DI Council lifts contract signing in football, initial two-year counter limits

Division I football teams will not have annual signing and initial scoring limits for the next two academic years, the Division I council ruled on Wednesday.

Members issued a blanket waiver to allow schools to award scholarships based on the total count limit of 85. In the Football Championship Subdivision, the annual equivalence limit of 63 also remains in effect.

The change is intended to address the impact of the one-time transfer exception in esports and the extended seasons of competitive students due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A short-term solution introduced last fall was due to expire at the end of July. It allowed schools that had lost student-athletes to replace seven of them if they left during certain periods.

“Some schools had not awarded all of their scholarships and felt constrained by the annual limit,” said council chairman Shane Lyons, West Virginia athletics director. “This temporary change provides schools with more flexibility and opportunities for new and current student-athletes to get help.”

The Football Oversight Committee will collect and review recruitment data and monitor transfer trends over these two years to inform possible future rule changes.

Additionally, Football Bowl Subdivision conferences are no longer required to exempt their conference championship game from the maximum number of games a team will allow in a season each year.

The advice also made it easier for FBS teams playing FCS opponents to count the win toward their bowl eligibility. Council members reduced the financial endorsement requirement that an FCS opponent must meet in order for a win to count for the FBS team that meets the definition of a “deserving team” for bowl eligibility. Instead of 90% of the maximum grants per year during a rolling biennium, the requirement is 80% of the maximum grants per year during that rolling biennium. In 2020, the Council had granted a blanket exemption to allow the 80% requirement to be applied.

In addition, the council introduced an exception to the contest status rule for years when the number of teams earned is less than the number of bowl opportunities. If not enough teams qualify according to the regular criteria, the teams will be selected based on the following conditions. All teams that meet the first condition must be selected before teams that meet the second condition, and so on. The conditions are:

  • Schools that would have satisfied the FCS opponent exception had not a win been achieved against an FCS opponent who had not achieved the required annual scholarship average during the previous rolling biennium (and the team’s waiver request was denied).
  • A school that has competed in 13 regular season competitions and finished the season with six wins and seven losses.
  • A school in its final year of reclassification from FCS to FBS that meets other requirements.
  • A school that has finished its season with at least five wins, which count towards the definition of a “deserving team” and a maximum of seven losses, but has achieved a multi-year academic progress rate that allows for post-season participation. Alternatives identified under this condition will be identified as eligible based on the multi-year APR in descending order.
    • If multiple teams have the same multi-year quota, the school with the highest single-year quota in the most recent reporting year is eligible first. A team identified as an alternate must indicate whether they will be participating in a bowl game. A proxy declaring intent to attend must select an available bowl game in which to attend.
    • If a school is unable to participate in a bowling game after accepting a bid, the bowling entity will select an alternative from the remaining eligible schools.

Similar to the blanket waiver approved for the 2021 season and legislation that expired in 2020, this model provides additional flexibility if teams are unable to attend a bowl game after accepting an offer.

Council members also voted to allow schools to start official pre-season football training 31 days before their first game. The decision provides additional preseason flexibility without changing the acclimation period or the 25 on-field training limit before the first game, and gives schools the ability to allow student-athletes additional rest periods.

Other Legislative Measures

Council members also adopted proposals that:

  • Prioritize treatment and education over punishment for student-athletes who test positive for cannabinoids during the NCAA championships.
  • Increase the membership of the Committee on the Protection of Competition and Medical Aspects of Sport from 23 to 25.
  • Allow schools to provide recruiting materials and send electronic correspondence to female basketball recruits beginning June 1 upon completion of sophomore year of high school.
  • Allow graduate students pursuing a second bachelor’s or equivalent degree access to all transfer exceptions applicable to undergraduate student-athletes.
  • Allow women’s beach volleyball teams to participate in up to four multi-day pairs tournaments during the non-championship segment and eliminate the ban on missed class time and ground transportation restriction associated with the non-championship segment.

Additionally, the council voted to introduce a proposal into the legislative cycle that would make stunt an emerging sport for women.

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