Rob Ash

FCS coach lobbies to end NCAA’s graduate transfer rule

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When quarterback Vernon Adams decided to transfer from Eastern Washington to Oregon, Montana State head coach Rob Ash said he would “cheer for him.” But the move has Ash questioning the FCS’s standing within the grand scheme of major college football.

Adams was one of the best players at the FCS level. Ash is worried that his school and others of its ilk might develop into a feeder system for much bigger programs.

“We’re Division I like the other level,” Ash said in a telephone interview, via ESPN.com. “Our guys need to start and finish at the same school. We cannot be perceived as a farm system or Triple-A ballclub or anything like that.”

A loophole in the NCAA’s rules has been exploited in recent years. A graduate student is allowed to transfer without sitting out a season if his previous school doesn’t offer graduate studies in his preferred area. It’s become a way for student-athletes to control when and where they play.

Russell Wilson made the rule famous when he transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin, and Adams is simply the latest example of a talented player taking advantage of the situation.

“I’m really opposed to this rule the way it’s starting to be manipulated by FBS schools,” Ash continued. “As FCS coaches, we need to lobby now to get this rule changed. It’s going to be potentially a very difficult, bad situation for FCS with really good players that we recruit, we develop, being tempted to move on for that fifth and final year.”

Fellow FCS coaches are worried they won’t get to benefit from their work with certain players.

“It’s not what the rule is intended for,” Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin said. “… Ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed [Adams] from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level.”

Due to Baldwin’s stance on the transfer, he won’t allow Adams to work out in the team’s facilities before his transfer is official.

The school, however, still supports Adams’ decision.

“We wish Vernon the best in his future endeavors and thank him for all that he has done for Eastern,” athletic director Bill Chaves said in a statement. “The chance for him to pursue this opportunity is certainly a unique one given the fifth-year transfer rule. We are not sure that this was the actual intent of the legislation when it was approved, but it is the rule currently in place that we and potentially other schools have to adhere to. We will continue to work through the process of this transfer based on the rule as it stands now.”

NCAA makes recommendations to reduce contact in practice

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With the football offseason getting ready to move into summer camp mode leading up to the start of the season, the NCAA released a new set of recommended guidelines regarding player safety with a special emphasis on concussion treatments and practice habits. Among the recommendations was a limit of two contact practices per week during the season. The new guidelines are a result of months of collaborative work between the NCAA, College Athletic Trainers’ Society, various medical organizations, coaches and conference commissioners.

Unlike official rule changes, the recommendations released by the NCAA on Monday are said to be working in “real-time,” which allows the NCAA to change or modify the guidelines on the fly as more research becomes available rather than wait for the next season to come around.

“Medicine really is a process that’s much more fluid, which led us to the guideline approach rather than pursuing legislation,” NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said. “The words we like to use are ‘living, breathing.’ We’d much rather have a living, breathing document that can shift based on emerging evidence.”

However, because these are simply guidelines, it is still up to the conferences and schools to choose to adopt them and make them a standard. The NCAA cannot punish a school or conference for operating under other methods or policies, but it can say “We told you so.” Because this was a combined effort, it is expected these guidelines will be adopted throughout the sport.

“These guidelines are strict in concept but flexible in design, allowing coaches ample freedom to design practice schedules while limiting the amount of full-contact situations that players will experience,” said Montana State University head football coach Rob Ash. “There is no doubt in my mind that coaching staffs across the country at all levels will enthusiastically endorse these guidelines and incorporate them into their football practice regimen.”

The Pac-12 has already instituted a policy limiting conference members to two contact practices per week. Some of these philosophies have started to spread across all levels of football, including the NFL where some teams have rethought the way practices are run.

Here is how the guidelines read, according to the NCAA;

  • Preseason: For days when schools schedule a two-a-day practice, live contact practices are only allowed in one practice. A maximum four live contact practices may occur in a given week, and a maximum of 12 total may occur in the preseason. Only three practices (scrimmages) would allow for live contact in greater than 50 percent of the practice schedule.
  • Inseason, postseason and bowl season: There may be no more than two live contact practices per week.
  • Spring practice: Of the 15 allowable sessions that may occur during the spring practice season, eight practices may involve live contact; three of these live contact practices may include greater than 50 percent live contact (scrimmages). Live contact practices are limited to two in a given week and may not occur on consecutive days.

When it comes to player safety, especially regarding concussions and other forms of head trauma, there really is no bad way to go about establishing new guidelines. The Pac-12 changed their habits last season and any fears about the level of play may have been put to rest as the conference continued to gain praise on a national competitive level. How will these new guidelines be received throughout the country? That remains to be seen, but feel free to share your reactions in the comment section.