Photo by John S. Peterson

Love or Hate: Useless Band-Aids, Course Corrections and More

June 28, 2019
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It’s Friday. As promised two weeks ago, there’s a little more spice this week.

The NCAA is Being Dumb Again

The NCAA is being dumb again. Just felt like that needed to be said a second time for emphasis. On Wednesday, college football’s governing body announced “minor adjustments” to a process that was amended just a year ago to make obtaining a waiver to play immediately after transferring easier. After a year spent moving the goal posts with each new case, the NCAA is now attempting to narrow the space between. 

The adjustments that were passed will make it more difficult for athletes who transfer schools to play right away.  The Committee on Legislative Relief will now require players to provide documentation from their previous school’s athletic director (their schedules are already free and open and certainly permit time to deal with students no longer at their institution) detailing whether or not the student-athlete has been run off by the head coach. Because that’s something an athletic director would admit to.

With Brock Hoffman and Luke Ford’s cases earning the NCAA a hearty serving of crow in recent months, the committee’s response was to require players seeking immediate eligibility in cases involving family members with illnesses provide... (get ready, it’s long) 

“. . . contemporaneous medical documentation from the treating physician showing how the family member is debilitated; an explanation of the student-athlete’s role in providing care; confirmation from both the athletics director and faculty athletics representative that the student-athlete will be allowed to depart the team to provide care; a statement from the previous school’s athletics director explaining why the student-athlete said he or she was transferring; and proof that the student-athlete is in good academic standing and meeting progress-toward degree at the new school.”

Is that a lot? It seems like a lot. 

Nevermind you have to be an accomplished attorney to understand half of what was written in the release the NCAA sent out, we once again have a band-aid masquerading as a solution. 

A few points to make:

  1. The initial reason for the sit-out rule was to allow players who change schools time to properly acclimate to their new school. School is important, after all. We’re definitely not prioritizing a Friday trip to Illinois for a night game no one will be at so ESPN can fill a programming slot on one of its eight channels. Nope. That stuff doesn’t happen. Itwas about academics, as most NCAA-related things aim to be.
  2. Just because a player can’t participate in the Saturday game, he isn’t excused from the work throughout the week leading up to it. He still has to be at the 7 a.m. meeting and the 8 a.m. workout. . . But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised the NCAA thinks this way given the horrendous “Day in the Life” commercial that’s still airing.
  3. During the 2018-19 season, across all sports, the NCAA approved 66 percent of all waiver requests. For just football, that number was 68 percent. Both numbers represented slight declines from previous seasons. Majority of these requests are being granted already.
  4. The 32 percent of cases not being approved? Those all create loud coaches unhappy that guys over there are getting “special treatment” from the NCAA while their guys are ignored.
  5. The 68 percent of cases where the coach and player is happy involve schools like Michigan, Ohio State and Miami. The kid from Coastal Carolina didn’t get his waiver approved. Remember Jacob Eason? The first highly-touted Georgia quarterback? Well, Eason transferred to Washington and had to sit out a year. Reverse the move, would he have sat? And the answer doesn’t even matter, the fact the question would be asked is the problem for the NCAA. Perception is going against it.
  6. Most non-revenue sports already allow athletes to transfer one time free from penalty.
  7. These waiver processes are long and complicated, often requiring legal counsel. 
  8. There is, still, no such process that takes place when a coach changes schools.

Making the process more difficult is not going to curb requests. The transfer rate in college football is not slowing down. Not when there’s a thing called the Transfer Portal where players can have a little more control over their college career and a little more freedom to go where they please. 

There isn’t going to be a tweak the NCAA comes up with that will suddenly curtail the transfer “epidemic,” if you’re in the camp calling this wave of player empowerment an epidemic. If college football wants the transfer conversation to go away, the NCAA only has one course of action it can talk.

No more penalties.

If a kid wants to transfer, he gets to transfer and he gets to play right away.

The kid gets one. 

As long as he’s in good academic standing, he gets one Get Out of Jail Free card before he graduates. 

Other coaches don’t get to communicate with him until his name is in the portal. His current school doesn’t get to limit his options. His former athletic director doesn’t have to write him a release letter. 

Why is this so complicated?

A Change of Heart

When an organization can recognize it made a mistake, admit to it and course correct, you tip your cap. 

That doesn’t happen often anymore.

After announcing on Tuesday that the autograph line for head coach Scott Frost on Aug. 1’s Fan Day would be limited to the first 250 members of the Nebraska JV Team to sign in, and membership to the JV Team cost $35 dollars, Nebraska has walked things back.

