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New LSU football coach Brian Kelly will surely try to take advantage of the NCAA’s new rule passed Wednesday on limitless signing classes in a year – as long as the scholarship total does not exceed the overall limit of 85.
Kelly walked into a depleted roster when he left Notre Dame for LSU last December. The Tigers had just 39 players of the possible 85 on scholarship when they lost, 42-20, to unranked Kansas State in the Texas Bowl on Jan. 4 to finish 6-7 – LSU’s first losing season since 1999.
Kelly finished with a signing class of just 15 in February and had to scramble to fill his roster before spring drills in March through an NCAA Transfer Portal often filled with players who were not starting or playing much. He can hit the high schools now harder than he already has been.
“It was the right decision because when that cap of 25 was set (in 2017), you certainly didn’t have the transfer portal,” Kelly said Wednesday night in Metairie – a suburb of New Orleans where he spoke during the LSU coaches’ caravan tour. “So this is a smart move.”
The ability to transfer without having to sit out a year because of a waiver due to COVID-19 in 2020 also wreaked havoc on roster management around the nation.
But when college football had limitless signing classes in the decades before 1972 when a limit of 105 scholarships was instituted, coaches hoarded players to keep them away from rivals, then tried to run many non-performing players off to get to more workable numbers.
Because of that, the NCAA will allow limitless signing classes over just the next two years to start. And the NCAA Football Oversight Committee will monitor transfer trends and focus on coaches who may try to take advantage of the limitless classes through hoarding players, then running them off. After two years, the NCAA will decide to go back to a limit or keep the yearly recruiting classes limitless, other than the 85 limit overall.
“Certainly, we’ve got to make sure we do the right things,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re honoring scholarships, and we’re not doing things like moving guys out of the program. I think they want to make sure that it’s not going to be abused.”
Kelly hopes the limit remains just the 85 overall.
“I think if it’s handled the right way and done the right way, 85 is the right way to handle this and manage the roster appropriately,” he said.