Oregon Football Recruiting Analysis: How Does Autonomy Change the Recruiting Game?

Jason Fowler FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

The NCAA will oversee future changes to college football.

A widespread change might be in place for football. The National Collegiate Athletic Association recently voted in favor of giving the five “power conferences” autonomy, to allow the student-athletes to participate in governing the entity they are bound in playing for at a Division I university.

If sustained by the end of October, 2014, how will this affect the recruiting at Oregon? Will this mean more scholarships allowed for the Ducks in the future? Will it mean the Ducks can put more athletes like De’Anthony Thomas in the NFL, to do amazing things with more elite recruits due to the changes?

Some who read this article may not understand the overall picture of the NCAA and all of its charges. I will only speak of football in this instance, but all Division I schools are under the umbrella of rules and regulations of the NCAA.

Division I football is the only sport separated into two subdivisions, formerly known as Divisions I-A and I-AA. The Football Bowl Subdivision (128 programs) is where the large schools such as Oregon, USC, Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State fit. These football programs allow a total of 85 scholarships during one academic year.

The other tier of competition is the Football Championship Subdivision (124 programs), where schools such as Eastern Washington, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Sam Houston State and New Hampshire allow 63 scholarships divided among no more than 85 football players.

The Power Five that the NCAA elected to offer enhanced benefits to are the ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. They were chosen because the remaining conferences, commonly known as “mid-majors,” will not be able to financially keep up with the potential changes. They are financially capable through TV contracts and deals that bring in $millions to support the proposed changes.

Bill Chappell of NPR wrote August 7th about this new autonomy and quoted ESPN about potential benefits. “Key early issues are expected to include full cost-of-attendance stipends worth up to $5,000 per player; four-year scholarship guarantees; loosened rules involving contact between players and agents as well as outside career pursuits for players and travel allowances for players’ families to attend postseason games.” This sounds like the NCAA should just create a new division for others to look up to.

Travis Waller is helping the Oregon coaching staff recruit some top prospects

Travis Waller is helping the Oregon coaching staff recruit some top prospects.

Oregon will find itself in common competition for elite high school football players throughout the nation. The same schools that the Ducks compete with to get these elite athletes will also have the same new benefits if the new autonomy proposal stands. Oregon doesn’t typically lose football players to Fresno State or Boise State, so I don’t see any changes in Oregon’s recruiting in this regard.

Many aspects in question will remain unchanged: For example, scholarships. The new autonomy structure will not be allowed to change the scholarship limits, so you will not see a sudden boost in Oregon’s scholarship numbers in the future.

Also, the voice that the student-athletes will have in the NCAA process will be related to rule changes and guidelines for the universities. They will help monitor the everyday affairs of college sports to allow the NCAA members to be more “nimble” in their actions so they can put more focus on pressing issues.

One of the perks, families getting travel allowances, will not necessarily help Oregon get blue chip athletes on the East Coast such as Byron Cowart or Josh Sweat, because it will solely be for postseason games. This would help if Oregon could guarantee that they will be in the playoffs and win their first game to draw out their postseason play. Unfortunately, nobody can claim that guarantee.

As far as recruiting, the new autonomy will not affect the Oregon Ducks one way or the other. The playing field will remain the same as far as the competition for the same athletes and the other schools that vie for their commitments. Oregon will have the advantage only over schools such as Fresno State, Boise State, Hawaii and the rest of the mid-majors.

October 31st is when Kirk Merritt and parents will visit Eugene, OR.

October 31st is when Kirk Merritt and parents will visit Eugene.

With the autonomy questions out of the way, we can expect to see the current committed players help mold the future of Oregon football. Travis Waller is a serious advocate for his future team communicating with several top players in the country. Waller is handpicking the rest of the recruiting class, with the likes of Kirk Merritt, Ryan Newsome, Malik Lovette and Russell Ude. Merritt could come in as a potent receiver like the former Josh Huff, who has already made at least one NFL highlight in the preseason.

In conclusion, the NCAA has neither ruined Oregon nor improved their chances at landing top national recruits in the future due to the new autonomy proposal. The Oregon staff will continue improving its efforts to bring in better athletes each year. And hopefully, the Ducks will be able to make a successful run at the national championship in the near future.

Top photo by Steve Francis

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