Just when things seemed so calm after the turbulence of last season's 4-8 record, Joker Phillips resigns for what ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy says are potential NCAA recruiting violations. Staff turnover, even in the summer, is something you can live with, but staff turnover because of a run-in with the NCAA? That's a completely different story.
In a best case scenario, Florida moved quickly and it's pro-active approach will result in a minor violation with a slap on the wrist from the NCAA. In Florida's favor is the fact that it's the only school in the SEC that hasn't had a single major violation in any sport since 1990. That has to count for something. Obviously, Florida runs a tight ship and doesn't tolerate playing outside the lines.
If, however, there are major violations that could result in sanctions, it's not a good omen for Will Muschamp as he tries to dig Florida football out from last year's mess and back to a level of on the field prosperity. This is the last thing Muschamp needed.
Everything you need to know about why the NCAA is clueless is in this list:
Derita Ratcliffe, UAB, women's sports administrator Lisa Sweany, Armstrong Atlantic director of athletics, Division II, no football Douglas Zipp, Shenandoah athletic director, Division III football school Lynn Oberling, Smith College, athletic director, Division II all-women's school Noreen Morris, Northeast conference commissioner, Division IAA Sue Lauder Fitchburg State athletic director, Division III football school Erin Lind, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference commissioner, Division III conference Kristy Bayer, Arkansas Tech, women's volleyball coach
What do they have in common? They make up eight of the 11 positions on the NCAA football rules advisory committee. These are the people who supported the Saban Rule proposal (no snaps until 10 seconds elapse from the play clock).
If the makeup of this committee doesn't tell you the NCAA either needs a complete overhaul or the power schools need to bolt and make their own organization complete with their own set of rules, then you are beyond help. Not that they've come to me and asked for help – or that they will – but here are what I call "Rules for (Football) Radicals: A Common Sense Plan for College Football Moving Forward."
1. Throw out the current recruiting restrictions and rewrite the rulebook: Coaches get paid millions of dollars and are held responsible for a player that is a magnet for trouble. Eliminate these silly recruiting rules that prevent a head coach from sitting down and talking to a kid's teachers, guidance counselors, etc. Eliminate these silly rules that restrict the amount of contact a coaching staff can have with a kid and his parents. These are decisions that will affect the rest of the kid's life so give the coaches, players and parents more time to know each other and give the coaches the chance to make a better evaluation of a kid's character, work ethic, etc. Rewrite the rulebook, streamline it with common sense rules and put some teeth into enforcement. Make the punishment so severe that it will make every head coach and assistant think a second, third and fourth time before taking liberties with the rulebook. If a coach knowingly circumvents the rules, eliminate his ability to coach at the college level for FIVE years, no exceptions. If a booster circumvents the rules, fine the school $1 million and take away any chance of postseason play for FIVE years.
2. Early signing period of June 25-30: Coaches are allowed to go on the road to recruit in May and they have camps on campus in June. Allow an early signing for a kid who has been on campus for camp. Make it at the end of June so that recruiting doesn't carry over into July, the only time of the year when coaches can take vacation time.
3. Give athletes the choice of a scholarship or a paycheck: Let's face it. There are kids who need to play college football but are in no way, shape or form able to compete in classrooms or simply think they are so good that they don't need college. Give the athletes the choice: They can take a paycheck and play for the school or take a scholarship. Make the paycheck $1,000 a month and give the athlete room and board to go with it. To ensure there isn't any hanky panky, any school caught giving an athlete a car, more money or extra benefits not outlined in the new rule book would lose TEN scholarships a year for TWO years. An athlete who chooses a paycheck counts as TWO scholarships and if he transfers out, the school loses another. Except for a legitimate injury, an athlete taking a paycheck would not get a redshirt year. To ensure a team isn't made up completely of kids who play for pay, limit each school to five at any given time, exceptions. Scholarship athletes would have five years to play four while paycheck athletes would have only four years.
4. Every athlete gets one free transfer: Let every athlete have one free transfer where he doesn't have to sit out but to eliminate the hanky panky that could go on, any school that takes a transfer loses a scholarship. In other words, taking in a transfer will cost a school TWO scholarships, one for the transfer and one that's lost for the duration that the transfer is playing.
5. Allow 22 signees per year, PERIOD: This would eliminate the silly practice of oversigning and force better roster management by coaching staffs. This would also eliminate counting back scholarships to the previous year, etc., another silly practice. If kids transfer, take medical hardships or simply quit, there will be no oversigning the next year or manipulating the rules with early entry players to compensate.
