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USC Trojans take the lead in giving student-athletes more security

Published 9:27am Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Monday, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden announced that the Trojans will offer four-year athletic scholarships in football, men’s basketball and woman’s basketball effective July 1.
This new policy will completely remove the old policy of offering only one-year scholarships that were up for review annually. These four-year full scholarships will be offered to current and future members of what is now referred to as “revenue sports.”
“In taking this action, USC hopes to lead the effort to refocus on student-athlete welfare on and off the field,” Haden said.
History tells us that in 1957, the NCAA started allowing formal athletic scholarships, which at the time lasted four years.
Coaches were irate because they had no control over underachieving athletes and the athletic departments wanted more power.
In 1973, the NCAA limited all athletic scholarships to one year, renewable at the coach’s discretion. A story from the New York Times in 1973 summarized the rule change like this, “That plan (the one from 1957-1973) was to prevent coaches from eliminating players who did not do well on the athletic team. Now a coach can take away such a scholarship if the boy does not shape up athletically.”
Fast forward to 2011 and after 40 years, the NCAA reversed that decision.
Beginning with the fall signing period in 2011, all Division I universities could offer multi-year scholarships, which also included current athletes on one-year athletic scholarships.
In just a few months, there was a petition to override the NCAA decision, headed by Alabama coach Nick Saban. The group of universities did not want anyone offering multi-year scholarships.
In 2012, Saban said this at a press conference: “I think this is some people’s cynical approach to think that coaches don’t have the best interests of young people that they coach in mind.”
The website had documented the teams that made a habit of over signing players in a given signing period. The football limit on scholarships is 25 annually, but that number can also be misleading if the program failed to sign its allocated 25 the previous year.
The bottom line number is 85 football scholarships, unless your program has had issues with the NCAA and there were scholarship reductions issued as a penalty.
In the case of Nick Saban and the Alabama football team, in 2010 and 2011, there were some questionable tactics and a mass exodus of some 21 players leaving the program which coincided with Alabama over signing recruits in both years. Step in the right direction: Auburn and Florida were the first in the SEC to sign multiyear scholarships in 2012. Auburn’s multi-year scholarships cannot be revoked for athletic performance, a change that the supporters say will give more security than a one-year renewable scholarship.
As of 2013, Auburn had 27 athletes on multi-year scholarships and Alabama had 23, the most by any public institutions as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
SEC schools still not giving multiyear athletic scholarships are LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Missouri. These are some of the wealthiest schools in the country.
“Say what” department: Texas woman’s athletic director Christine Plonsky said this: “Who gets a four-year, $120,000 deal guaranteed at age 17? The last thing young people need right now is more entitlement.”
All institutions who now offer multi-year scholarships now come with stronger language and responsibilities stipulations.
Academic and behavior guidelines that are much stricter will allow the institution some muscle – and an exit clause – in case the student-athlete fails to meet the school standards.
For USC, who is ranked tied for 23rd in the nation in overall ratings (US News and World Report), they usually do not recruit athletes that are marginal students.
Like other private institutions (Notre Dame at No. 18, Stanford at No. 5 and Duke at No. 7), the minimum entrance requirements have nothing to do with the minimum NCAA Clearing House guidelines.
Final Question: Will USC have an advantage in the world of recruiting, in particular the PAC-12?
Answer: Possibly, but competing for a degree from Stanford, UCLA or Cal-Berkeley will always be in play. There are multiple great institutions across the countries that emphasize academics, so the competition for the “student” is sometimes overlooked by the average football or basketball fan in other regions of the country.
In the SEC, Vanderbilt (No. 17) offers multi-year athletic scholarships, and who wouldn’t want a degree from Vandy?
If offering a four-year scholarship deflects the talk regarding paying the student-athlete or allowing them to jeopardize their amateur status, then I support the move.
It finally would allow the student-athlete to participate and receive financial gains from autograph signings.
Johnny Manziel signed over 100,000 pieces and someone made a ton of money off of “Johnny Football.”
Until next time …
Meyers is a sports colmunist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter at @brucemeyers11.