Report: MAC concept for football scholarship rule change mirrors idea pushed by KU’s Jeff Long

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas athletic director Jeff Long, center, stands along the sidelines before kickoff with chancellor Douglas Girod, right, on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

An idea pushed this past spring by University of Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long may be picking up some steam nationally.

According to a report from The Athletic, the Mid-American Conference has introduced what is now known as a “concept” in NCAA legislation parlance that suggests college football programs should be able to sign up to 35 scholarship players a year, with a maximum of 50 over a two-year period.

It’s the same plan Long presented to fellow Big 12 athletic directors this past spring, as he attempts to accelerate KU football’s ability to climb out of its scholarship deficit.

Current NCAA rules cap a given program’s signing class at 25 new scholarship players per year. While meeting in Arizona with other conference athletic directors in May, Long pitched the rolling total of 50 for two years with a maximum of 35 in one year, though he told the Journal-World at the time he thought 30 might ultimately be the number accepted widely as the idea made the rounds.

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who also was elected this summer as vice chair of the NCAA Division I Council, spoke with Andy Staples of The Athletic about the suggested rule change. Steinbrecher told Staples that before the council would vote on any such submission it must be introduced as a “concept” so the potential change could be debated and possibly altered before it appears on the NCAA’s legislative agenda.

The MAC’s latest move doesn’t guarantee the concept will be voted upon, but it does signal that programs other than KU are in favor of it.

Just as Long did, Steinbrecher cited player safety concerns as a primary argument for the change, given the need to have as many healthy scholarship athletes available as possible for both practices and games to prevent further “wear and tear” on players.

Former KU head coach David Beaty said when he took over the program in December 2014 that KU was down to 39 true scholarship athletes — not including walk-ons who picked up scholarships after spending time on the team.

Asked earlier this year how many recruited scholarship players the Jayhawks will have this coming season, during Les Miles’ first year in charge, Long told the Journal-World, “It’s hard to say.” But an educated guess at the figure puts KU at approximately 70 true scholarship players, still well below the NCAA roster limit of 85.

“The hard cap of 25 initials prevents you from getting back to a healthy number of scholarships in a reasonable amount of time from our standpoint,” Long told the Journal-World earlier this year. “We project it will take four or five years for us to recover from where we are at this point.”

Long described it as “unlikely” that this type of rule change would be both pushed forward and go into effect before the class of 2020 signing periods. But he also hoped “some movement” would help the idea gain momentum in the coming year.

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