Nearly 15 months ago, the Ivy League Council of Presidents adjusted its regulations for Ivy League football. This weekend’s conference scrimmages marked the official beginning of the first season employing the new rules, and the effects vary widely across the league.
The overhaul, first announced June 17, 2002, had been the league’s first set of changes to football recruiting, coaching and practice policy in a decade and followed closely on the heels of a comprehensive study of Ivy League football conducted in 2001.
As part of the new rules, Ivy League football programs were forced to reduce their recruitment class from 35 to 30 beginning with the class of 2007. In addition, the maximum number of part-time paid coaches was reduced from six to three, while the ceiling for full-time paid coaches was raised from six to seven. Finally, all Ivy League varsity sports, including football, are required to have at least 49 days without mandatory coach-supervised practices.
At the beginning of the first year with the new rules in place, teams around the league have mixed reactions. The changes in the maximum number of part-time and full-time coaches have affected the larger teams while leaving smaller programs essentially the same.
“[The reduction in the number of part-time coaches] puts a tremendous amount of burden on the rest of the coaching staff,” University of Pennsylvania head coach Al Bagnoli said. “The ratio [between coaches and players] is not what you would like. Philosophically, this is supposed to be a teaching/learning environment for our kids. But I don’t think the changes in personnel help us to fulfill that goal at all.”
Pennsylvania has one less member on its coaching staff than it did last season because of the new rules.
Yet the new regulations had no effect on Cornell’s coaching staff either in terms of numbers or in terms of responsibilities, Big Red head coach Tim Pendergast said through a representative.
For Yale, the fewer number of part-time coaches has been balanced by the addition of another full-time coach.
“The coaching change rule means a little more responsibility for everyone on the staff,” Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki said. “But having another full-time coach benefits the student-athletes because there is one more guy available full-time in the office.”
The effect of the coaching adjustments has had even less effect on the players. Several players say they either did not know about the changes at all or did not notice any impact on practices or games.
“I actually didn’t even know about the coaching [regulation changes],” Yale quarterback Alvin Cowan ’04 said. “But I don’t think it’s that hard to find help, especially from recent grads. I know that Eric Wenzel ’04 — and Kyle Metzler ’03 are graduate assistants and helping out [offensive line] coach Clark.”
Wenzel is not playing this season because of the Jan. 17 car accident on Interstate 95 that killed four Yale students.
Also, some members of the coaching staff are not subject to the new coaching restrictions. Graduate assistants are not paid coaches and are therefore unaffected.
The lowered maximum number of recruits has affected Ivy League teams at varying degrees.
“It is a pretty safe statement to make that [when you lower the maximum number of recruits], you are putting more pressure on your coaches to be right in making recruitment decisions,” Bagnoli said. “You limit the number of kids coming in, and if your attrition rate goes up a little bit for whatever reason, then you’re starting to get into a numbers problem.”
Other coaches, although acknowledging a setback, are withholding judgment for now.
“It will be four years before you see the full effect of the reduction in [recruitment] numbers,” Siedlecki said. “We still have three classes in the program that were recruited at 35. [Currently] the rule changes do not impact our ability to compete with our outside [varsity] opponents, but it will affect our numbers for JV in the future.”
And one of the rules changes, the seven-week moratorium on practicing, has been ameliorated slightly; the Ivy league Council of Presidents removed the “consecutive days” requirement June 17.
“The seven-week rule really affected the sports that overlap semesters,” Siedlecki said. “Our season — including preseason — is only 13 weeks long, so the seven-week rule was workable. But nevertheless, the new amendment has made the 49-day rule much more user-friendly. It allows each athlete to be treated as an individual.”
The June 13 amendment also included a raise in the minimum Academic Index for recruited Ivy League athletes from 169 to 171. The Academic Index is calculated from SAT scores, SAT II scores, secondary school grades and class rank.
The Academic Index change appears unlikely to affect Yale football; Siedlecki said Yale has not recruited anyone in the 169 to 171 range in the last seven recruiting classes.