NCAA Scholarship Limit Review

Submitted by umhero on November 18th, 2009 at 6:59 PM
Since OSU weekend will be the number one recruiting weekend of the year and it is evident that Michigan has a significant number of holes to fill on defense, I decided to research the topic of scholarship rules and any changes that may impact this class.

The most frequent questions seems to relate to a statement, by Sam Web on WTKA, that early enrollees can no longer be counted against the previous class.  If you search on that topic you will find that most of the results are message board posters from various schools, but little in the way of authoritative content, so I went to the 2009-2010 NCAA Division 1 Manual.

What follows is an FAQ regarding scholarship rules for the 2009-2010 academic year:

How many scholarships can be awarded for football each year? Bowl Subdivision Football. [FBS] There shall be an annual limit of 25 on the number of initial counters (per Bylaw and an annual limit of 85 on the total number of counters (including initial counters) in football at each institution. (Revised: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/92, 12/15/06)

Are athletic scholarships good for four years or are they renewed each year?

15.3.3 Period of Institutional Financial Aid Award. One-Year Period. If a student’s athletics ability is considered in any degree in awarding financial aid, such aid shall neither be awarded for a period in excess of one academic year nor for a period less than one academic year (see Bylaw 15.01.5). (Revised: 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06) Exceptions. An institution may award athletically related financial aid to a student-athlete for a period of less than one academic year only under the following circumstances: (Adopted: 4/27/06 effective
(a) Midyear Enrollment. A student-athlete whose first full-time attendance at the certifying institution during a particular academic year occurs at midyear (e.g., the beginning of the second semester or second or third quarter of an academic year) may receive a financial aid award for the remainder of that academic year. (Revised: 5/9/06)

Does a player who enrolls in January count as part of the prior year's recruiting class or the current recruiting class? Recruited Student-Athlete Entering after Fall Term, Aided in First Year. [FBS/FCS] A student-athlete recruited by the awarding institution who enters after the first term of the academic year and immediately receives institutional financial aid (based in any degree on athletics ability) shall be an initial counter for either the current academic year (if the institution’s annual limit has not been reached) or the next academic year. The student-athlete shall be included in the institution’s total counter limit during the academic year in which the aid was first received.

Since early enrollees do not actually sign their scholarship until Signing Day could a player technically enroll in school then change his mind and go somewhere else before a scholarship is actually signed?

The answer is apparently yes, since the athlete is technically a student and not an athlete until the scholarship is signed, he could, if he so desired change his mind and go somewhere else.

If players are recruited that play multiple sports do they count against both sports scholarship limits?

15.5.9 Multi-Sport Participants. Football. [FBS/FCS] In football, a counter who was recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who participates (practices or competes) in football and one or more sports (including basketball) shall be counted in football. A counter who was not recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who competes in football and one or more sports (including basketball) shall be counted infootball. (Revised: 1/10/95 effective 8/1/95, 1/9/96 effective 8/1/96)

What rule changes are proposed that might affect scholarship rules?

In Proposal No. 2009-48, the Southeastern Conference wants to limit to 28 the number of Football Bowl Subdivision student-athletes who may sign a National Letter of Intent or an institutional offer of financial aid from the first signing day through May 31. The proposal would curb instances of “over-signing” that have the potential to leave some prospects without a scholarship.

Current rules allow FBS institutions to provide scholarships to 25 new student-athletes per year. However, some schools traditionally have signed more than that to protect themselves in the event that some prospects do not qualify academically. The SEC set a cap of 28 for its own institutions earlier this year, and at that time conference leaders said they viewed the letter of intent as an institutional commitment to a prospect who is capable of contributing academically and athletically. The Big Ten has a similar policy. (source: NCAA)

Based on the information I could find, it seems to me that the rule regarding applying scholarships to the previous season hasn't changed.  Therefore, Michigan can exceed the 25 scholarship limit assuming they didn't have a full class of 25 last year and they don't exceed the 85 player cap. tracks eligibility by class for each school and shows Michigan had 21 players in last year's class leaving room for four players who enroll early to be applied to that class.  This suggests that we could sign a total of 29.  However, according to Scout, Michigan has 66 players on the current roster with remaining eligibility.

Reviewing the list we can remove Helmuth, Clemons, and Cissoko bringing us to 63.  Seniors with eligibility remaining are Cone, Sheridan, Dorrestein, Ferrara, Schilling, Banks, Ezeh, Mouton, and Wright.  I assume we retain all of those players except Cone, Sheridan, and Wright, so that brings us to 60 returning players.  If Kovacs and Leach are given scholarships we're up to 62.  Since we already have 20 players in the class it looks like we only have room for three or five more depending on the status of Kovacs and Leach.

