Most of you have probably seen that the NCAA voted to adopt a series of proposed rule changes surrounding the issues of scholarships and minimal academic performance. The most publicized change will be one relating to full cost scholarships, allowing schools to offer athletes up to an additional $2,000 beyond a standard scholarship offer. The idea here is to allow schools to offset miscellaneously expenses incurred by athletes that do not fall under the standard coverage of room, board, tuition, and books. Less publicized but still important are the decisions to allow schools to offer scholarships to former student-athletes and to allow multi-year scholarship offers instead of the current renewable scholarships.
Additionally, the NCAA will slowly raise the minimum Academic Progress Rate (APR) requirement for postseason eligibility from 900 to 930, with the change being completely adopted by 2015. They also voted to limit the number of physical activity classes an athlete takes and raise requirements for transfers.
How does this affect Tennessee?
As regards APR, don't ask me. The formula is convoluted, and I'm never sure exactly where we stand, but if our football score after the last couple years of attrition still exceeds the minimal standards, it's hard to imagine dropping below. I suspect that more focus will be put on providing tutors (hopefully not UNC-style) and the like.
While the additional $2,000 that can be paid is the eye-catcher, it's not clear that it'll do anything to change the competitive balance, especially in the SEC. Let's face it, every school in the conference will offer the money to every scholarship athlete in the revenue sports, so the playing field won't change much. Perhaps some schools whose athletic departments consistently lose money will make the decision to keep scholarship offers as is, but that's not a problem we should have at Tennessee, and our rivals won't have them either. One may wonder what will happen in the future now that the topic of paying players has been breached, but the NCAA resolved to leave the number at $2,000 for the next three years, so we'll deal with the slippery slope in 2014 or later.
The most interesting change in my eyes is allowing schools the choice to offer four-year scholarships instead of yearly renewable scholarships. One would expect the market to demand multi-year offers, but might consistent national title contenders have the kind of sales pitch to deliver them recruits despite merely offering renewable scholarships? Would they even try? That's not clear. But anyone from the Nick Saban school of roster management may have issues with multi-year offers becoming the new norm. Most academic scholarships carry minimum academic standards, such that poor academic performance will result in a pulled scholarship. While athletic scholarships will carry the same standards, they will likely no longer carry minimum athletic standards. Realistically though, the coaches have other ways of strongly encouraging transfers without openly threatening to pull a scholarship, so I'd expect the cases where this is a problem to be few and far between.
Finally, it is important to note the scholarships now allowed for former-student athletes. While I can't imagine it giving a competitive advantage to any particular school, anything that helps former players complete their education is a welcome addition.
So how will this all affect Tennessee? Though it will be interesting to see exactly how some of these changes play out, I imagine that we'll be treated to a heavy dose of things staying very much the same.