For those football players who sign National Letters of Intent with Big Ten schools Wednesday, that signature will afford them a lot more scholarship security than their predecessors ever had.
According to Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, most of the Big Ten schools as well as some other schools across the collegiate landscape are signing the members of their Class of 2012 — football only — to four-year scholarships instead of the previous standard of one-year renewable deals.
The move comes a few months after the NCAA approved the use of the multi-year scholarship initiative, although it’s not yet a requirement. A full vote of the NCAA membership will take place later this month before the legislation is put into place across the board.
As the Plain Dealer writes, however, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany “encouraged” his membership to offer its football recruits the multi-year scholarships. “Most — if not all — Big Ten schools” have taken Delany’s “encouragement” to heart.
“Some may look at it and say it’s symbolic,” Chad Hawley, the Big Ten’s associate commissioner for compliance, told Lesmerises. “In the vast majority of cases with a one-year grant, if student-athletes came in and did what they needed to do, it was renewed. But at the same time, I think there’s a peace of mind that goes beyond symbolism.”
The four-year scholarship is not an ironclad guarantee that recruits will have a scholarship during that time period regardless, though; Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith noted that the scholarships can be pulled due to academic or off-field issues.
While the Big Ten is going all in on the four-year renewables, their conference heavyweight counterpart is taking a wait-and-see approach. “We took the less regulatory approach to see how this is implemented across the country,” SEC associate commissioner for compliance Greg Sankey said, adding that commissioner Mike Slive continues to support the multi-year initiative.
For this signing period, however, it will be up to the individual SEC schools to determine the scholarship course it will take. While Slive favors the multi-year scholarship approach, don’t look for any SEC school to voluntarily implement that approach.
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier was the most vocal of the conference coaches who are against anything beyond the current one-year renewable model, and the schools in that league are expected to sign off on that tack for this signing class. Of course, most view the multi-year scholarship model as a direct response to oversigning, specifically as that issue relates to the SEC.
Smith, the OSU AD, wants to make sure that people realize this is not a Big Ten issue, that “other places” in “need of a cultural change” need to take the same step his conference is taking.
“For those places that really need the cultural change, this is big,” Smith said. “There were some schools that ran players off because of their athletic ability, and so this helps. Now, those schools may not offer multi-year scholarships. But you would hope they would. And you would hope there’s pressure that would cause them to do it, because this isn’t how we should treat kids.
“But this is not a Big Ten issue, frankly. It’s in other places.”
The irony of Smith talking about institutions really needing a cultural change is too rich for me this early in the morning…