This all made sense to me until I compared our roster to other schools currently with top 25 ranked classes according to Scout.  Here's what I found:

1Oklahoma 256287
2Texas 207090
3Penn State 20101121
4Alabama 2297119
5LSU 236891
6Tennessee 226789
7Georgia 187189
8Florida 176380
9Miami (Fl) 256085
10Oklahoma State 2576101
11Notre Dame 185876
12Stanford 2385108
13Texas A&M 2095115
14Washington 2389112
15USC 148599
16BYU 2583108
17Pittsburgh 2179100
18Auburn 217495
19Michigan 206686
20UCLA 158095
21Ohio State 138295
22Texas Tech 216687
23West Virginia 1995114
24Clemson 186583
25Michigan State 147589

Most of the teams, when you combine current roster players with eligibility with the incoming class, will show classes of 95 players or less.  It's probably safe to assume that those schools will be able to reach the 85 player limit with normal attrition.  However, several of those schools will have over 100 scholarship eligible students.  I realize Brian has addressed this before, but I don't understand how schools like Penn State, Alabama, and West Virginia will have over 90 scholarship players on their rosters before the new class arrives?

Clearly scholarship limits are a complex subject and I don't claim to be an expert.  I hope you found the information above helpful even if it creates more questions.


the fume

November 18th, 2009 at 7:39 PM ^

i attempted to do this myself, but got discouraged because 2 minutes of googling hadn't given me the answer.

hopefully fitting in all these great recruits becomes a problem.

Maize and Blue…

November 18th, 2009 at 8:20 PM ^

O'Neil, Wermers, and Evans who all also transferred and are on the list. I also see Feagin still listed which would open another.
I would have to think other fifth year question marks would be Ferrara and Banks. Also, have to wonder if Dorrestein comes back given the back injury and a slim chance to play at the next level.


November 18th, 2009 at 9:30 PM ^

Some schools give non-athletic scholarships to their players. For instance, Alabama gives a scholarship to the children of players who played for Bear Bryant. As the scholarship isn't a football scholarship, it is considered legal.

For the record, this rule is utter BS. Schools can cheat the scholarship rule easily by inventing other scholarships unless the NCAA makes a new rule saying that only 85 football players may receive a full scholarship unless the scholarship is for something purely academic (for example, I would be fine with National Merit Scholars not counting to the Alabama football team scholarship total).


November 18th, 2009 at 9:45 PM ^

That's very interesting. I read through the bylaws looking for a clear explanation of whether or not academic scholarships counted against the 85 but it wasn't clear. I was wondering if a guy like Morales might have an academic scholarship. I'm pretty sure he had high scholastic numbers coming out of high school.


November 19th, 2009 at 5:31 PM ^ Exception—Receipt of Institutional Academic Aid Only. In football or basketball, a
student-athlete who was recruited by the awarding institution and whose only source of institutional financial
aid is academic aid based solely on the recipient’s academic record at the certifying institution, awarded
independently of athletics interests and in amounts consistent with the pattern of all such awards made by
the institution, may compete without counting in the institution’s financial aid team limits, provided he or
she has completed at least one academic year of full-time enrollment at the certifying institution and has
achieved a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.300 (on a 4.000 scale) at the certifying institution.
(Adopted: 10/27/05 effective 8/1/06)

I.E. If Kovacs would have had an academic scholarship he wouldn't have counted since he had spent a full year on campus without playing football. I can see this helping a few walk-ons but I can't imagine it would result in any more than maybe 3 or 4 players at any one time and that's probably pushing it. However, I wonder if Forcier Sr. is on an academic scholarship.


November 19th, 2009 at 5:45 PM ^

Here's the section pursuant to the section I previously posted: Football or Basketball, Varsity Competition. In football or basketball, a student-athlete who
was recruited by the awarding institution and who receives institutional financial aid (as set forth in Bylaw granted without regard in any degree to athletics ability does not have to be counted until the student-
athlete engages in varsity intercollegiate competition (as opposed to freshman, B-team, subvarsity, intramural
or club competition) in those sports. For this provision to be applicable, there shall be on file in the office
of the athletics director certification by the faculty athletics representative, the admissions officer and the chair
of the financial aid committee that the student’s admission and financial aid were granted without regard in any
degree to athletics ability. (Revised: 1/16/93 effective 8/1/93, 1/11/94, 6/20/04)

So now the question becomes does a red-shirt count as "freshman, B-team, subvarsity, intramural or club competition" if so I think that's potentially huge and if not then it's really in a rare case this bylaw would be of any consequence.


