A Gym Rat's Notebook #15: Help Could Be Looming on Horizon
by Elijah Kyle, 4/23/04

One of the more controversial pieces of recent legislation has been the much-discussed and debated five-eight scholarship rule, which was instituted at the beginning of the 2001-02 season. The rule was designed to limit the number of transfers that programs incurred, while negating coaches from running off players.

With the announcement last week that the NCAA Management Council had unanimously voted to rescind the five-eight rule, there again came a mood of optimism across the country that the rule was near death, or at least in need of resuscitation.

The final hurdle before this rule is dissolved takes place next Monday when the NCAA Board of Directors votes on the rule. That board is the lone NCAA body that can make rules, and while the Board consists of Presidents, who have been very leery in the past about rescinding this rule, it is worth noting that none other than current NCAA President Myles Brand recently spoke out against the rule, questioning whether it might not have lived out its usefulness.

The mood might very well have swung recently among the Presidents, who finally have another piece of legislation to curtail the number of transfers that are seen every spring among colleges. An academic reform package has been in the works for nearly two years, and that proposal was passed unanimously on Tuesday, by the same NCAA Management Council. Under this proposal, the NCAA would collect information concerning the graduation rates and academic progress of athletes at their member institutions. After collecting this data for two years, the NCAA would set a "threshold" in each sport, with penalties to be incurred when programs consistently find themselves below the threshold. Those penalties would include initially warning letters, followed by a loss of scholarships, should any program perform poorly on a regular basis.

This reward/punishment would allow penalties to be instituted on programs that might lose players to transfer, if those players were not on sound academic footing at the time of the transfer. Under this proposal, schools could find themselves unable to replace players who defect their program, unless they are above the threshold level, which has not been set.

This proposal has to pass the Board of Directors next week, and the penalty phase is due to start, commencing with the 2007 season, although there is recent talk that the penalty phase might be advanced a year, to start with the 2006 fall calendar season.

What this might immediately mean, dependent upon the Board of Directors passing both the Academic reform package and rescinding the five-eight rule, is that there would be a rush of programs to fill "open" scholarships before the spring signing period concludes in mid-May. It has been estimated that approximately 150 schools have open scholarships that they have been unable to fill, due to the five-eight rule. Some of these schools have multiple openings because of the rule, such as Virginia Tech, so you have close to 200 student-athletes not filling out the rosters of Division-1 programs.

The most immediate response to this rule being rescinded is that schools will scurry to line up late spring visits with players who have yet to commit or sign with any college program. Another by-product of the rule being rescinded would be a higher than normal degree of spring transfers in programs across the country. First of all, schools would have available scholarships that they want to fill, but perhaps not enough legitimate targets to do so with this spring. Players are always looking to transfer, but during the year many schools would have to take a wait-and-see approach with transfers, due to the five-eight rule. Now, they can accept these players, when earlier in the year, they might have been maxed out and could only take a transfer if they were willing to pay their own way for a year.

Of course, it would be hard for most any program to set their sights on targets to sign during the spring, if they had not been actively recruiting them during the year, outside of a handful of schools like Duke. Unfortunately, some schools might have dropped off certain targets after they filled up their allotment of signees, due to the 5-8 rule, only to find themselves with available scholarships that they can now use. Whether they will be able to become active again with players they have dropped off on, is yet to be determined.

The possible revocation of this rule has immediate implications and impact on the program at Virginia Tech. Without the rule being rescinded, the Hokies have used up their allotment of scholarships for this season. But if the rule is thrown out, then Virginia Tech would have at least 2 scholarships that they could use this spring, perhaps even more should there be any additional defections within the program. Fabian Davis will not be back next year, leaving Virginia Tech with one senior (Carlos Dixon), four rising juniors, four rising sophomores and 2 incoming freshmen. The Hokies currently have no juniors in their program (Dixon is technically a senior who is redshirting), so finding a balance within all four classes will be a focus as they decide how and whether to use up all scholarships that might become available. They are actively recruiting Idon Ibok, and had him on campus last weekend for an official visit. It is probably doubtful that they could find two suitable ACC-caliber post players at this late a date. However, that doesn�t mean that they will carry over a scholarship to next season.

