Now

Introducing the Next Article

Neither the players nor the programs ultimately benefit from the current process. Yes, there are short term functional (and monetary) benefits; but the program is supposed to exist for the benefit of the player’s educational opportunity, not the enrichment of the program or the player. That incongruity leads us to the sore spot in the recruiting game; namely “The Recruiting Game”.