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NCAA officials are set to pass a one-year waiver next month to expand the 25-man football signing limit. Sources are reporting that the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee is finalizing a proposal that would change the signing limit this cycle in what’s being described as a one-year waiver of relief until a permanent policy is created.
The transfer portal has become a touchy subject, but a compromise between programs and the NCAA seems to be emerging. Under the new waiver, teams will be able to replace up to seven players who leave via the portal, raising the max signing number from 25 to 32 players. A school that loses fewer than seven players will only be allowed to replace up to the number which transferred—so a team that loses five players can sign only 30 players, not 32.
Relaxed transfer policies of late have left many schools well short of the overall 85 scholarship limit (a transfer used to be a big deal due to the automatic loss of eligibility). While schools are limited to 85 scholarship players a year, they are restricted to signing 25 players in a single class. The hope for the new rule is that coaches will still focus on high school recruiting instead of focusing their attention on the portal.
“We want to maintain the ability to recruit high school players,” said Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. “If we don’t have any corrective legislation, people aren’t going to do that. We’re trying to maintain high school recruitment and make sure universities hard hit by losses to the transfer portal are O.K.”
The waiver would expand the 2022 signing class, which is being assembled as we speak, four months before the early signing period starts.
The signing limit in football has long been a controversial issue. It was originally created to keep coaches from cutting or pushing out scholarship players in an effort to over-sign high school players or transfers. Some administrators think that these extra roster spots will undo the work of the original rules and that coaches will exploit the change. The agreement ultimately aims to replace only those players who choose the portal on their own and nothing else (like dismissal or the NFL).
College athletics are experiencing major changes on every front, and the answers will likely evolve with trial and error. For now, it seems that the portal signing process is next in line for a heavy makeover.
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