Changes We'd Like to See in College Football This Offseason
College football is a wonderful sport. We willingly sacrifice Saturdays for about four months to watch a game—or 12. But it's not perfect.
Players are often limited in their power, and that's not just the "to pay or not to pay" discussion. While coaches zoom around the country climbing the professional ladder, athletes who haven't graduated are often stuck at their current spot.
Off-field concerns are only part of the sport's problems, though. An in-game rule leads to major uncertainty nearly every weekend, and for some reason extends all the way across a summer.
We love college football. We'd also like to make it a little better, even if perfection will never be attained in our silly, excellent game.
Pass the 4-Game Redshirt Rule
According to Max Olson of The Athletic, there is "unanimous support" among coaches for a rule that would allow redshirt players to appear in four games without using up a year of eligibility.
Make it happen, NCAA.
Coaches see the obvious benefit to themselves, since they could use potential stars in 2018 yet still have them available from 2019-2022. But this change would benefit much more than the NFL-bound player, who might be gone in three years anyway.
Instead of redshirt players getting relegated to the sideline for the entire year, they can experience in-game action prior to their first full season. Not every player develops at the same pace, and the four-game tweak could accelerate the learning curve.
Additionally, this change would be an enormous boost for struggling teams in November. Need to keep fans engaged when times aren't the best? Insert that promising young quarterback for late-season action, and let him gain experience for next year.
Then, during bowl season—as players decide to protect their health in an exhibition many of the same fans call meaningless—young players could be called in as replacements. That appearance certainly isn't meaningless to him or the team's future.
Address the Problem with Letters of Intent
Dec. 20: "Arizona Football Adds 16 in December Signing Period."
It was a spectacular day for those individuals. They fulfilled their dream of earning an opportunity to play college football at a major-conference program. They built a relationship with the coaching staff and signed a binding letter of intent to attend Arizona.
Jan. 2: "Rich Rodriguez Fired as Arizona HC Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations"
For the 16 players, now what? Barring a release that seldom comes, that signature locks them into attending Arizona.
This isn't exclusive to the Wildcats, and it's not a problem limited to off-field matters. After prized running back Mike Weber signed with Ohio State in 2015, his position coach accepted a job with the Chicago Bears a single day later. That was, in a word, shady.
"I'm hurt as hell I ain't gone lie," Weber tweeted at the time.
Incoming players should have the ability to renege on the letter of intent when valid circumstances arise. That includes the departure of the head coach, a key recruiter and/or the position coach. The coaches could be predetermined and simply added as a responsibility of the school to the athlete.
The letter of intent includes a provision addressing this matter and reminds a prospect they are committing to a school and not a coach. But if a coach isn't bound to stay and the university isn't required to retain them, the athlete should have a right of recourse.
Fix Targeting, Part I
Targeting is not ruining college football, but it sure is making things more complicated. The rule states that forcible contact with the crown of the helmet or to the head or neck area of a defenseless player merits an ejection.
Player safety is important. Not every targeting is created equal, though.
Among many examples, 2017 had questionable calls with Ohio State's Denzel Ward decleating a Maryland wide receiver, Northwestern's Paddy Fisher crunching a Kentucky running back, and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb leveling a Tulane defender.
Given the violence of the hits, we understand why officials erred on the side of caution. While questionable, those calls could even stand. Yet the punishments didn't fit the crime, and they're certainly not equal to brutal, undeniable helmet-to-helmet collisions.
College football could institute a system where one egregious penalty and two minor targeting fouls equal an ejection. It's not dissimilar to yellow and red cards in soccer.
However, Ward, Fisher and Lamb weren't even remotely on the same level. Here's a yellow, and do better next time.
Fix Targeting, Part II
Anthony Wheeler exited the 2017 Texas Bowl in the fourth quarter due to a targeting penalty without much argument.
However, this much is controversial: The linebacker will be sidelined for the first half of the Longhorns' 2018 season opener. Michigan State cornerback Josiah Scott is facing the same punishment.
Targeting ejections in the second half of a team's final game should not carry over to the next season.
Jimbo Fisher, while still at Florida State, addressed this matter prior to the 2017 campaign and provided a simple counterargument.
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous," he said, according to Safid Deen of the Orlando Sentinel. "What if a senior got that penalty? Their team is not punished next year."
Throughout the offseason, you'll hear plenty of administrators, coaches and players preach about how "2018 is a new year. We can't think about 2017." The targeting rule's gotta conform to that.
Speed Up Replays
"The ruling on the field is under review."
Good timing! I needed to start a load of laundry, take a shower and grab another drink anyway.
No, replays aren't that time-consuming, but sometimes it doesn't feel like an exaggeration. When an official announces the play requires a second look, it's typically met with groans and eye-rolls.
We absolutely, unequivocally want the correct call to be made. Sometimes, that necessitates a break in the action—which affects the flow of a game—but if a play needs to be reversed, it's worth the wait.
Still, can the interruption take less time, please? Especially when the proper call is so evident and shouldn't even take 30 seconds.
In fairness, centralized replay centers are relatively new, and gradual improvement can be expected. Yet with today's technology, there is practically zero delay between when the command center can view a replay and begin determining the call.
Reviews don't need to linger for three minutes. College football will be more enjoyable with shorter replays.
Spread Key Games Throughout the Day
Week 2 was a perfect example of this fan-centric gripe. Unless you have a four-screen setup or a football-conditioned remote-clicking thumb, the night was a big channel-changing mess.
Auburn vs. Clemson, Oklahoma vs. Ohio State, Notre Dame vs. Georgia and Stanford vs. USC all kicked off within 90 minutes of each other. That offered football fans a flurry of intriguing games, but the best ones practically happened simultaneously.
Considering the schedule that week—lackluster, to put it lightly—we would've enjoyed the showdowns being scattered throughout the day.
It's not a regular occurrence, and broadcast companies occasionally have other obligations to fulfill. We understand the viewing schedule won't always be perfect. But we can be a little selfish, too.
Allow Players to Profit on Their Likeness
Whether schools should pay players is still a divisive issue, and that's not one we can solve in an offseason.
They already receive full-ride scholarships, dude! What more do they need? Besides, most colleges can't afford to pay all the players! We hear you. And we have counterarguments. But let's think about a different facet of athletes receiving money.
Individuals should be able to profit on their own likeness—for example, by collecting appearance fees or a portion of jersey sales.
If Business Owner X wants to give Player Y an endorsement deal, great for that athlete! A reasonable follow-up argument is requiring a player who accepts extra money to pay back the scholarship first.
Plus, this leaves schools entirely out of the paying part of the equation beyond scholarships. If all athletes in every sport have the same opportunity to realize their own market value, Title IX stipulations will be satisfied.
But the most talented people will be paid more than others! How is that fair?
That's life, no?