Eight Simple Rules For Changing NCAA

Let's just call this column Eight Simple Rules for Changing the NCAA. <p> The NCAA, for all its problems, does a lot of things right. However, there are a few things that desperately need to change. Put me in charge of the NCAA for a week and give me the chance to implement the changes and here are the eight simple changes I would make.

1--- CHANGE BASEBALL SEASON: The way baseball season is set up, it's unfair for teams in the north and the way the season is set up, players miss way too much class. Baseball begins in February which means the teams from the Snow Belt spend as much time as possible in the south as cannon fodder for good southern teams which have good weather. The season ends just after school is out for the year and the College World Series is played in June.

Here's a novel idea. Start the season in April and make it so there are no games played except on weekends until mid-May when the spring term ends. Play the bulk of the season after May 15, end the regular season in mid-July and have the College World Series in August. Players who had passed the requisite number of hours in the fall and spring semesters could play after mid-May without going to class. Those who had not made it would have to go to class in the summer, but wouldn't be eligible to go on road trips except on weekends.

Doing this would increase attendance at games since there would be no overlap with basketball and it would give students who are in school in the summer something to do since there are presently no sports played at this time. Moving the College World Series to August would mean that the final games are played one or two weeks prior to the start of the college football season, so there is no dead period of NCAA sports. Finally, if the NCAA is truly interested in "STUDENT-ATHLETES" then why not do something like this which would truly mean less down time from class for the players. Who knows? It might even improve graduation rates.

2 --- EARLY SIGNING DAY FOR FOOTBALL: Why not have an early signing day for football? They do it for all other sports? Instead of a wholesale signing for football, however, why not do something sensible? Try limiting the early signings to something like 10 and make it so that no kid can do an early signing unless he's already passed his SAT/ACT and is on track to graduate with an acceptable grade point average. For kids who are good students as well as good football players, they could get the recruiting process out of the way and concentrate on their senior season. For kids who are sophomores and juniors, it would provide incentive to get their academic house in order.

3 --- MAKE FOOTBALL COACHES' CONTRACTS FROM JUNE TO JUNE: This would make it so that coaches who are part of a staff this is dismissed at the end of a season would get paid for a few extra months. While head coaches get monster contracts and when they are fired, there is a buyout of their contracts, assistant coaches go year to year, don't get paid nearly as much, and when a staff is fired, they face jeopardy for their families. Typically at NCAA institutions, contracts run from January 1 until December 31 so if the staff gets fired after the season, the assistants are placed in serious financial difficulty. That extra half year of pay for an assistant fired at the end of a season could mean that the coach has the option of seeking out the best job for his family rather than taking the first one that comes along out of the necessity of feeding the family.

4 --- RULES FOR FOOTBALL COACH FIRINGS/HIRINGS: Was there anything more ridiculous this year than the Fiesta Bowl? You had Urban Meyer and some of his staff coaching Utah but leaving immediately after the bowl game permanently for Florida. You had a couple of coaches who were going to UNLV. Over on the other sideline, you had the Pitt staff that's heading to Stanford. And then there was the Peach Bowl where Florida played its game with the lame duck staff from fired coach Ron Zook, although Zook was at Illinois where he is the new head coach.

Apply some common sense here. Make it a rule that coaches cannot be fired unless there is a breach of ethics until AFTER the last bowl game. Make it also a rule that coaches cannot be hired until AFTER the last bowl game. That way there would not be tampering with coaches at one school until after their seasons had been completed. January would be the month that coaches and staffs are hired and fired, so in addition to the regular season, the bowls, recruiting and spring football, we'd add another season --- hiring and firing.

Now, to do this it would require that National Signing Day is moved back ONE month until the first week in March. That would allow schools to make changes, bring in a new staff and allow the staff time to get their collective acts together in time for recruiting.

No one is going to convince me that irreparable harm would be done by making schools wait until after the bowls to fire coaches or to hire new ones. January would be the month that coaches can move from one staff to another. The coaching convention is that time of the year, too, so it would make far more sense.

5 --- CHANGE THE TRANSFER RULES FOR FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL: Allow one transfer before the junior year begins in football or basketball without the penalty of having to sit out a year. Under the present rules, players who transfer must sit out a year. Make the rule so that a player can do it prior to the junior year without penalty, but once they've made it to the junior year, they could still transfer but would have to sit the year. Most kids who want to transfer want to do it early on, so let the disgruntled ones leave without penalty. However, to ensure that a group of seniors don't' decide to all transfer en masse to one school because they think they can win a national championship together or they think that they can put the screws to a coach they don't like, put in the penalty for transfers after the junior year begins.

6 --- THE LARRY VETTEL RULE: This makes as much sense as any thought about scholarship reform for football that I've heard. Larry suggests that schools can sign kids to a fixed number (22 or 25) each year. If half the class transfers out after one year, the school can still only sign that fixed number the next year. If a lot of kids go early to the NFL draft, same thing. He also suggests that if X number of fifth year seniors haven't graduated then that number of scholarships is deducted from the fixed number of scholarships the school can offer.

This would reward schools that graduate their players or provide an atmosphere that is conducive to kids staying in school. They would have plenty of depth. The same couldn't be said for schools that consistently fail to graduate players in five years. They would see their numbers reduced to the point that they would be non-competitive.

7 --- FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS FOR DIVISION I: It's good enough for Division I-AA, Division II and Division III, so why isn't it good enough for Division I? Well, there is that little dealie of the bowls and all the money they are throwing at college football that acts as a kind of Novocain to deaden talk about playoffs. Here's the simplest way of all to get playoffs. Invite all the women's rights groups to the NCAA offices. Open up the books. Show them how much money is being added and then spent on women's sports under the present system. Then show them how much MORE money would be available to be spent on women's sports if there was a playoff system for college football. How long do you think it would take for the lawsuits to begin? How long do you think it would take for a few activist judges to force college football presidents to end this hypocritical system that we have now?

Don't think for one second that this wouldn't be almost as big as the Super Bowl, either. Playoffs would result in astronomical television ratings and far more money than the bowls have ever produced.

Well, you ask, if it's so easy, why don't we have it now?

A fine question, Grasshopper! Allow me to explain.

Because we have the bowls, college presidents don't have to go about the nasty job of firing football coaches as often. With the present system of a zillion bowls, just about every school that goes at least 6-5 gets a reward and it's rare when a coach takes teams to bowls has to be fired. With bowls, mediocrity is acceptable. Without bowls and with playoffs, excellence is demanded. So it is far easier to have the present system even if it doesn't make as much money … and even if the present system is NOT what the fans who pay the freight for college football are demanding.

8 --- CHANGE DRAFT RULES: In baseball, if a kid is drafted and he doesn't sign, he can go back to school. A kid doesn't have to declare for the baseball draft to be drafted. Make the same rules apply for football and basketball so that kids don't have to declare and if they can't reach an agreement with the team that drafts them, if their academic house is in order, they can return to school for another season of eligibility.

Also, find a way to get the NBA to agree to rules that will keep college basketball from being gutted every year. Make the rules so that if a kid doesn't sign out of high school, it's hands off until he's 20-years-old. That's the rule with college baseball and it works. It would work for college basketball, too.

There should also be a rule that would allow a kid to be drafted, sign and stay in school although the money is held in escrow. There are kids who should stay in school another year. If the NBA or NFL teams want the kid bad enough, they should be willing to put the money in escrow and let the kid stay in school one more year if it would help the kid. That way the team doesn't lose its draft choice and the kid has one more year to mature.

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