In 2013, the NCAA attempted to deregulate its recruiting rule book. After decades and decades of stacking rule and regulation on top of one another, college sports' governing body recognized the obvious and admitted it could not legislate Alabama and Florida Atlantic onto a level playing field. The NCAA attempt to unshackle itself (and its coaches) from rules that could not possibly be enforced or rules that offered no tangible competitive advantage one way or another, and its constituents hated it.
Two years later the issues have changed, but the thinking has not.
In a post-spring teleconference Wednesday, a number of ACC coaches came out against oncoming cost of attendance scholarships. “There’s no question, it’s a nightmare. The intent is good because we’re finally modernizing the scholarship to reflect 2015,” Clemson's Dabo Swinney told the Post and Courier. “But there’s some negative unintended consequences, and there’s no question it’s not a level playing field, and it is going to be the No. 1 topic at all the coaches meetings because it’s not good.”
The issue isn't that athletes will now receive something extra beyond the quote-unquote full scholarship, it's that the "extra" won't be the same at every school. And coaches can't handle it.
According research by Brad Wolverton at the Chronicle of Higher Education, COA scholarship amounts range from less than $2,000 (Georgia Tech) to more than $5,000 (Auburn). For what it’s worth, Clemson ($3,608), South Carolina ($4,151) and Florida State ($3,884) plan to offer similar amounts. Virginia Tech will offer $2,770, while Louisville will provide $5,202. One thing to keep in mind here: these figures were calculated by universities and reported up the food chain without the thinking they would one day affect athletic scholarships. Give it a year or two and let schools on the lower end of the spectrum, like a Georgia Tech, change the way they count their beans and we'll see these numbers start to normalize.
Said Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer: “The way we’ve done it, where there could be tremendous difference in what we give as opposed to another school is able to give, we’ve never done anything like that in college football before. I’m disappointed. I think it’s not the way to go. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of that. I would hope not.”
These coaches would be comfortable shackled to a sinking life boat as long as it meant their rivals had to sit directly to their left and right. After spending their entire careers in the system, it's all they know. Nevermind the fact that most recruits will never view an offer from, say, Clemson and Wake Forest the same no matter the circumstances.
As Stewart Mandel wrote for FoxSports.com this week, "Recruits spend a year or more building relationships with coaching staffs, visiting schools, studying which have the best opportunities to play early and/or which offer the best path to the NFL. I just don't see a kid weighing all of that, and then ultimately making his decision based on a scholarship check... I'm glad cost of attendance got passed, but my guess is a year from now, no one will still be talking about it."
It's fear of the unknown that makes change so hard for coaches to accept progress. Look at the mountain that's been made out of the molehill that are satellite camps this week. Both the SEC and ACC commissioners and NCAA president Mark Emmert have issued statements on satellite camps this week. As Dan Wolken wrote for USA Today, "In an industry that has spent the past few years trying to slim down the rulebook and untangle regulations on things that don't really need to be regulated, we're suddenly going to start making more rules to target something that doesn't hurt anyone?"
A piece of advice for coaches: change is coming. Not everything is going to be equal anymore, and that's okay.