November 18th, 2009 at 10:43 PM ^

Here: No more speculating, here it is in concrete numbers. You can add them up and you dont have to guess. These are the scholarship players scheduled to return next year. Keep in mind RR already said Kovacs would be on scholarship next year.



J Robinson-Fr

T Rob-So




Van Bergen-Jr


B Smith-So
M Jones-So

Warren-Sr (assuming he stays)
T Jones-So

T Gordon-RFr

M Robinson-Fr

Special Teams:

Thats 43 offense, 36 defense, 3 special teams. So basically 82. That means we have 3 scholarships to give and if we want to sign a full class of 25 we need to cut a couple of 5th yr seniors loose. I would suspect Cone and Wright, maybe Patterson. However, there are a few wild-cards. Is Moundrous on scholarship? Morales? Leach next year? Either way, here it is in black and white. I get a kick out of everyone who keeps saying we can sign like 29 players and still be under 85. Nope. Also, take a look at who will graduate in 2010. We have a total of 13 seniors, and if 3 of the 5th year guys arent back and their scholarships are used for 2010 recruits, that means we only have 10 coming off the books and available for the 2011 class. Thats a small class. Now I expect a few guys to transfer but still, we might be looking at a 2011 class of 14-16 players at most. Better use them wisely.


November 18th, 2009 at 11:47 PM ^

I agree that it's unlikely that we sign 29. As I said in my diary, while we could technically sign 29 and meet the yearly requirement, we would exceed the 85 player cap. However, the variable that none of us can answer for sure is how many 5th years will be invited back?

What would you do if you were the head coach and the following nine players wanted to commit when you only had 3 schollies?

Cullen Christian
Tony Jefferson
Kenny Stills
Rashad Knight
Tony Grimes
Dillon Baxter
Kenny Shaw
Tex Beachum
Clarence Murphy

Would you consider not renewing the following scholarships?


We as fans really want to know how flexible the team can be. It looks like the maximum they could find room for is 29 assuming six 5th year seniors aren't invited back. It is unlikely that we will do that, as you have pointed out, since it limits our options the following season but it's nice to know that we can find room if some last minute stars decide to join us.


November 19th, 2009 at 5:43 AM ^

is about the academic rules with regard to next year's 5th-year players. Are there progress requirements that basically mean all of them are on track to graduate this year? It doesn't seem ethical to take a scholarship away from a player who needs it to graduate, unless that player has been warned repeatedly that redshirting doesn't guarantee they will be given a 5th scholarship year.


November 19th, 2009 at 11:29 AM ^

and 5th year seniors on your list not 13 (Sheridan, Cone, Webb, Schilling, Dorrestein, Ferrara, Banks, Sagasse, Patterson, Ezeh, Mouton, Warren, Woolfolk, Rogers and Wright), so that adds two slots to the 2011 class.

In addition, the following players will be redshirt juniors next fall (Kl Grady, Hemingway, M Williams, Molk, Van Bergen, Herron, Huyge and Watson). I can identify three from that list that seem unlikely to get a 5th year.

So that puts the 2011 class at 15 (assuming 3 5th years don't come back and are in the 2010 class). If one then assumes that one player from the 2010 class doesn't qualify, and one each from the 2009 and 2008 classes transfer or otherwise leave the team, you are up to a class size of 18.


November 19th, 2009 at 9:50 AM ^

If we've learned anything the past two years it is to expect that we'll be surprised by a departure or two. I don't think Rodriguez would pull a Saban, but players can see the writing on the wall. If there are good recruits who want to come, we'll find room for them somehow up to the limits.

I think Cone and Wright are gone for sure. I think there's an above average chance that two other 5th years don't come back. Then you have questions about Warren returning. So that's up to 4-5 guys already. And we also know that recruits change their mind. I could easily see one recruit going elsewhere, leaving 5-6 spots. Right now I don't think we need to worry about that too much.

Here's a question for you - what about giving the Braylon Scholarship to one of our receivers to take them off the books? Personally I think that's an important scholarship that shouldn't be abused for roster purposes, but could you justify giving it to Odoms? Stonum?


November 20th, 2009 at 6:30 PM ^

I'm the least qualified to address this, but I don't think that the Braylon Scholarship player "comes off the books." It counts towards the 85, so really it doesn't help us that much at all.

