In case you haven’t been paying attention --- and there’s nothing wrong with that --- the NCAA executive committee and approximately 50 school presidents met this week and decided they want to make a radical change in the college sports landscape.
They want to tie APR numbers to postseason opportunities (which means No. 1 seed Ohio State wouldn’t have received an NCAA Tournament invite) and they want to simplify the recruiting rulebooks and they want to do a bunch of other stuff.
For those of us who’ve paid attention to college sports for three decades or more, it sounds like a bunch of talk that we’ve heard before. But when the presidents came out Thursday and passed a rule that teams must have at least a 930 APR ranking in order to compete in a postseason tournament, it suggested this time might be different.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, a member of the American Football Coaches Association’s Ethics committee, has thoughts on prospective legislation as it pertains to football.
“I think we’re starting to figure out that too many programs are trying to find the ‘gray’ of everything. And playing the gray instead of saying, ‘This is the rule. This is what we should do and shouldn’t do and let’s move on.’ It’s really not that complicated. It’s mostly called common sense.
“In college football in general, there’s great integrity. There’s great people in the head-coaching roles leading programs. Great ADs. Great presidents. And, obviously, we get a black eye because of a few poor choices and mistakes. And rightfully so.
“How we need to fix things and where they need to go? I hope the coaches are involved. I’m excited the presidents are discussing it, but I hope the coaches are involved. They need to be involved from the standpoint of ‘What’s reality?’ Yeah, there’s a 400-game (recruiting rule) book, but what’s really going on?
“And how is that impacting not only from a standpoint of major violations, but we talked a lot at the Ethics committee that I’m on with the AFCA, about putting a scoreboard behind the coaches like we do with their graduation rates and their APR for their secondary violations? Secondary violations, that’s where you’re really, truly getting a recruiting advantage.
“A lot of coaches and a lot of programs say, ‘It’s OK, it’s only a secondary violation. That’s all right. But we’re going to get you to come play for us because we enact that secondary violation, but it’s only a slap on the wrist.’ How many secondary violations are added up behind a coach should equal a major? There’s a lot of ways that we can clean some things up.”
Of course, head coaches almost never get caught for violations. It’s always some “rogue assistant” doing things without the head coach’s knowledge. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I asked Fitz how such situations should be scored.
“It should go on both of us. I think it should go on four people. It should go on that coach. It should go on me. It should go on (NU AD) Jim Phillips and the president. We’re the ones that are responsible. Obviously I report to Jim and President Schapiro, so it’s my responsibility as a head coach first and foremost.
“But we’ve got complete buy-in. We’re all on the same page on what we want to do. Our guys know we’re going to do things the right way. If we make a mistake --- we’ve committed secondary violations here. I’m not going to name ‘em off, but they weren’t intentional.”
Wow. This turned into a longer kickoff than I expected. It's through the end zone and then some.
We’re going to have to save the rest of the breakdown for another post. Look for stuff on Northwestern’s Jack Konopka (Fremd) and Mark Szott (Waubonsie Valley)…stuff on NIU’s Michael Santacaterina (Geneva)… and stuff on an Illinois topic to be determined.
Oh, and that Whitney Mercilus feature I promised ought to see the light of print in Saturday’s editions. Illinois' junior defensive end is a good story.