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NCAA Rule Changes Could Increase Parity in Football

ESPN’s Mitch Sherman has a report from the American Football Coaches Association discussing the set of deregulation proposals from the Rules Working Group that the Board of Directors will vote on at the NCAA Convention. The gist of the reaction to changes is a feeling that the bigger revenue schools will separate themselves and that the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” will increase with more places for the Joneses to pull ahead. Luke Zimmermann of Ohio State blog Land-Grant Holy Land echoes the concerns:

While the entirety of these changes would likely streamline both the NCAA’s governing efforts as well as schools’ own abilities to police their own, it’s not immediately self evident that many (if any) of these proposals create change for the better. While “competitive equality” is mentioned directly in the report as guiding forces in these regulations, while certainly beneficial to a program of Ohio State’s vast resources, the further you step away, the more ambiguous the net benefits become.

One thing that has not been discussed is whether the changes impact which recruits end up at which schools. If Alabama and Ohio State and the like have the money and manpower to make calls every day, send thousands of letters and posters, and see more recruits, but none of that sways any decisions, then the balance of power is maintained. That balance is mostly in their favor, but with a reasonable chance for mid-major schools to compete.

It is important to remember what does not change. Schools are not allowed more official visits yet. They also have the same number of evaluation days during the fall and spring periods, even though more coaches can be on the road at once. The cost of recruiting comes down as fast as schools spend more money on it. And this all assumes that recruits will not rebel against being inundated with contact with college coaches and favor schools that are (or have to be) more circumspect.

Considering the current football recruiting environment, most of the extra freedom and resources may be used to flip commitments to other big schools and protect against their own committed recruits flipping. Meanwhile, smaller schools may have their classes locked up and start working on juniors while the movement of top prospects keeps larger schools focused on the current class.

Essentially what will happen with football recruiting is that what was a very regimented process will become more fluid. More recruiting strategies will be tried and some of them will work. That has just as much a chance to increase parity as it does to decrease it.

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