SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — College football coaches are pushing for changes to NCAA rules to help stabilize rosters depleted by transfers.
The proposals would lift the yearly cap on how many players a school can sign and create designated windows in which a player must enter the NCAA transfer portal to retain immediate eligibility.
Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, who spoke after Tuesday's meeting of the AFCA's board of directors, believes revising current rules would help bring some order to what has become a chaotic time in college football.
The coaches' proposal would scrap the current Football Bowl Subdivision cap that limits schools to signing 25 players per year. Those players can be either high school recruits or transfers. The overall scholarship cap of 85 would remain in place.
The problem is, Berry said, a large number of players transferring out can leave rosters well short of 85 scholarship players if only 25 can be signed in a single year.
"We've always been real supportive of (the yearly cap) because we felt like that it had some controls to it, but we're in kind of in an uncontrollable space right now," Berry said. "For the health and safety of our athletes, not being able to try to get to an 85 number at the FBS level, that's hard."
The proposed transfer windows would require football players to enter the portal from the final Sunday in November until the early signing date in mid-December, or from April 15 to May 1. Berry, a former head coach at Army and Louisiana-Monroe, said both coaches and players would benefit from more certainty.
"When you have an open portal like that, it's hard for young people sometimes to make great decisions because they don't know the impacts of their move. They don't know what their competition is at another school, they don't know about competition coming into their own program," Berry explained.
The NCAA changed its rules last year to allow all college football players to transfer one time as undergraduates without sitting out a season at the new school. That move, along with lifting a ban on athletes being compensated for their names, images and likenesses, has created unprecedented transfer movement in major college football.
The number of FBS players entering their names in the transfer portal in 2021 was 1,427, up from 896 in 2020, according to the NCAA. The practice of transferring from one school to another predated the debut of the portal in October 2018, but its existence has been transformative in its impact on the recruitment of transfers, expediting the process for both players and coaches.
Ohio State football coach Ryan Day doesn't have any concerns filling out his roster, but he can see how problems doing so can quickly mount for a coach — especially one taking over a program, because leadership changes tend to trigger transfers.
"For some programs, and certainly for guys who are going into new spots, that's almost an impossible feat if you only get 25 spots to fill," Day said. "So what are they supposed to do?"
West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, who is the chairman of the NCAA Division I council and also part of the NCAA's Division I transformation committee, said he would like to see the changes go through the legislative process instead of a temporary waiver being passed.
"There's a lot of momentum going into it," Lyons said of the proposals.
He believes new rules could be in place by the upcoming football season.
"You can even put a caveat on it saying we're going to lift the cap limit and go to 85 scholarships, and we're going to continue looking for two years, and then come back and revisit it," Lyons said. "And maybe it's working in two years. Maybe it's not."