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Are we seeing the end of the partial scholarship?

A House settlement just might include massive changes to roster sizes and scholarship rules

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

A few quick housekeeping notes before we get to everything today:

  • I am speaking at the CSCAA Annual Meeting this Sunday in Indianapolis. I’m looking forward to spending time with swim coaches, sports administrators, members of the swim community and more! I’m planning on discussing how administrative and legal changes in college athletics may impact Olympic sports. I’ll share some of my talk in the newsletter next week…but if you’ll be around Indy, I’d love to say hello!

  • I’m also going to be making a quick trip back to my old stomping grounds in Columbus to see my sister graduate from Ohio State.

I’ll be a bit slower to respond to emails over the next few days, since I’ll be on the road. Thanks for being patient!

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Is the partial athletic scholarship on thin ice?

The biggest off-the-field story from the last few days is easily the settlement conversations between the NCAA, senior officials of major power conferences, and attorneys involved in the House case.

I understand that antitrust litigation doesn’t excite people like, say, conference realignment rumors or video game updates, but trust me on this when I say this story is very important if you care about college sports. I wrote an entire newsletter earlier this week that tries to explain what this case is about, why the NCAA is looking to settle, and how a settlement could potentially impact how college sports operates.

The Tl;DR? A settlement would require the NCAA and power conferences to pay not only a staggering amount of money as a penalty for breaking antitrust law (think north of a billion dollars), but everybody would have to create a system to share at least some revenue directly with athletes.

Another potential component of a settlement? Changes to roster limits, according to Yahoo! Sports:

The final financial concept to any new model involves the implementation of roster limits and the expansion of scholarships across those limits. For instance, under current rules, the NCAA permits schools to distribute 11.7 scholarships across a baseball roster of 32 players.

Under this new model, schools may now choose to provide a scholarship to each roster position — however many are determined for that specific sport. The same goes for other sports, including football, which could see its roster limit actually reduced. The NCAA recently increased the football roster limit for preseason camp from 110 players to 120.

The expense of increasing scholarships is significant. Two power conference administrators told Yahoo Sports that they plan to add more than 100 additional scholarships at the expense of $9-10 million annually. A portion of the additional scholarship expense may be counted toward the revenue-sharing cap, but that too is a fluctuating figure.

Ross Dellenger, Yahoo! Sports

I had this impressed upon me by a few lawyers who work in college athletics this week…everything we read about these settlement conversations is very much not written in stone. This is an exceptionally complicated negociation, thanks to the fact that there are multiple antitrust cases involved, dozens of P4 institutions, judicial approval, an unsolved employment question, and much, much more.

But the idea that settlement conversations could include restructuring of scholarship limits is new information.

The idea that some power programs would like to offer more scholarships than permitted by current NCAA bylaws is not new…it was a part of the Transformation Committee negotiations (lol remember that?), with the example of SEC Baseball regularly mentioned. Scenarios where different NCAA sports are more “self-governed”, with conferences able to set their own scholarship limits, have also been floated in administrative circles for about as long as I’ve been writing this newsletter.

Some NCAA sports allow for schools to give full scholarships to everybody on the roster, like football and basketball…but that isn’t the norm. Most other sports have fixed scholarship limits well below a full roster. For example, a men’s soccer team can only offer 9.9 full scholarships. A softball team can only offer 12.

In a world where schools are now obligated to spend at least north of $10 million a year in direct revenue sharing with athletes (and likely far more than that if they want to be competitive in recruiting), how many will extend additional scholarships in sports like hockey, baseball and soccer? If so, will they do this for just one or two sports, or their full department? How will that change roster management across not just the P4, but all of D-I?

There aren’t too many D-I sports left where programs outside the P4 can legitimately compete for national championships. College baseball is one, even if the gap between the haves and have-nots is only growing every year. Others include men’s volleyball, men’s hockey, women’s bowling, and a few others.

In a world where UCLA, Penn State and Ohio State could theoretically double (or more) their scholarship offerings…can Hawaii, Grand Canyon and Long Beach still compete for national volleyball titles? Will Southern Miss and Coastal Carolina still compete to host baseball regionals? And shoot…will Ohio State even want to do that if they could save that money and throw it at the running backs room?

There are so, so many unanswered questions about the settlement negotiations that I don’t think it’s worth dropping another 800 words of speculation…but it’s worth thinking about how expanded rosters could change how recruiting, sport sponsorship and resource allocation decisions work across other college sports.

This settlement could massively change how football and basketball programs operate. So why not softball and lacrosse too?

Here’s what else I wrote this week, plus a cool new offer for everybody

You’ll need to upgrade to a premium subscription if you want to read all of those newsletters, plus access to the hundreds of other editions I have in our archives. But if you’re not sure if now is the time to pull the trigger, let me offer a little extra incentive. I am now offering a free digital copy of my book, What If? A Closer Look at College Football’s Great Questions. to all premium subscribers. If that’s you, you can grab your copy here.

I dunno if you all have noticed, but I’ve also been spending some time trying to slap a new coat of paint on these emails, our website, and more. And if you stick around, I have some big news to share next week sometime…

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you all on the internet next week.

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