A year ago, Jake Matthews walked on to the Arizona football team. He played in eight games as a special teams player and a reserve linebacker. Not All Pac-12 material, but he still provided a much greater contribution than your typical walk-on freshman. Heading into his sophomore season, head coach Rich Rodriguez would like to reward Matthews with a scholarship. Only, doing so would actually count as using two scholarships for his 2015 class.
“It’s a joke,” Rodriguez told the Arizona Daily Star. “Jake Matthews is earning a scholarship right now. But because of the silly rules by the NCAA, we have to get a waiver for it or something. I’m talking as a former walk-on who was able to get (a scholarship) my second year. I don’t know who is making that decision.”
According to NCAA rules, a walk-on that earns a scholarship counts only against the 85-man total... as long as he is an upperclassman. Any walk-on freshmen or sophomores that receive scholarships count against the incoming signing class limit of 25. In this case, since Arizona signed a full class of 2015 in February, Matthews would count twice toward the 25-man limit for 2015.
“If a guy walked on for a year, you should be able to give him a scholarship and it not count against the initial number,” said Rodriguez. “It’s ridiculous — the NCAA and all its infinite wisdom of being out for the welfare for the student-athlete. If a guy pays his own way for a year, and he’s a walk-on, you should be able to give him a scholarship in his second year.”
No decision has been announced, but it's a safe bet that Matthews will pay his own way again in 2014.
I'll admit I did not know this rule existed until now. I would like to believe the NCAA has a legitimate reason for this rule, but this is the NCAA we're talking about here. Coaches, what's your take on this issue? Is Rich Rod on to something, or is the NCAA smartly preventing coaches from exploiting a loophole?