The 85 Man Rule Helped Parity Inside Conferences, But Not Outside Them

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IAugust 22, 2009

Football, like life, has its haves and have nots.  It's a rule as old as time.  Not everyone was meant for greatness.

There were times when teams would sign hundreds of players for their rosters, and during those times, there were teams lucky to suit up three dozen.

In those days, football was ruled by haves and the have nots, though grudgingly, accepted it as status quo.  For some schools, football was everything, for others, it was a Saturday afternoon diversion if you chose to go.

In the 60's, the rise of the NFL through its television coverage made every decent high school prospect dream of one day being one of those marquee players.  That dream was what propelled some schools to become magnets to draw them in to. 

Every region of the country had their 'magnet' schools and soon the country was dominated by them.

So the NCAA, in favor of spreading the wealth, started tinkering with numbers to help that spread.  The final ruling now stands that no team may have more than 85 scholarshiped football players.

That ruling did, in fact, help establish a little more parity inside the conferences themselves. Over the last 17 years, it has helped David beat Golliath more than once. It did not, however, change much of the regions that were dominant.

The South, by no means, has a monopoly of talent.  Just look at where many of the Heisman trophy winners are from.  But they do have a strong monopoly on the numbers of athletes ready to leave the confines of high school life for college football.

There are high schools in the South that outdraw many college teams.

Fans in the SEC are stunned to find that some 'Major' colleges have seating capacities in the 20 to 30 thousand range. 

To be considered a top division team, you must have at least 15,000 people show up for your home games on average at least every other year. 

There are lots of high schools in the South that do that much every Friday night.

Clearly, football is king in the South and the numbers prove it. 

Bigger attendance means bigger budgets. Bigger budgets mean better coaches, better equipment and much better conditioning.

Since the beginning of the 60's no other region has had more national champions than the SEC.  That dominating percentage has only grown wider in the last few years.

The argument used to be the North was basketball mad.  However, looking at the basketball championships, the South, and especially the SEC has held up well there too.

So while the 85 man rule has done a good job in creating parity among conference teams, the regional haves still rule the have nots.


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