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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New dreams

National Signing Day is almost over.  Smiling young men locking in a college education and at the same time acquiring the opportunity to play college football.

Or so it would seem.

If you check the numbers, a lot of these schools have signed more players than they have scholarships available.  Some have even signed more than the 25 per year they are allowed by NCAA rules.  How?

First, teams are counting on players not being able to qualify academically.  Many of these kids will attend 'prep' schools with hopes of being eligible the next year.  Second, transfers of existing players will free up scholarships.  Finally, some of these recruits will be told to enroll at their own expense and walk on.

All these options are available, because the system is weighted against the players.  It starts with the National Letter of Intent.  This is not necessary to play college football.  But college football programs love them, because they bind the player to the school.  Once so bound, a player cannot leave a program without permission, unless they want to lose two years of eligibility.  They are stuck, coaching changes, mistreatment, or personal circumstances be damned.

The schools are not so bound.  Their only commitment is the scholarship agreement.  And those are one year agreements.  Many of the previously mentioned transfers are because the players were told there would not be a scholarship for them the next year.

In short, the players' options are taken away and schools' options are left wide open.

I love college football.  I'm not a big proponent of cash payments to players.  But giving all the power of these young men's futures to football coaches whose commitment to winning and climbing the coaching ladder, that's just wrong.  I don't doubt that at lower levels of college football the dangers of abuse of power are few.  But at the levels where the stakes are highest, the money greatest, and winning ever more important, I have no doubt abuses do occur regularly.

And that is why I can't celebrate Signing Day.

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