The NCAA repealed a longstanding prohibition on multi-year scholarships a couple years back. Uptake has been surprisingly slow, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details:
…nearly two years after that legislation, multiyear scholarships are rare, not publicized by universities and largely unknown by the athletes. According to data of 82 universities at the Division I-A level obtained by the Post-Gazette through open records requests, only 16 have offered more than 10 multiyear scholarships. Thirty-two of the universities have offered between one and 10, and thirty-four have not offered any.
Ryan Squire, the associate athletics director for compliance at Illinois, remembers that when the legislation was passed in 2011 many schools "were all calling around saying, 'What are you going to do, what are you going to do?' And they said, 'We're kind of going to hope other schools aren't doing it.'"
Ryan Squire can get away with saying that because Illinois is an exception to the rule, giving a "majority" of its athletes four-year deals. Fresno State has gone all-in. Michigan State has gone four-year-exclusive in football. Most everyone else has tried to avoid the topic altogether.
This is an issue that shouldn't exist at all anymore. Schools should no longer have a total limit of scholarship athletes in any sport, but rather yearly caps that encourage retention instead of summary execution. In an environment where every stakeholder with an ounce of power is busy holding down costs that aren't administrator salaries, that's never going to happen.
There is a point in time during which the students have the power: when they're being recruited. If Jabrill Peppers wants a four-year deal at Michigan, or anywhere else, Michigan will trip over itself to get him the proper paperwork. If a marginal recruit isn't offered one, he knows the deal. The common theme in these stories, however, is that players—and I imagine by extension their parents—are at best vaguely aware of the terms of their scholarship:
"The multiyear, the first one, I think," said Boyd, a Clairton High School student who signed with the Panthers in February.
He thought about it for a moment longer. He then asked his coach, Tom Nola. Boyd reconsidered. In fact, he thought, his scholarship lasted for only one year with a renewal option.
"I've never had a parent bring it up to me and I'm around a lot of people," says Montour High School football coach Lou Cerro. "I'm not sure why the NCAA and the coaches are keeping this a secret. It doesn't make any sense."
"I'm not sure," tight end Brent Wilkerson said. "I hope I'm on scholarship for four years."
Penn State safety Malcolm Willis said he was on a renewable scholarship and preferred it this way, saying, "you have to earn your scholarship."
“The bigger failure is not that the school isn’t adopting” multiyear aid, John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State University, told us, “but that we’re not seeing this market develop where kids know there is the potential for multiyear scholarships and negotiating for that.”
So what to do?
Well, isn't this somewhat on recruiting reporters? Recruiting reporters are the number one avenue that recruits have to express themselves in the media; I'd guess the ratio of reporter contact to coach contact most recruits have is 10:1. Coaches are obviously loathe to mention the possibility of multi-year aid; reporters shouldn't be.
But I have literally never seen an article in which the reporter asked whether Recruit X is seeking a multiyear scholarship and which schools are amenable to that request. Not only is that information interesting, but by asking the kids you get the kids to ask the schools and hopefully chip away at the gap between the rules and recruits' knowledge of them. This goes triple for anyone covering Michigan State or Illinois or Fresno State (if recruiting reporters covering Fresno State exist), schools that will look on that sort of question as beneficial to their interests.
Ask the kids about which schools are offering them four-year rides, and the mystery of slow uptake will resolve itself either way.