McFeely: Better (slightly) late than never for new Division II football rule – InForum

McFeely: Better (slightly) late than never for new Division II football rule – InForum

MOORHEAD – Minnesota State University Moorhead football coach Steve Laqua says a new NCAA Division II rule eliminates the “coach’s moral dilemma” while improving lives first year students.

Sounds like a win-win. The only question is why it took so (relatively) long.

Division II football schools overwhelmingly approved a rule at January’s NCAA convention that allows freshman players to participate in up to three games without losing a year of eligibility. It’s similar to a division of rules I passed in 2018 that allows athletes to play four games without burning a year.

The Section II rule will come into effect this fall.

He’s proven popular in Division I. He’s likely to be popular in Division II as well, though for perhaps slightly different reasons.

“It’s positive,” Laqua said. “We’re usually only a year or two behind Division I on some of these things, but it took a little longer. But now it’s here and it’s overall a good thing.”

This sentiment was reflected in the vote, which was 150 to 13 with one abstention. Dennis Francois, Central Washington athletic director and member of the Division II football committee, said the proposal was sponsored by six of the 17 Division II conferences. Usually, new proposals are initially transmitted by only a few leagues.

“It’s a very good rule,” Francois said. “There’s strong justification and reasoning behind this. It’s exciting for freshmen because they have a chance to get in there and compete without losing an entire year of eligibility.”

The push behind that, Francois said, largely centered on two issues: depth and retention.

Football teams often suffer multiple injuries, and coaches have to decide whether to play a real freshman to temporarily fill a spot. The player would lose an entire year of eligibility, even if he had only played a few games.

“It’s the coach’s moral dilemma,” Laqua said. “Do I take a child’s red shirt off when I lose someone to injury, even though I know the injured player will only miss two or three games? I need someone one to play, but the kid loses all year. This rule rids the coach of that.”

Having the carrot of playing three games is also a way to keep freshmen motivated and engaged.

“I think retention is a big part of it,” Laqua said. “You have young guys doing all the hard work and effort and now maybe you can tell them, ‘You know what, you’re playing special teams this week. Or, ‘Be prepared because you’re going to get some shots.’ They know they have three chances to play, so do your best. They will hopefully be more active and involved.

It could also help coaches assess young players, Laqua said, offering more “data points” on who to play or not to play as real freshmen.

The rule applies to the regular season and playoffs, as it does to Division I.

Where it differs is that the three-game rule only applies to incoming freshmen, while Division I allows players to use the four-game redshirt rule at any time during their career.

“We think it’s more true to the rationale and purpose of the rule,” Francois said.

In another Division II rule change, teams will be allowed to schedule an 11-on-11 scrimmage with another four-year-old school after 10 days of spring training. Participation in the scrum would not count towards a player’s eligibility.

Laqua said the scrimmage will likely be used as NFL-style “joint workouts,” where opposing offenses and defenses go head-to-head simultaneously. The proposal was adopted by 116 votes to 49 with two abstentions. It will come into effect in the spring of 2024.

“We’ve gotten a few things done this year,” he said. “Both are good changes. Both make things happen.”

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