Recruits who sign with many Big Ten schools today can expect more security with their scholarships than ever before.
Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Ohio State and several other schools have offered four-year scholarships to prospects in this year's class instead of the one-year, renewable scholarships that had been the norm throughout college sports.
The NCAA has supported a plan to make four-year scholarships a permissible benefit, and the full membership of the NCAA is expected to approve of that measure this month. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has encouraged league schools to offer four-year scholarships, Lesmerises reports.
Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Northwestern have confirmed to ESPN.com that they have also awarded four-year grants to recruits. Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana are still offering the one-year, renewable scholarship.
The SEC and MAC have left it up to individual schools to determine if they want to offer multi-year grants, Lesmerises reports. A four-year scholarship offer could help schools in recruiting if a prospect is faced with the choice between that and only one secured year of a full ride.
By guaranteeing four years to a player, programs are eliminating a coach's ability to run off players because they have oversigned or because they feel the player's athletic performance is not up to snuff. It also prevents a new coach from coming into a program and cutting players who don't fit his style. That gives more protection to the college athlete, and that's a noble cause.
"Some may look at it and say it's symbolic," Chad Hawley, the Big Ten's associate commissioner for compliance told The Plain Dealer. "In the vast majority of cases with a one-year grant, if student-athletes came in and did what they needed to do, it was renewed. But at the same time, I think there's a peace of mind that goes beyond symbolism."
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the paper that players can still lose their scholarship for academic failings and off-the-field transgressions, so a school won't be locked into keeping a troubled player. And coaches can still encourage players to transfer by letting them know they won't get any playing time if they stick around.
But this should reduce or eliminate cases of players losing their scholarships through no real fault of their own. And in a college sports landscape where the rules are often stacked against players, that's a good thing.