6. All scholarships are for FIVE years: This along with the strict 22 scholarships per year would eliminate coaches weeding out kids by refusing to renew their scholarships. This would also encourage players to work harder to get their undergraduate degree because the sooner they graduate, the sooner they can work on their graduate degree, paid for by their football scholarship.
7. Scholarship athletes get $250 per month to cover incidentals: That's $3,000 a year beyond the cost of the scholarship. That covers incidentals, gas for the car, date money, etc. For schools, coaches or boosters who think they can enhance the scholarship see #1. The penalties would be the same, harsh enough that it would discourage breaking the rules.
8. One round trip ticket per year per player: For kids living more than 200 miles from campus provide one round trip plane ticket per year. For kids living closer, $250 to cover gas or bus tickets.
9. 65 schools is not enough: This means the power conferences are going to have to share some of the wealth. The current model of 65 schools from the five power conferences does not allow up and coming schools who can grow their program the opportunity for upward mobility. But membership should have a price. For example, a 40,000-seat stadium or five years of averaging a minimum of 30,000 fans per home game should raise the bar high enough to eliminate the hangers on without setting it so high that a school with aspirations can't work toward that standard. This might cause some serious conference realignment for the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West and Conference USA and it might eliminate the Mid-American Conference and most of the Sun Belt, but at least it would allow a school like UCF or Houston, which just built a brand new 40,000-seat stadium, a chance to move on up.
10. Only CHAMPIONS allowed in the playoff: It's ridiculous that Alabama won the 2011 national championship when it didn't even win its division in the SEC. Argue all you want that Alabama was one of the two best teams in the country, it's ridiculous that LSU had to play in the SEC championship game while Alabama got an extra week to rest weary bodies and one more game to dissect to come up with a winning game plan in the national championship game with LSU. Whether it's a four- or eight-team playoff, the standard should be simple: if you don't win your conference championship then you shouldn't be allowed to play for the national championship. If you don't win your conference, then go to a bowl game. If you expanded the top division to eight conferences then you could have an eight-team playoff made up of the eight conference champs.
11. Make Notre Dame join a conference: For all the talk about how special Notre Dame is and all the tradition – yadda, yadda, yadda – make Notre Dame play by the same rules as everyone else, which means join a conference and abide by the rules of the conference. If Notre Dame wants to compete for national championships, then Notre Dame should have to join a conference and win the conference championship for the right to compete. Why should Notre Dame get the benefit of an extra week of rest and prep time for the playoffs (if they are one of the best teams) while other schools have to slog it out in a conference championship games?
12. Long term health insurance for debilitating injuries and concussions: Any athlete who suffers a debilitating injury (or injuries) or multiple concussions should have the benefit of long term health insurance to cover future medical costs. That's just common sense.
13. Get a handle on 7-on-7 summer tournaments: We know how corrupt the AAU basketball circuit has gotten over the years. As bad as that might be, the 7-on-7 football circuit has the potential to be even worse. On the AAU basketball circuit, money often changes hands through the shoe companies and the travel teams and since the NCAA is (a) already in bed with Nike and (b) has no power to subpoena Nike or Under Armour or adidas, the chances of getting caught for essentially selling a player are drastically reduced. Some folks seem to think the answer is eliminate the shoe companies' ability to sponsor teams, but doing that would (a) keep teams from traveling to events where coaches can see them and (b) mean fewer scholarship options for kids. Somewhere in all this mess is an answer that makes sense.
14. Make the spring games relevant while helping out D1AA: Instead of a boring, glorified scrimmage that really is nothing more than a dog and pony show, make the spring game a better test of how far players have come by allowing games against DIAA teams. This would eliminate the will take a beating for a paycheck games in the fall and would force a better fall schedule, which the fans would certainly appreciate, and help the DIAA teams both financially and on the field since they wouldn't get beaten up during the regular season when they have their own conference schedules to contend with. It would still be a big event for the DIAA teams, would probably draw a larger than spring game crowd and a loss wouldn't be nearly as embarrassing for a Division I team.
15. Tuition until you graduate: If a kid can't graduate in the four or five years he's in the program, provide tuition money for him until he completes his degree. While there are some kids who are just lazy and trying to scrape by with the minimum to stay eligible to play, there are kids out there who try hard and who need that diploma. We're not talking a lot of money here but we are talking about doing what's right.
Is losing Joker Phillips a serious blow to the Florida football program and to Will Muschamp?
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