High school football | commentary

Baxter: NCAA tries to strengthen players’ mid-year agreements

January 19, 2014 

IS THERE ANYONE who still knows the definition of “commitment?”

Last fall, the NCAA began allowing high school players who were to graduate in December and enroll early in college to sign Financial Agreement papers in August.

But what they did not anticipate is an interpretation of a rule that allowed a “loophole” benefitting players without relieving pressure on the colleges. There is no limitation on the number of the FAs a player can sign.

That causes problems for colleges because FAs are not under the jurisdiction of the NCAA, and the NCAA cannot force players to abide by those agreements.

The FA is binding for the school, guaranteeing a scholarship to the player.

Many college coaches don’t like this situation considering some of the top prospects signed several agreements to different schools to try to bind them to their offer, while the players remained “uncommitted.”

I understand both sides of this coin. Coaches want this to be as close to binding as it can be without a Letter of Intent, so that they don’t have to worry about recruiting the kid and can move him to the top of their board as a commitment. With the current loophole, the coaches must stay in the mix with the until the player gets to campus.

From the players’ standpoint, they want to make sure the schools make legitimate offers.

I believe an FA should be just as binding on a player as a Letter of Intent on signing day.

If you’re not committed, don’t sign the FA. I understand the players want to make sure the schools honor the offers they extend, but the players — and parents — need to understand that recruiting is part of the business of college football.

Last week, the NCAA adopted a change in hopes of solving the problem. The changes being implemented benefit schools by removing certain recruiting restrictions. Once a prospect has signed a financial agreement, it can publicize the signing and communicate, free of normal NCAA-imposed limitations, with the prospect outside of a “dead” period.

Only the program that a prospect signed with first is allowed such privileges.

The changes apply to players who enroll mid-year. Traditional spring high school graduates are not impacted.

At the request of a conference, the legislation will be reviewed in April to determine if a prospect who signs an agreement but does not enroll would constitute an NCAA violation.

In my opinion, this thing is far from over.

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