With a team that is lacking in offensive firepower and perimeter shooting, you might see head coach Seth Greenberg decide to chase down a perimeter shooter, or even another wing player, if that player appears capable of helping the program early. While the number of available post players capable of playing at the ACC level is limited now, there are still more than a few guards and small forwards that can perhaps forge some playing time in the program next year, some of whom the Hokies have already been recruiting or recruited earlier. In addition, there are a few players that have become re-recruitable, due to spring coaching changes, so they could perhaps become late targets.

What we are likely to see Greenberg do though, is look hard at all available players this spring, try and become involved and secure official visits with them, should he decide that they are players that can play at the ACC level. Should the Hokies not like what they see out there, or not be able to get actively involved with these late targets, then he might hold onto a scholarship for next year, when Carlos Dixon is the only player to depart the program. With no additional defections, and no spring additions to this class, Greenberg will have three scholarships to use with next year�s class, once Dixon exhausts his eligibility. It appears unlikely that he would take more than one player late, without additional defections, because that might create an imbalance within the classes, and leave him with only one scholarship to use next year. This is just a guess, but if we see Greenberg opt to sign two players this spring, as he has recently noted is a possibility, that just might be tied to some additional player departing the program.

Finally, the other avenue that was discussed earlier includes potential transfers. Now that the Hokies are in the ACC, they can expect the level of interest in them to increase. Whether they find any mutual interest there is uncertain, but they are a more desirable landing spot, now that the program is associating with the royalty of Tobacco Road. Of course, any transfer would have to sit out a season, and it remains to be seen how much allure such a scenario might have for Greenberg and the program, which might value more immediate help.

Recruiting Updates

It appears that the scheduled visit this weekend of 6-7 junior forward Alex Ruoff, has been postponed. It is believed that Ruoff has postponed it due to a spring AAU event that he will participate in this weekend in Texas. That visit will more than likely be rescheduled. The aforementioned 6-11 Ibok, from Montverde Academy in Florida, is visiting Georgia this weekend. The one thousand-pound gorilla remains Florida State, in Ibok�s recruitment. It is believed that Florida State is pursuing other post targets, while letting Ibok's recruitment percolate. At this time, Florida State still seems to be in control, but the longer it goes on and the more visits he takes, the more possible it becomes that he might decide on another school, such as the Hokies or Georgia.

6-7 junior Paul Johnson of Gonzaga in Washington DC, has interest in Maryland, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Villanova, Virginia Tech Connecticut, George Mason and Georgia. Uche Echefu is a 6-8 junior forward from Montrose Christian in Maryland who is attracting interest from North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Kansas, Southern California and Arizona State. It is worth noting that many of head coach Stu Vetter�s players at Montrose Christian end up waiting until spring to sign, and he is known to push the ACC hard with his players.

Marques Johnson is a 5-10 junior point guard who plays for Raritan High School in New Jersey. Johnson is known as a lock down defender and is hearing from Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. Jeff Brown is a 6-3 junior combo guard from Florida who is involved with the Hokies, Florida State, South Alabama, TCU, and VMI. North Carolina native Jarvis Jackson, a 6-5 wing forward, likes Appalachian State, N.C. State, Elon, Virginia Tech, UConn, UNC-Wilmington, Notre Dame and SMU. Velmar Coleman, a 6-4 junior guard from Walbrook in Baltimore, favors Clemson, Virginia Tech, Central Connecticut, George Mason and Manhattan. Finally, 6-4 junior guard Derwin Kitchen, of Raines High in Jacksonville, likes Wake Forest and favors them slightly over Virginia Tech, Florida, Florida State and Kansas. Kitchen has stated a preference to play in the ACC.

Other Gym Rat Notebooks:

A Gym Rat's Notebook #14: A Look Ahead: The Backcourt - 4/16/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #13: A Look Ahead: The Frontcourt - 4/8/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #12: There's No Place Like Home, Toto - 4/1/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #11: About the Over/Under? - 3/26/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #10: Did You Say Four, or Forty? - 3/17/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #9: Big Game, Big Year, and Big Hopes - 3/10/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #8: Home, Sweet, Home - 3/1/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #7: On or Off Broadway? - 2/24/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #6: Trolling for Additions - 2/18/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #5: Georgetown a Must Win? - 2/11/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #4: Defense in Numbers - 1/28/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #3: Chemistry Class and Hitting It Early - 1/21/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #2: Subtraction and Addition - 1/13/04
A Gym Rat's Notebook #1: Hey, Brother, Can You Spare a Big Man? - 1/6/04

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