Rule-ing in Hopes of Change

How do you feel, overall, about rules? Are they meant to be followed, bent, or broken? As time moves forward, we continually think and re-think the rules, laws, and social norms making up previous eras of our societal growth. Same's true for college football. The last few years are prime examples of said change.

Ten years ago, you would have been called crazy with any suggestion that the NCAA would capitulate to circumstances that begat the transfer portal. Yes, players could move from one school to another, but a punitive measure would be taken in-between. Now, there are two recruiting seasons for head coaches ... high school prospects and potential transfers.

While the underpinnings of Name, Image, and Likeness stem from the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit filed about 15 years ago, the implementation of new "regulations" broke the spirit of the student athlete allegory. The business of big-time college athletics may not have completely trickled down to those that play the games, but some significant dollar figures have brought a touch more balance to the weighted seesaw.

So, could another long-standing rule be scrutinized more heavily in the near future? A couple of case studies are stepping to the forefront as we hit the late part of this season. First, we head to Virginia. James Madison was one of the best programs over their final six seasons at the FCS level. The school decided to raise the football program to Bowl Subdivision status, and they hit the ground sprinting.

After an 8-3 campaign and a share of the Sun Belt East title last year (technically winning it by beating Coastal Carolina for the tiebreaker), the Dukes have spun off 9-straight wins to start 2023. Even though JMU is already bowl eligible, they won't be able to play in any type of postseason game because they're in the second year of their two-year transition up from Championship to Bowl. For the second time this calendar year, the school is trying to set a possible new standard regarding that transition phase, but it may have to reverse the upcoming trend. The NCAA voted on some new rules that will affect the jump over the next few years.

Heading west toward the Great Lakes, if there's only one thing you can call the burgeoning story of the season, I tip my hat to your succinct brain. The cheating scandal at Michigan is everything from bonkers to hilarious to confounding. The possible images of now-former Wolverines analyst Connor Stallions being on the sidelines for Central Michigan during a game are laugh-inducing. And now, the Maize and Blue are starting to bark back at the conference opponents trying to apply maximum pressure for punishment. In the end, though, is this all worth it?

I get it. The NCAA does not allow in-person scouting of in-season opponents. But is this too harsh of an expectation? If only for a decade or so, former Oklahoma State wideout Dez Bryant wouldn't have ended his career in amateur shame. Heck, these days SMU can basically get away with similar actions that led to their late-1980s "Death Penalty." Maybe in less than 10 years, college athletics will have additional responsibilities for their scouting teams to implement. At the moment, it's become nothing but a hassle (and maybe more) to a major title contender.

Many times, we live by the rules that govern the rightful actions of the day. But it's inevitable that adjustments will happen. Question is, how far should we push the boundaries?

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