I think this is along the lines of the NCAA rule that says that any player on scholarship counts towards the 85, to keep schools from giving track scholarships etc to football players.


November 19th, 2009 at 12:07 PM ^

This writeup is generally good, but a couple things need to be clarified:
1) The numbers in your chart aren't standardized, some include walkons and some don't.
2) We might theoretically be able to count more than four scholarships back since we had a bunch of EEs last year.
3) The Big Ten has it's own limit of 27 scholarships, since the NCAA's limit is 25, I think we can deduce that the Big Ten's number includes those who enroll early.


November 19th, 2009 at 2:08 PM ^

1. As I said, I used's eligibility tracker. It doesn't indicate walkons in any way and doesn't include Michigan's walkons.

I just looked at both schools lists and something else jumps out. Penn State, excluding current freshman, has 79 players that used a redshirt. Michigan, excluding current freshman, have used 34. That means Penn State redshirts most every player. I'm sure we all agree that we would love to redshirt more players so that they can have more time to mature, however it seems improbable given roster limits and freshman playing demands to consistently do this.

2. Good point!

3. I'm pretty sure the Big Ten rule relates only to over-signing. You are able to over-sign up to 27 players to allow for players that may not qualify. I don't think it has anything to do with early enrollers. The Big Ten rule is mentioned in the article I linked to above, and it suggests it's like the new NCAA rule proposed by the SEC.


November 19th, 2009 at 2:28 PM ^

3. The Big Ten requires that if you use scholarships 26 and 27 you have to demonstrate where those are coming from. In other words you can't count on players not qualifying, you have to have the scholarships on hand at the time they're signed for.

I don't know the specifics of the rule the SEC just adopted, but the NCAA has a limit of 25 per year. If the SEC says they have a limit of 27 that means teams that sign 27 have to count at least 2 players to the year before as EEs or the year after as grayshirts. In other words because the NCAA has a soft limit of 25 we can deduce that the SEC or Big Tens limits of 27 are hard limits. Hopefully that clears that up for you, even though it may have made it more complicated.


November 19th, 2009 at 7:48 PM ^

Can you provide a link to that Big Ten rule? It seems you are mistaken about the rule. I really doubt it has anything to do with early enrollees. For example, Minnesota signed 30 players last year because they were able to include five early enrollees in the previous class.

If you read my post above, I made it clear that the NCAA rule is 25 per year and 85 total, but early enrollees don't count as part of the 25 as long as there is room in the previous class.

The SEC proposed a new NCAA rule similar to one the Big Ten currently employs that would cap the number of scholarships available to offer at 28 to prevent over-signing problems. The rule may require schools to demonstrate where scholarships are expected to come from but that is unrelated to EE.


November 19th, 2009 at 10:06 PM ^

Looking my comment over I realize I was really unclear because I mostly agree with the points you made.

I didn't have a time to do more than a quick google of it, but here's this article from…

When the Big Ten made the change in 2002, it instituted a policy where teams could oversign by no more than three players, and DiNardo said a detailed explanation behind the oversigning had to be submitted to the Big Ten.

So what I was trying to basically make two points.
1st) In the Big Ten the max you can sign period is 28, even if you have the extra roster space and can count back the needed number of scholarships to the year before or the year after (which is needed to satisfy the NCAAs standards).
2nd) If you sign 28, it's totally fine if all 28 qualify and enroll as long as some of them enroll early/late and count back/forward.


November 20th, 2009 at 7:17 AM ^

I understand that you are trying to make two points but my point is it has nothing to do with early enrollees. The explanation the Big Ten requires must be "why it is unlikely all 28 will qualify", not that some will early enroll.

As I said, Minnesota signed 30 last year because they counted 5 back to the prior season. How do you explain that if your theory is correct?


November 20th, 2009 at 12:46 PM ^

I'm very confused. You seem to realize that if a team takes more than 25, the excess scholarships are going to have to be filed under another year. That's what I was saying.

As for Minnesota, it was the 2008 recruiting class and they had 29 commitments not 30 (look up their rivals page) and one commitment, Roszell Gayden, never signed his LOI, (look up their scout page) so they signed 28.


November 21st, 2009 at 8:41 AM ^

I assume you're talking about Minnesota's 2008 recruiting class. Scout lists Minnesota with 31 commits, but 7 of those are listed as junior college players. Junior college players do not sign letters of intent. They are considered transfer students and fall under section 14.5.4 of the NCAA regulation.