Jeff Long’s No. 1 job as athletic director at Kansas is to fix the Jayhawks moribund football program, and he appears prepared to pull out all the stops to do so.
He started things off by hiring former LSU national title-winning coach Les Miles. The hire drew mixed reviews, but if anything, it is a big swing at one of the top names out there, though it is anyone’s guess how successful The Mad Hatter will be in Lawrence.
Long also wants to see change to the sport itself, to help the program dig out from its deep hole. Among the biggest issues the team has faced over the last few years, which have featured a number of doomed coaching changes, is an inability to reach the 85-player scholarship limit.
At best, last coach David Beaty got his roster up to 70 scholarship players. At its worst, Beaty’s Jayhawks had under 40.
That makes it impossible to build depth and sustain injuries. To combat the issues, Long has proposed a major change to the rules, which generally allow for 25 scholarships per class, and 85 total per roster (there are some rules that allow teams to count early enrollees against the previous class limit.)
Kansas AD Jeff Long has proposed changing the rules to allow teams to take 50 scholarship players over two year periods, with a potential one-year cap of 35 players.
That means a team in need of an infusion of talent after a coaching change could theoretically take 40 players, but are limited to 10 the next year.
The proposal has gotten worked down a bit as he has presented it to the Big 12 commissioners, but it remains a pretty interesting idea.
Long’s model involves a rolling total of 50 players signed over two years, and he pitched it while meeting with other Big 12 athletic directors in Arizona earlier this month. Theoretically, a football program could sign 40 players in one recruiting class if it was willing to sign only 10 the following year.
“I think that 50 number shocked people,” Long told the Journal-World, “so we’ve adjusted that as we’ve talked and explored it with people, and we’ve proposed a cap of 35 in one year.”
While 35 was the one-year figure Long laid out in a report from Sports Illustrated, he understands that others within the college football profession might be more comfortable with capping the signings at 30 in a given year.
The piece outlines some interesting arguments for and against the proposal. There are legitimate concerns that power programs could run off older players that don’t live up to expectation in order to fill these big classes more often, though Long says the APR, which stresses keeping players on path to graduate, could reduce that concern.
He pushes the player safety component: more able, scholarship players could make for a safer sport.
It doesn’t sound like a vote on a rule like this is all that close, but it definitely an interesting idea that could help manage some of the inequity among programs, which hasn’t gotten any better as of late.