NCAA to Expand College Football Class Signing Limit

College programs would be able to sign 32 players per recruiting class rather than the previous limit of 25.
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The NCAA is set to expand the college football recruiting class signing limit, sources told Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger

"Officials are set to pass a 1-year waiver next month to immediately expand the 25-man FB signing limit, sources tell Sports Illustrated," Dellenger tweeted on Tuesday. "Coaches can replace up to 7 players who leave for the portal. Max signing # would be 32 (25+7)."

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This move would allow teams to replace seven players that enter the transfer portal. Not just players who leave on their own volition, but even those dismissed from the program. That would allow teams to sign as many as 32 players each recruiting cycle. According to Dellenger, players entering the portal after the December signing period count towards those extra seven spots.

The rule would go into effect immediately, allowing teams to sign up to seven more players for the 2022 recruiting cycle. Syracuse currently has 12 players committed to its 2022 recruiting class. 

More from Dellenger in an article on Sports Illustrated last month

The impetus for immediate action on the topic is a result of policy changes that are leaving—and will leave—many schools well short of the overall 85 scholarship limit. While schools are limited to having 85 scholarship players a year, they are restricted to signing 25 players in a single class. The 100 signees over four years leaves a 15-player wiggle room for natural attrition.

However, there is more movement in the sport than ever before because of a rule change that grants athletes the right to transfer once without penalty. The transfer surge combined with name, image and likeness is resulting in another disturbing trend: coaches steering their recruiting away from the high school level and toward the portal.

Meanwhile, rosters are in for a critical makeover next year, when two classes—as many as 40 players—exit because of a COVID-19-inspired rule granting each athlete an extra year of eligibility.

Officials believe the solution is offering coaches more signee spots, hoping they will use them to both recruit the high school circuit more and to consistently remain near the 85 mark.

“We want to maintain the ability to recruit high school players,” says Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. “If we don’t have any corrective legislation, people aren’t going to do that. We’re trying to maintain high school recruitment and make sure universities hard hit by losses to the transfer portal are O.K.”

Later in the article, Dellenger states that not everyone was on board with the idea, however. 

But not everyone agrees with the proposals. The annual signing limit in football has for years been an argumentative issue. It was originally implemented to disincentivize the trend of coaches cutting or pushing out scholarship players in an effort to over-sign high school players or transfers.

Earlier this year, West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons and other administrators expressed concern that replacing departures with additional signee spots will “repeat history.” They believe that coaches will exploit the change by pushing out players to create an additional spot for more talented athletes—a reason for the cap on replacements.

However, in the compromise proposal, schools can replace only players who leave for the transfer portal on their own. Schools would not be able to gain additional spots for players dismissed from a team, pushed out by coaches or those who leave early for the NFL draft.