The initial change marked a departure from last season when Frost’s line wasn’t regulated and it lasted well into the night and was eventually cut off, leaving a pretty significant number of families empty-handed. Actual demand far outpaced expected demand. Some families stood in Frost’s line all night hoping to get the first-year coach’s autograph, missed out on meeting any of the players or assistant coaches, and still left with nothing. 

Nebraska was always going to be changing the process this time around. 

Monetizing the thing was probably not the best play, but capping the number of people from the get-go was smart. It’s ultimately better to be told before the event starts you absolutely, 100 percent, without a shadow of a doubt won’t get to see Frost than it is for you to wait in line on the off chance you get to the front of it and you miss everything else. With only 250 people allowed in line, everyone else is free to take the kids to see the players. 

It also seemed like the reaction was a little over-the-top, but hey, it’s social media and that’s part of the territory. That Nebraska actually listened is a good look.

“After further consideration, the Fan Day organizers recognize this was a mistake,” a release stated. “Limiting access to JV Team members could prevent some children from having the opportunity to be a part of Coach Frost’s line. … It is important to Coach Frost that all children have an equal opportunity to receive his autograph on Fan Day.”

Not only did NU make the JV team membership free, it also changed the selection process from the first 250 to a random number of kids approximating 250, and it announced that Frost was going to sign 1,000 photos that would be handed out to the first thousand kids not in his line.

This is an athletic department that time and again has shown a willingness to listen to fans. I’m thinking about the ticket snafu with the 2018 spring game and the changes the 2019 game saw. I’m thinking about the Black Friday nightmare that Bill Moos rectified. You could lament the initial lapses or be thankful things were made right in the end. I’m usually a glass-half-empty kind of person but I find myself siding with the latter.

Nebraska’s In a Fight

By now you’ve probably heard or read that Xavier Watts‍ was about as close to committing to Notre Dame on his visit last weekend as possible, but held off. That news feels surprising on its own, not because Watts liked the Irish enough to almost pull the trigger — most of the recruiting experts all say Nebraska is the underdog here — but that he seemingly saw everything he needed to see and still held off. 

Even more surprising, he has been relatively quiet for about a week since.

Greg Smith did a good job breaking down the central question I have about this situation this past week on Hail Varsity Radio:

I think either scenario — Watts backed off because he didn’t want to make the decision based entirely on emotion OR Watts backed off because Nebraska is tugging at him enough to make a difference — would be a good thing for the Huskers. Right...? Now Scott Frost and company know where they stand. It’s either time for a full-court press of the talented Omaha wideout or it’s time to start preparing for Plan B. 

Watts is No. 4 on the recently-updated Greg’s Guys and Frost has made it a priority to lock down the state’s borders since coming home. If anything, this sort of feels like a second chance. Obviously, nothing is official until a signature hits that NLI, but if Nebraska now knows its in second with plenty of time left to make up ground, that might not be the worst spot to be in. 

Unnecessary

Dominick Watt had quite the show during the second Friday Night Lights camp last week, didn’t he?

That’s Watt, a JUCO prospect and class of 2018 commit, shirtless going against Cam Taylor’s little brother, Jaden Taylor, a class of 2021 high school prospect. Meaning he’s going into his junior season. Good on Watts for being able to beat Taylor in a one-on-one. That’s definitely an even battle.

I’m all for talking all the talk you can talk as long as you back it up. This is about fun. Have fun. But Watt was one of the oldest campers on the field Friday night and acted like one of the youngest. A backflip? Really? After the guy covering you tripped and fell? 

And after he did this to you earlier in the evening?

It just all came across as really loud. I don’t think loud plays well here anymore. The thing that gets lost in the video is that’s a strong jump off the line. Watt has a lot of talent. Many in Husker Nation are hoping he sticks with Big Red rather than flipping to Big Blue (he seemed to enjoy his Kentucky trip before coming to Lincoln). And there seemed absolutely no hard feelings between him and Cam Taylor. I’d just want to be a fly on the wall inside North Stadium as coaches watched that clip back later.

This staff is not a show-offy bunch. And save for some pre-game dancing, neither are its players. 

So, Uh

In our first “let’s wait until we see them on the field” moment of the new season. . .

These are not good. And the design they’re based on? Also not good. A basic gold-on-gold look would be good. If these didn’t have the feathers, they would be good. But these have weird feathers. These are not good.

Tags: Xavier Watts
 
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