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New rule would offer roster relief amid transfers

The Division I football oversight committee is considering a one-year waiver that would allow football programs to go over the yearly 25-player signing limit, according to American Football Coaches Association director Todd Berry.

In the proposal, which Berry makes clear is far from finalized, college programs would be able to recoup an initial counter for every current player that transfers, up to seven players and a max of 32 initial counters. As it stands now, college coaches can only sign 25 initial counters per year, which includes high school prospects and transfers coming into the program.

Currently, if a team loses seven players to transfer, but has already signed 25 initial counters, they are not able to bring in any more players. Even if they are under the 85-total-scholarship limit, coaches are limited by the 25 initial counters. That has become a concern for coaches as more and more players are entering the transfer portal without penalty.

“We’ve been working on this since June, and it has gone round and round, the subject matter is really important to our coaches right now because, quite honestly, with the one-time transfer and with NIL, all of your players are basically potentially in the portal and not just the ones that are looking for more playing time,” Berry said. “The problem that our coaches were facing was the fact that if I sign 25 players in the December and February signing dates, then that leaves me with no initials to be able to handle the five offensive linemen that I might lose in the summer of next year. So, everybody was feeling like they had to hold a significant number of scholarships back with the idea that I’ve got to hold them back, because I don’t know exactly what I’m going to lose next summer.”

The committee has wanted to find ways to discourage coaches from purging their rosters by just suggesting they will have as many initial counters as they want, no matter how many players transfer. But also wanted to give programs the opportunity to stay at or near the 85-scholarship limit if they do lose a significant number of players to the transfer portal.

The waiver is still being deliberated and Berry is hopeful it will be voted on in October, but says they are getting closer to an improvement of the current situation.

If the committee were to approve the waiver, it would go into effect immediately. It would cover schools for any current player who transfers after the fall semester in 2021 and the spring semester in 2022.

Coaches will be able to go over the 25 limit in the December early signing period if they have a player leave after the fall semester and will then have the opportunity to bring in more high school prospects or transfers if they lose anyone after December, into July.

“We’ve got a real problem that’s brewing and I appreciate oversight looking at it as a real problem.” Berry said. “We need to get this done, because I think it’s very difficult on our coaches, it’s been really difficult, I think on the high school players, high school parents that are actually looking to get recruited and maybe only have a couple of offers right now just because the nature of where things are at.”

Berry says some college coaches have expressed to him that they will be taking far fewer recruits in this 2022 class because they are unsure of how many initial counters they will have to use if players transfer out. Couple that with the extra year of eligibility granted to players because of COVID-19 and coaches are trying to manage their rosters without the ability to bring in the same number of players that are going out.

“We could go back to June and go through all of the different semblances of a legislation that we’ve talked about because it’s gone all over the place, but I think we’re closer to finding something,” Berry said. “I would again suggest, and I’ve actually sent out an email to our membership, understand that this is not finalized. Don’t plan on it yet because we’d like to get there, like, back in June, but we haven’t yet, so there still could be some changes.”

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