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There is new relief for college football programs suffering from NCAA Transfer Portal roster shortages and roster management issues.
Teams can now sign as many players as needed in a single recruiting class beginning with the class of 2023, so long as it does not exceed the number of overall scholarships allowed, which is 85. Up until this rule passed by the NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday, football programs could sign a maximum of 25 in a recruiting cycle.
In the last year, though, more players than ever have transferred to other schools because of NCAA rules passed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that that allowed players to transfer with immediate eligibility. Previously for decades, transfers had to sit out a year. This resulted in nationwide roster mayhem and shortages with late additions needed because of the 25-limit on signing classes as of the second signing day each year in February.
It was getting more and more difficult to replace transfers after the signing date, after the spring games and throughout the summer. The addition of the new Name, Image and Likeness rules last summer played a key role in roster management issues as they provided more motivation to transfer as schools hunting for new players have been sweetening the pot via NIL deals.
There may be an unintended consequence of unlimited, yearly scholarship totals, though.
Without the 25 limit, college football programs could begin oversigning or hoarding players again just to keep them away from other schools, then motivating those players who are not panning out to leave. This is what coaches often did throughout the history of college football until a scholarship limit of 105 was instituted by the NCAA in 1973, mainly due to new Title IX legislation in 1972 that leveled the scholarship playing field between men and women sports.
The scholarship limit in college football was reduced to 95 in 1978 and to 85 in 1992.
College football coaches can once again hoard players on the December and February signing dates as long as they eventually get down to 85. But the NCAA has limited the new rule allowing as many as needed each year to a two-year window at the moment.
The Football Oversight Committee will monitor the transfer process over the next two years with a focus on coaches who may try to hoard players, then run them off amid the new rules. In two years, the NCAA will decide to return to a yearly limit on signing classes or keep that under the new rule.