The NCAA’s Division I Council has made a significant decision that will impact college football programs across the country. They have voted to eliminate the annual limits on initial counters, which refers to the number of new scholarship players a program can add each offseason. This move allows both FBS and FCS football programs to replace as many scholarships as they lose, up to their overall roster limits of 85 for FBS schools and 63 for FCS schools.
This decision comes after initial counter limits were suspended in 2021 due to complications caused by COVID-19 eligibility and the one-time transfer exception. These factors led to a dramatic increase in player movement, making it difficult for programs to find enough roster spots to accommodate new players under the previous rules. The previous limit on initial counters was 25 per year for FBS schools and 30 per year for FCS schools.
In addition to eliminating the annual limits on initial counters, the Division I Council also voted to shorten transfer windows from a total of 60 days to 45 days for all sports. These changes aim to provide more flexibility for coaches and athletes while also addressing the challenges posed by increased player movement.
The decision to remove the limit on initial counters was driven by the recognition that it would be difficult to revert back to the previous system. The waiver of these limits for the 2022-23 and ’23-24 seasons was a response to the growing attrition rates caused by the popularity of the transfer portal and the additional year of eligibility granted in 2020. Allowing coaches more freedom to replace lost players and maintain a full scholarship roster was necessary at the time.
However, this change also resulted in some predictable consequences. Coaches are now able to oversign with their recruiting and portal classes and can release underperforming players in order to reach the maximum roster size of 85 scholarship players. This flexibility in roster management has been particularly important for new coaching staffs and programs in the midst of rebuilding. For example, Colorado’s Deion Sanders would not have been able to bring in 68 new scholarship players for his first year if the previous signing limits were still in place.
It is clear that the elimination of the annual limits on initial counters has had a significant impact on college football programs. While it provides more flexibility for coaches and allows them to maintain a full roster, it also raises concerns about oversigning and the potential for player exploitation. It will be important for the NCAA to closely monitor these changes and ensure that they are not being abused by programs.
In conclusion, the NCAA’s decision to remove the annual limits on initial counters is a significant development for college football programs. It provides coaches with more flexibility in roster management and allows them to replace lost scholarships up to their overall roster limits. However, it also raises concerns about oversigning and player exploitation. It will be important for the NCAA to closely monitor these changes and make adjustments if necessary to ensure fair and equitable treatment of student-athletes.