Todd Berry is traveling the country this month trying to change college football.
He spoke with representatives from multiple leagues outside of Phoenix. He attended the Spring Sessions of the Atlantic Coast Conference in Amelia Island, Florida. That same day, he spoke with coaches in the Southeastern Conference.
As executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, Berry often does so on behalf of coaches. But as everyone grapples with the upheaval of college sports, this spring he floated some ideas on how to streamline roster management with more player movement than ever before.
“I wanted to have the opportunity in person,” Berry said, “because there’s a lot of stuff stuffed into these things.”
NCAA transfer portal, extension of eligibility due to coronavirus pandemic, new rules that allow players to transfer once without sitting down, and the ability to profit from it name, image and likeness The resulting surge in transfers has made it difficult for some teams to maintain a competitive lineup.
About 7,650 players per college division have entered the transfer portal since August, said Brian Spilbeler, chief operating officer of Tracking Football. The portal entry record has been broken every month since, except September, and about 30 players missed that record that month.
With player transfers becoming more frequent and teams limited to a 25-man recruiting class (plus an extra seven to replace transfers in the 2022 cycle), Berry proposes to lift the signing limit and put it on the transfer portal Settings window.
Players can then enter the portal at specific times, and coaches don’t have to spend as much time re-recruiting their roster.according to a LEAD1 Survey In a news release this month, 87% of FBS sporting directors agreed that the transfer portal should have more structure.
Brian Polian, LSU’s recruiting coordinator, said: “I have no problem with the fact that they got a one-time waiver and players are free to find better situations for themselves, but there must be More stuff, I would hope, to provide guidance in helping us manage the roster and figure out our needs.”
The NCAA adopted one of those recommendations earlier this week, when the Tier 1 committee removed signature-level restrictions for the next two years. Over the next few months, various committees will continue to examine the transfer window and hiring calendar as college football tries to build some stability.
The sport faces other big questions, especially how to manage the NIL, but it can at least ease the issues surrounding roster construction.
“There are shared concerns on all sides when it comes to roster management and what’s going on,” Southland Conference Commissioner Chris Grant said. “We want to balance this equally across the Division I, giving opportunities not only to incoming freshmen but also those on the existing roster, and giving our coaches time to master it post-COVID.”
Remove signature class restrictions
When LSU’s new coaching staff took over, it inherited a chaotic roster. The team played in the Texas Bowl in January with fewer than 40 players on scholarships. Despite signing 30 new players, the Tigers didn’t have the opportunity to fully replenish the roster due to the signing level restrictions.
Other schools have also struggled with roster numbers due to poor decisions and attrition.Former Kansas coach David Beatty says Jayhawks have 39 scholarship contestants When he took over the project in 2014.The team has 68 scholarship contestants Five years later, Les Myers became head coach. It still hasn’t recovered.
Restrictions on new players, known as “initial counters,” were implemented in 2011 to prevent coaches from signing too many recruits and then cutting them, but the dynamics have changed. At the time, the NCAA would let players sit for a year if they moved. Athletes can now move freely, and in college football, they won’t lose a season if they enter the transfer portal before May 1.
While athletes have more control over their futures, teams can’t always replace every transfer due to restrictions on signing categories. Coaches have to choose how much to spend on transfers and high school recruits. In the 2020 and 2021 cycles, some rosters shrink as 6,952 Division I footballers enter the transfer portal, According to NCAA data.
This has raised concerns about health and safety, Berry said. One coach he spoke with had 62 players on his team. He can’t replace everyone who leaves through the transfer door, and a position is so thin that he fears losing the game.
“While 25 initials has good intentions and makes sense,” Berry said, “you can’t have that cap in the environment we’re in free agency right now.”
The NCAA lifted the restrictions for the next two school years. Division I teams can sign as many recruits as they want, as long as the roster does not exceed 85 scholarship players. The Football Oversight Board will collect recruitment data and monitor the transfer portal to determine what happens when the temporary waiver ends.
“We’re going to be under water in this recruiting, but we’re going to be able to catch up,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “If they stay at 25, how do you catch up?”
With no cap, there are fears that coaches will again force players off their roster. Football Oversight acknowledged potential problems in the proposal, saying the removal could lead to more players “reporting they no longer have an opportunity to participate at their current institution” and teams “over-signing prospective student-athletes.”
For this reason, first-year UL coach Michael Desormeaux does not support changing the rules. He inherited a healthy roster that he thinks the Ragin’ Cajuns have found a niche in recruiting high school players and has rarely used transfer portals to fill holes. Even with the option to add more, UL plans to sign 18-20 players this year.
“I’m just a little concerned about the possibility that some of the other schools could kick players out, force them into the portal to some extent, and then sign as many high school players as they theoretically want,” Desormeaux said. “How does that affect us? It seems to limit our ability to sign good high school players.”
Kelly hopes college football leaders will prevent coaches from abusing the rules, and the NCAA will identify a permanent solution.
“If you’re doing the right thing, you shouldn’t let anyone out of your program,” Kelly said. “You’re developing your players. As I told our people, you can’t lose love just because a young man can’t do what he can in his first year. We have to develop them. That’s why we’re here. It’s called player development.”
The transfer window and what’s next
As part of Tracking Football’s work, Spilbeler, a scouting service used by nearly 80 major college programs, has been monitoring transfer portals since last year as clients demand more information about college players as their hiring philosophies change.
Spilbeler compiles data, and transfer portals explode with one-time waivers and NIL implementations. He said nearly 1,300 players in each division entered their names in April, easily surpassing the monthly record set a year ago, when numbers surged after the FCS season was delayed due to the pandemic.
“So far this month, it’s back to normal levels,” Spielberg said. “I don’t know there’s definitely more people coming in this month than in years past, but it’s definitely been a pretty crazy ride since August.”
According to the NCAA, at least 400 Division I footballers have entered the transfer portal each month for the past two cycles, but at the end of the season between November and January and after spring training, especially in the NIL After affecting recruitment, there was a surge.
Berry wanted to match the guardrails to those naturally formed windows.
In his proposal, players could enter the transfer portal between the last Sunday in November and an early signing date in mid-December. Athletes will have five days after the last game if their team is still playing. The second window takes place between April 15th and May 1st.
Players will not have to sign with new schools during the window, with Football Oversight stating that “consistent start and end dates will be provided for all schools, aligned with the current football recruiting calendar, and opportunities for campus tours.”
The advice would allow players to move freely after the regular season or spring practice and give coaches a better understanding of what they need on the roster when building their recruiting class.
“Our struggle, which I don’t think a lot of people understand, is that we’re going to sign a class before our underclassmen declare themselves in the NFL,” Pollian said. “And then you still have people coming into the portal. How do you actually meet your needs before you pass these deadlines?”
Meanwhile, Berry hopes the NCAA will quickly adjust the recruiting calendar around the transfer window so coaches don’t spend a whole year trying to add players. In his final season as UL-Monroe coach, Berry said he had a weekend off.
“At some point, we have to recalibrate the hiring calendar with some sane,” Berry said. “Now, it’s crazy.”
It all created a chaotic period, even in the offseason.
A former quarterback for UL for the past six years, Desormeaux was promoted over the winter after Billy Napier left his Florida job. He became head coach for the first time during one of the most turbulent times in college football.
“No one has ever experienced this before,” Desormeaux said. “That’s what everyone tells me: ‘You picked a time to get the head coaching job.'”