Let me begin this by saying COVID isn’t over.
While millions of people across the country are getting their vaccines, lives are still being lost, hospitalizations still happening, and still months to go until we discover the “new normal.”
Man i hate that phrase.
With that being said, there is a very clear light at the end of the tunnel and companies of all type and size are figuring out their future plans. The NCAA is no different and has a very important decision to make that somehow hasn’t been.
If you look at Wake Forest’s scholarship chart right now, you’ll notice one glaring issue. There are barely any scholarships available for the 2022 season. Of course with attrition whether that be people going to the pros, transferring out, or deciding to graduate instead of exhausting their eligibility the number will grow from the 9 scholarships they’re projected to have right now, but there’s not nearly enough healthy attrition in the world to get anywhere close to an 18-20 person class that’s a mix of incoming freshmen and transfers.
When COVID-19 hit, all eligibility was frozen. So you’ll have your 18th year senior MIles Fox, you’ll have your 3rd year redshirt freshman Donavon Greene, you’ll have Ryan Smenda Jr regain that year of eligibility he lost after getting tossed into the fire. While this is something that gives Wake a pretty decent advantage in the 2021 season as they return a wealth of experience, it is a massive issue going into the 2022 season and beyond.
The issue lies in a very simple question: if Zach Tom wants to come back for his 6th year, do you prioritize him or take a shot on a high school senior? The question stands for Loic Ngassam Nya, Sean Maginn, Tyler Williams, Nasir Greer, amongst others. It’s not like these are guys who have been hanging out on the scout team, these are impact players.
It’s not only Wake with these issues, just every single school across the country is trying to find ways to work with numbers without any semblance of an idea from the NCAA on how the cap space will look after this year. But enough boohooing for the programs, what about the high school seniors?
We’re already in a landscape where the transfer portal is taking over. As of February 1st, there were 1,500 college football players who had entered the portal. I would be zero percent shocked by the end of April, with the end of spring practices being around then, if that number absolutely skyrocketed. Coaches are more and more willing to grab guys from the portal versus taking a shot on high schoolers. From an article from 247sports’ Bud Elliot, “If it is a borderline recruit for us, we’d rather take a transfer who we know can cut it physically at the college level.”
This leaves the high schoolers at such a disadvantage. We saw it during the 2021 recruiting cycle as guys committed at such an alarming rate during the early period because they didn’t want their spot to be taken. We’re starting to see that a bit during the current cycle, with one of the only reasons that it hasn’t exploded as much has been the possibility of the Dead Period ending come May 31st and Official Visits already being scheduled. However, this still doesn’t address the issues that schools across the country are working with 10-15 scholarships at a maximum right now, so guys are fighting for non-existent spots. For reference, usually bring in between 20-25 guys between freshmen and transfers.
With all of this being said, it’s been over a year since COVID hit and yet we still don’t have an answer as to how the future looks in terms of scholarships for college. They have a right to put these future student-athletes in a place that they have a chance to succeed and now just say, “well you’ll figure it out, right?” There can’t be two huge gaping holes with players getting lost in the transfer portal, and players getting lost before they can even step foot on a college campus.
There’s not much, if anything the NCAA does right/proactively, but this is one they have to get right from the jump. Is that too much to ask? Can they actually be... useful for once?
Regardless, the schools and the players deserve an answer and they deserve an answer now.