In May of 2022, the NCAA removed the traditional 25 scholarship per year limit for Football Bowl Subdivision schools. The removal of the cap was driven by the popularity of the one-time transfer rule and the additional year of eligibility granted to every student-athlete during the pandemic. The cap will be reevaluated in two academic years and, regardless of how many athletes a school signs, each program must still adhere to the 85 scholarship limit.
“Some schools hadn’t given out all their scholarships and felt constrained by the annual limit,” said NCAA Council chair Shane Lyons, athletics director at West Virginia. “This temporary change provides schools more flexibility and adds opportunities for incoming and current student-athletes to receive aid.”
How Will This Affect Football Recruiting?
On the surface, no limit on signing student-athletes during each recruiting year potentially means more scholarships will be awarded to more players. But the important thing to remember is that each team still has to adhere to the 85-scholarship limit.
So, if a program signs 30 players each of the next two seasons, for example, that team will only be able to have 25 other players on scholarship among their juniors and seniors. That’s fine if some older players have transferred out, been injured, or lost their eligibility. But it also opens up the potential for a program to push out an existing scholarship athlete to make room for a new signing.
Why The Rule Is Good For Recruits
As noted above, for the next two seasons, college football coaches can sign as many players as they want. While it’s expected that most won’t go crazy, it’s likely more student-athletes will have more opportunities for scholarship offers.
It’s a good bet that athletes that might have been considered fringe recruits on some coach’s lists will now get scholarship offers. Another scenario that could come into play is that, since college coaches now have some additional flexibility, late bloomers or recruits with a big potential upside might also get more offers. That could also create a talent vacuum where, with more recruits signing with larger schools, smaller schools may also have to consider some athletes they would have previously overlooked.
Note that all of the scenarios above assume every college football coach will increase the number of athletes they sign each year. Keep in mind that this may not happen the same way at every program. If you’re already being recruited by some schools, your chances of receiving a scholarship offer will likely improve. However, if you weren’t being recruited by schools like Alabama, Georgia, or Oklahoma before, it’s doubtful you’ll be recruited now that they have no yearly signing limits.
Why The Rule Is Bad For Recruits
It’s important to reiterate that FBS schools still must adhere to an 85-scholarship limit per team. While it’s optimistic to believe that no signing limit means more scholarship offers for high school players, there are also some potentially negative ramifications.
While a coach may take a chance on a player he might have passed on previously, the lack of a signing cap may also mean a new signee will have less time to prove himself. If you get hurt, don’t fit into the system, or don’t live up to your potential quickly, no signing limit and the transfer portal makes it easier than ever for a coach to quickly find a replacement.
In addition, some teams may push out existing team members to accommodate more high school signees and stay at the 85-scholarship limit. That could mean more athletes, with more experience in the transfer portal. And, if some programs choose to build through the portal, that could create a situation where they’re signing fewer players out of high school.
Ultimately, for football recruits in the class of 2023 or 2024, the NCAA’s removal of the signing cap means you’ll likely have more opportunities to earn a scholarship. That may not be the case for every recruit and those offers may not be from schools on your target list. But no matter how it plays out, the best advice is to not assume anything, maintain your recruiting process, keep working to get on coaches’ recruiting radars and continue striving to achieve your goal of earning a college football scholarship.
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