NCAA Suspends Player-Signing Cap for College Football

The two-year rule waiver could help clear a transfer portal logjam and free up spots for high school recruits.

May 25, 2022 · Updated on May 25, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
NCAA Suspends Player-Signing Cap for College Football
College Sports

  • NCAA rules limit Division I football teams to 25 recruits per signing class.
  • That rule made it difficult for coaches to manage player turnover and fill open scholarship slots.
  • Scholarship players will still be capped at 85 at FBS schools and 63 at FCS schools.

Division I football teams are getting more roster flexibility in response to the high turnover of players caused by the NCAA's transfer portal.

The NCAA announced May 18 that a rule limiting Division I teams to 25 recruits per signing class will be suspended for the next two academic years. Teams, however, will still be capped at 85 scholarship players at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools and 63 at Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools.

"Some schools hadn't given out all their scholarships and felt constrained by the annual limit," explained Shane Lyons, Division I Council chair and West Virginia athletic director. "This temporary change provides schools more flexibility and adds opportunities for incoming and current student-athletes to receive aid."

The announcement could help clear a logjam of players seeking transfers to new programs, while also freeing up spots for high school recruits.

“The number of undergraduates seeking transfers exploded after the NCAA approved a rule change that allows athletes to make a one-time transfer and play the next season without penalty.”

The number of undergraduates seeking transfers exploded after the NCAA approved a rule change that allows athletes to make a one-time transfer and play the next season without penalty.

Likewise, there has been a marked increase in Division I graduate student transfers following an NCAA decision that provided a one-year extension of eligibility for these athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Division I football players have been the most active users of the transfer portal, with thousands waiting to sign with new schools.

Just 54% of FBS players (2,323) who entered the portal in academic years 2020 and 2021 enrolled at a new school. Forty-one percent (1,798) are still exploring their options, transferred to a non-NCAA school, or left their sport, NCAA data shows.

With so many athletes seeking transfers and high school students looking to land a scholarship, it has become difficult for coaches to manage the turnover and fill open scholarship slots.

Coaches and others also said the 25-player annual roster limit risked player safety. They explained that teams with depleted rosters could compel injured players to get back on the field before they have fully healed or result in other players filling unfamiliar positions.

"For the health and safety of our athletes, not being able to try to get to an 85 number at the FBS level, that's hard," Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, told The Associated Press earlier this month.

He added that the rule change will provide more certainty for both players and coaches.

"When you have an open portal like that, it's hard for young people sometimes to make great decisions because they don't know the impact of their move. They don't know what their competition is at another school, they don't know about competition coming into their own program," Berry said.