PULLMAN – The Pac-12 is changing college athletics and its football coaches are mostly on board, with some reservations. One of the biggest reforms announced by the conference on Monday is that all athletic scholarships will be guaranteed for at least four years. Previously, scholarships were renewed annually and coaches had the ability to withhold the scholarship for any reason, including lack of performance.
The conference is also pledging to financially support student-athletes that leave school early by giving them the necessary educational expenses when they return to school providing that they left after completing 50 percent of their degree requirements.”
“I think in a lot of ways that stuff’s overdue,” said California coach Sonny Dykes. “First of all I was glad to see the Pac-12 take the lead in that in terms of setting the standard. I think anything that’s good for student-athletes is good and I think all these changes are going to be good for student-athletes.”
Much of this was made possible by the decision of the NCAA Board of Governors to grant autonomy to the Power Five conferences, allowing the 65 schools belonging to the richest conferences to govern themselves.
One of the most popular reforms will enhance medical support for athletes, requiring schools to provide direct medical expenses for athletics-related injuries for up to four years after the student leaves the institution.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich says the policies, “give us an advantage in recruiting across the country because they see a conference that truly cares about student-athletes.”
Washington State coach Mike Leach believes that guaranteeing student-athletes’ scholarships for such a long period will lessen accountability and remove a tool for coaches to make sure their players are listening to their coaches and meeting the programs’ behavior expectations.
“If in your job you don’t meet certain criteria they’re going to get rid of you, too,” Leach said. Still, he’s glad that language is included in the proposal saying that the scholarships are only guaranteed provided the athlete remains in good standing and meets his or her terms of the agreement. Washington’s Chris Petersen was nonplussed by the four-year scholarships.
“As far as I’ve always been concerned if guys are eligible, doing the right things academically and staying out of trouble they should be on scholarship the whole time and that’s what they’re going to be anyways,” he said.
The conference also expressed its support for increasing athlete stipends to match the actual cost of attendance, but will vote on that proposal along with the rest of the Power Five member schools in January.
Kristoff Williams leaves WSU
Mike Leach confirmed after Tuesday’s practice that former receiver Kristoff Williams is no longer a football player at Washington State. The receiver has been mostly absent from the team since WSU’s second game of the season at Nevada, not playing in games and sporadically attending practice. Williams chose to attend WSU over reported scholarship offers from Army, Fresno State, Nevada and UNLV. He was named Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention as a sophomore and made First Team as a junior. Last season he was also named WSU’s Special Teams MVP.
He started at the Z position for the Cougars and was also the primary kickoff returner for the first two games. He finishes with 84 receptions for 852 yards and six touchdowns.
Halliday for Heisman?
Leach was asked during the Pac-12 coaches teleconference why quarterback Connor Halliday hasn’t gotten more Heisman Trophy Award publicity despite leading all FBS teams in passing by nearly 1,000 yards.
He said that it is because the award no longer goes to the best player in college football, but the best player on the best team. “I think he really ought to (be considered),” Leach said. “I think the Heisman shifted a little bit in what it means. They used to try to give it out to the best player in college football.”
Leach cited Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung, who won the award in 1956 despite playing for a 2-8 team.
“Nowadays it appears to me they try to give it to whoever they speculate, I mean it’s a funny (catch-22), whoever they speculate is the MVP on the team that wins the national championship,” Leach said. “But the trouble is they do the Heisman voting before they do the national championship.”
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