Understanding the Numbers Game

Managing your roster, or player personnel, is simply one of the most important jobs in college football. With the early success that new UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and his program are having in recruiting, it continues to raise questions about how are they going to fit new players in when they only have 11 or so seniors on scholarship?

How will they stay within the 85 limit allowed in Division-1 football? How many kids can they possibly offer? What are the contact or phone call limits when it comes to recruiting? The questions go on and on and your roster is always being manipulated.

You are who your players are, so you'd better be right on who you target. That's all in the realm of recruiting and compliance.

The only thing that is constant with college football rosters is how they change every year. They are always in a constant state of adjustment and flux. You are always dancing with the number of players on your team, both in terms of scholarship count as well as your overall count. Although there is no set number for roster size there obviously is for scholarship count.

Let's start with the NCAA limit on scholarships for what used to be known as Division-1 football, which is 85. Of those, only 25 'initials', or first year additions, can be made per year. Eighty-Five is the maximum number of players you can have on scholarship at any one time during the course of the school year. Now that does not have to be the same 85, because if a kid graduates, is declared medically unable to compete, leaves school due to illness, personal problems, academic suspension, or legal issues, then you may replace him with anyone currently on your roster or who has been admitted to your school and will be attending the next term.

Additionally, there are always kids on the Husky roster who initially entered as walk-ons and have subsequently been rewarded with assistance. Because they did not sign a letter of intent, you don't have to count them as an 'initial', but they do count toward the overall scholarship count. The one difference is that you only have to count them during the particular term they are receiving aid.

Washington, as a quarter school, actually has three times during a school year that it can change who is on scholarship. Once you put them on the 85 count then they become a 'counter'.

All scholarships in football must be for full tuition and books, plus room and board for that quarter. It is important to realize that scholarships are one-year deals. There are no more four-year scholarships and there hasn't been for decades, but it is generally understood that once a student-athlete enrolls on campus, their scholarship is a renewable deal - provided, of course, that they maintain standard academic progress and stay out of trouble.

They have five years to play four, meaning you can only be on aid for a maximum of five years to use your four years of playing eligibility, and that number starts once you enroll and take a full load of classes.

If you were to leave school for duty in the military or for a church sponsored mission, you are allowed to go over the five years. When you are gone they can replace you as a counter with another player. A new rule has been put into effect that will now penalize student-athletes if they want to change from their original school after their service. In the past a student-athlete became recruitable again when they left for service, but no longer - unless they want to lose a year of eligibility as a normal transfer student.

Coaches and administrators know there will always be comings and goings in your 85 count, and that number must be set when practices start in the fall and again when classes start a month later.

For fall practices prior to your first game, the NCAA restricts you to a total count of 105 players. Once you go through training camp in August and play your first game, you may add to your roster that following Monday all the other players on your team (For decades our squad size was 110-120 in the spring and 130-150 in the fall. For the past five years or so the numbers have been 75-85 in the spring and 95-100 during the season).

Coach Sarkisian had a roster of 101 this spring.

The 25 'initial', or new, scholarship kids do not count until they report, are accepted into school, and start practicing. But, if you bring in only 20, then you can still add five more during the subsequent winter and spring quarters as long as you stay under the total maximum number of 85.

Simple math tells us that teams can't always sign 25 players per class, because 25 times 4 equals 100, and no team can have 100 student-athletes on scholarship. However, redshirting helps defer some of those numbers, and not only gives the player an extra year to get bigger, faster and stronger, but it also gives coaches one more year to try and play the numbers in their favor.

Within your 85 and 25 numbers, a staff wants to maintain a balance, not only when it comes to specific playing positions, but also with regard to years of eligibility on scholarship. For example, signing seven receivers or only one offensive lineman in a single class can eventually have a devastating result on your balancem across the board. That's where position switches can also address areas of need, as well as depth and balance.

Knowing most of your leaders and best players are usually your seniors and red-shirt seniors, you want to honor those kids who stayed with you for the full 4-5 years. They are older, wiser, and more developed as ball players and in the long run in college football you win more games with 21-22 year olds than with 18-year olds.

Washington signed 19 new kids for next year and they have somewhere around 67 or 68 players currently on aid. That puts them potentially over their 85 count, but you always have to figure on attrition. Not all of the kids they signed will make it into school and not all the kids that made it out of spring camp will make it into fall camp.

They may have to ask some of their signees to delay their enrollment until winter quarter, when spots in the total of 85 open up due to graduation. This is called 'greyshirting', as opposed to redshirting which means they go to school but save a year of their eligibility by not playing in games (Redshirters are counters while greyshirters are not).

This worked well with running back Demitrius Bronson this past year, and often it is used on kids who are coming off an injury and need to finish their rehab. It is also used when student-athletes need to continue to finish up some of their 16 CORE class requirements for enrollment at UW. Greyshirts don't count anywhere until they actually enroll full-time at the university. Because Bronson was an initial - he signed a letter of intent the previous February - when he enrolled in January he became both a counter and an initial.

Sixteen core classes is another number that basically dictates admissions anywhere. They have recently added an extra year of math of Algebra and above. A core unit is considered a full year of study in the 9th grade and above. The 16 core units are further broken down to include only the academic areas of English, Social Studies, Math, Foreign Language and Science.


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