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  • If players are free to transfer when a coach leaves, how likely is it that the incoming coach would get a chance to make up for that attrition right away? Plus, Florida State's intriguing quarterback situation and the rest of this week's #DearAndy mailbag.
By Andy Staples
January 31, 2018

I’m sorry if this is getting posted a little later than I’d like. Some schools proposed rule changes that are actually sensible, and I fainted…

From Shane: [If the NCAA adopts the transfer rule idea the Big 12 proposed, it] has to effect signing totals. If a team loses tons of players due to coaching change, then the coach replacing him will have to be given opportunity to oversign and replace them. Or is that too logical for the NCAA to implement?

The Big 12 has put forth an excellent proposal to overhaul the NCAA’s transfer rules, and it addresses nearly every criticism of the current transfer restrictions placed on athletes. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports broke the news on Tuesday, and the public response to the idea—which would have to get support from other leagues and then be voted on later by the schools—has been overwhelmingly positive. Before I address Shane’s specific question, let’s look at the broad strokes for an idea that would apply to all sports under the NCAA’s purview.

• The graduate transfer rule—which allows graduates to transfer and play immediately—would remain unchanged. 

• Coaches and athletic directors would no longer be allowed to block an athlete from transferring on scholarship to a specific school. 

• Undergraduates who transfer would have to sit out a year with three key exceptions:

1. An undergraduate could transfer and play immediately if that player’s head coach leaves the school or gets fired. A player would not be allowed to follow a coach to that coach’s new school without sitting out a year.

2. An undergraduate could transfer and play immediately if that player’s program is sanctioned by the NCAA.

3. An undergraduate could transfer and play immediately if that player is a walk-on.

This idea contains more common sense than the entire NCAA Division I manual, and the cynical among us remain skeptical that the schools would exercise so much common sense while overhauling some of the NCAA’s most athlete-unfriendly rules. But this might come to pass. At the very least, the new rules are going to ban coaches and ADs from blocking players from transferring where they choose on scholarship. While everything else seems up for debate, this seems non-negotiable. That by itself is proof the people who run college athletics have been paying attention and know they need to do something before a court steps in and forces something more drastic.

As for letting players leave when their coach leaves, this would address concerns about millionaire coaches having freedom of movement while players—whose compensation is capped by a bunch of colluding schools—can’t move freely between institutions. The players whose coaches move would be free to move. This would give players whose coaches leave a chance to reassess their options without completely opening up transfers—which probably wouldn’t be manageable.

That piece, if enacted, wouldn’t cause a mass exodus every time a coach left or got fired. Some players certainly would leave. But most players wouldn’t want to leave their teammates or their campus or their major. It’s hard to transfer as an undergraduate independent of sports. Most players would stay.

The NCAA sanction piece might cause waves of players to leave a program depending on the situation, but consider when this actually happened a few years ago. When the NCAA punished Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky scandal—the sanctions were later repealed—all of Penn State’s football players were free to transfer and play elsewhere immediately. Only a handful actually left.

That was a long preamble to answer Shane’s question, but yes, I think such a rule change would need to include some language to allow schools to replenish a roster if a huge chunk of a team left. Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said as much to Dodd. I don’t know how often that scholarship limit flexibility would need to be used, but it would need to be included for extreme cases.

As to whether it’s too logical to be implemented, I never thought I’d see the day when schools proposed rule changes this sensible. So I’m pretty optimistic that logic would be employed to deal with potential consequences.

From @tstad27: How do you see the QB situation at Florida State shaping up next year in Willie Taggart’s first year in Tallahassee? Does Deondre Francois reclaim the starting job? Does James Blackman keep it? Does Bailey Hockman push them both?

The headlines about Francois came and went last week once the details of why the police came to his apartment emerged. But even without that distraction, Francois—who tore his patellar tendon in his left knee against Alabama in September—faces a challenge to win back the starting job. His decision to skip Senior Day to hang with suspended wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips was a bad look, and while Francois has his supporters on the team, Blackman won a lot of fans in the locker room with his play and his toughness last season.

Francois seems to fit best in the offense Taggart devised to save his job at South Florida and then refined at Oregon. He’s a better runner than Blackman and has a better arm than former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, who excelled in the offense. But Justin Herbert looked like a star (when healthy) playing in Taggart’s offense last year, and Blackman seems to have a similar skill set.

The wild card is Hockman, a suburban Atlanta product who enrolled in January 2017 and would have been in the mix to replace Francois had he not suffered a preseason shoulder injury. If Jimbo Fisher were still at Florida State, it would be easy to predict a Francois-Blackman competition. But Taggart and his staff will look at the entire roster with fresh eyes. That should allow Hockman a chance to prove whether he belongs in the competition.

From Zac: With the return of early Heisman favorite Bryce Love and a full spring camp as the starter for K.J. Costello, where do the questions lie for Stanford to be considered a contender in this year’s College Football Playoff?

One of the biggest questions is whether the offense will change now that coordinator/offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren has left to become the head coach at Rice. My guess is not much changes, because head coach David Shaw was very hands-on with the offense and new offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard has been on the staff in various roles since 2010.

The other big question is whether Costello will be the presumed starter. Davis Mills, the nation’s top-rated pro-style quarterback in the class of 2017, redshirted last season and probably would prefer not to spend another season on the sidelines. So Costello, who was in the same position last year, likely will get a push.

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