An NCAA rule that was put into effect in October 2011 and upheld by a narrow margin in February 2012 allows but does not mandate that Division I schools have to offer guaranteed multi-year athletic scholarships. Heretofore, scholarships had been awarded on a year-to-year basis and had to be renewed every year, but now they will have the option of offering multi-year contracts.
In the past, many times, student/athletes thought they were receiving a scholarship to attend and play for a school for the duration of their college career only to lose their scholarship after the first year leaving them with no way to pay for their next year in school. This certainly has been a known and lamented
Coaches, of course, in their eagerness to sign hot prospects did not dwell on the fact that it would be solely at the coaches discretion whether the athlete’s scholarship was renewed for the upcoming year.
As you might imagine, this new multi-year rule has opened up a fire-storm of debate between those for and those opposed to it. In fact, there are both pros and cons for the athletes being signed and for the schools that do or do not offer these more than one year grants.
Pros For The Multi-year Scholarship Plan
At the outset, this new rule sounds like it will be all end all boon to all future generations of college athletes. Proponents of the new rule are excited and happy that finally college athletes will not lose their scholarships after an injury or a year of poor performance.
To that end, the NCAA working group headed by Middle Tennessee State President Sidney McPhee felt in proposing the multi-year grants that these past troubling issues were properly addressed and that the student/athlete’s ultimate well-being was now being served by the NCAA.
Pros For The Schools
With this new rule, the schools, especially the wealthier schools could now offer multi-year scholarship contracts, which would put them at an enormous advantage over the schools not offering the more-than-one-year athletic awards when it was time to hit the yearly recruiting road. On signing day, February 1st, 2012, eight states including Ohio State, Auburn, Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, and Michigan were the first to implement the new rule amidst much grandstanding.
Cons For Multi-year Scholarships
Cons For Student Athletes
While the new rule states that schools are allowed to offer these new longer scholarships, it does not make it mandatory for all 330 Division I institutions leaving the athlete to be confused about which program is offering the best deal.
How so? There may be powerhouse programs like Alabama that are still offering one year contracts. Who would turn down a chance to play for Bama for a multi-year scholarship at a lesser known program?
On the surface, it would seem that scholarships lasting from two (for Junior colleges) and up to five years for 4-year institutions would be more secure than one offered for only one year that had to be renewed from year-to-year.
However, with all the money that is at stake in college sports, student/athletes and their parents should be realistic when viewing a multi-year scholarship offer. Coaches and institutions must have some wiggle room in these contracts to allow them to cancel them if the athlete behaves badly, refuses to practice, performs badly, gets injured, a new coach comes in or they simply find a better player for that position. Look for the new multi-year contracts to be extremely well-written to provide exit loopholes when the need arises.
Cons For The Member Institutions
The institutions that fail to implement the new rule will be at a distinct recruiting disadvantage leaving the cream of the crop to sign with other institutions offering the multi-year scholarships.
Programs offering the multi-year contracts could be left with a bunch of ineffective athletes or notorious bad boys that are incapable of winning games.
New incoming coaches could be stuck with athletes that don’t fit into his coaching style or system.
The full impact of the multi-year scholarships rule will probably not be seen for a couple of years or so, but look for it to work out to be a lot of fluff and not much meat as it is put to the test in the real world of college athletics.
College sports is huge business, these multi-year contracts will be written by the best contract lawyers available today, and they will surely prove to be not that much different in actuality as the one year contracts are. Athletes will still have to perform up to expectations, still have to behave well off campus, still have to have a strong work ethic, and still have to stay healthy in order to keep their scholarships.