Blog Entry

Lawsuit seeks to alter NCAA scholarship policy

Posted on: October 27, 2010 12:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The fundamentals of the NCAA's scholarship policies regarding major college football have been in place for a while now: no more than 85 players on scholarship at a time, no more than 25 new scholarships issued in a year, each scholarship must be renewed after each year.

According to former Rice student and football player Joseph Agnew (and at Rice, it's fair to apply both those terms), it's those policies that led to his football scholarship being "canceled" in the wake of an Owl coaching change. Which is why he's filed a class-action lawsuit in an effort to force the NCAA to change two of them:

The lawsuit accuses the NCAA and its member schools of violating federal antitrust laws and asks the court to rule the NCAA's limit on scholarships and prohibition of multi-year grants unlawful. It also asks for a jury trial ...

"The NCAA is reviewing the allegations," the NCAA's Bob Williams said in an e-mail to USA TODAY. "However, it should be noted that the award of athletic scholarships on a one-year, renewable basis is the more typical approach taken within higher education for talent-based and academic scholarships in general."
Agnew's argument is that if Rice either had more than 85 scholarships to distribute or didn't have the option to leave his scholarship unrenewed, he would still be at Rice. If the suit is successful, the NCAA could be forced to either increase or abandon the 85-scholarship limit on FBS rosters, or allow programs to offer recruits multiyear packages that would eliminate the need for an annual renewal.

Either development would change the face of college football as we know it. Remove the limit of 85, and rosters at the sport's "football factory" programs return to the pre-limit days of 100-plus scholarship players, sucking much of the parity out of the game; allow schools to offer multiyear packages and the pendulum could swing the other way, as smaller schools willing to take a chance could offer academic- or character-risk prospects four-year guarantees larger programs might not be willing to extend.

The potential impact makes this a story that must be followed as it proceeds through the courts. Unfortunately, this blogger is certainly no lawyer and has no idea how much merit the suit carries. (Though he can say the "academic scholarship" analogy drawn by the NCAA doesn't appear to hold water; academic scholarships have specific performance requirements spelled out in writing for their renewal, whereas football scholarships can be annulled simply on the head coach's whim, a key difference.)

That the suit hasn't drawn more attention to date suggests that it may not come to much, but until we know for certain, it's possible that a previously unheard-of former defensive back from Rice could become one of the most important figures in college football.

Category: NCAAF

Since: Sep 27, 2009
Posted on: October 27, 2010 9:22 pm

Lawsuit seeks to alter NCAA scholarship policy

You dragged the utterly irrelevant Title IX into this? Don't tell're a Republican, right?

I'm pretty much apolitical these days. (Read "a pox on both their houses.") But Title IX is in fact irrelevant here. What we have is an athletic association (the NCAA) which has a set of rules in place which grant great advantages to the schools and nearly no advantages (but many potential restrictions) to the student athletes.

Scholarships, once granted, should not be a matter of whether or not some new coach thinks a student-athlete is "good enough", or maybe has a chance to recruit another athlete that is better. What they should be a matter of is a student-athlete's work. As in "do they try" Are they doing their best? Are they going to class and working hard both off and on the field?

The current rule is shameful. Coaches can leave anytime they want. Student-athletes cannot. Student-athletes can even be restricted on where they transfer, or even not granted a release (see Bryce Brown at Tennessee) if a coach decides to be an arse.

If a school recruits a player and gives them a scholarship, so long as that player is busting their butt in class and in practice, they ought to keep that scholarship even if it turns out the coaches misjudged their talent and/or potential.

Since: Sep 27, 2009
Posted on: October 27, 2010 9:13 pm

Lawsuit seeks to alter NCAA scholarship policy

As I said elswhere...

As long as a student athlete is making a good faith effort to participate and is otherwise doing everything required, I don't think that schools should be allowed to pull (or non-renew) their scholarships. Sometimes even highly recruited players who bust their arse just don't pan out. This rule needs to be changed, especially in light of the way acceptance of a scholarship ties a player to a school and the requirements to sit out a year if they should decide to transfer...not to mention the way schools can limit their transfer options by refusing to release them.

Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: October 27, 2010 1:01 pm

Lawsuit seeks to alter NCAA scholarship policy

Maybe Agnew can sue the Supreme Court over the Title IX ruling, as that is why he lost his scholarship.  Well, that, and the fact that the new coach thought he was not good enough.

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