USC wins with four-year scholarship commitment

USC AD Pat Haden announced the school will commit to honor four-year scholarships in high revenue sports.

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It’s a common misnomer: athletic scholarships.

Largely believed to be a four-year agreement between the university and the student athlete, it’s not.  

Most athletic scholarships have to be renewed on a yearly basis.

Ron Allen, co-founder of B2G Sports, hosts training sessions and camps for many student athletes who go on to play at the Division I level. Discussions about scholarships are of the utmost importance when dealing with the players he trains.

"It’s something that we thought necessary to explain as early as possible, especially at the Elite Camp, because most of the kids didn’t understand that," Allen said. "It’s something that’s not talked about enough. I think there’s a common theme that we work on teaching and that’s the concept of being expendable. It’s hard to understand when you’re being recruited heavily. There are some insecurities in the scholarship situation. I don’t think enough kids keep that in mind."  

When USC announced earlier this week that beginning July 1, it would commit to honoring four-year scholarships in major revenue sports — women’s basketball, men’s basketball, and football — instead of the common, one-year renewable practice, it turned heads.

While USC isn’t the first university to take such a stand, it is considered the first to openly make an announcement on the matter.

"What USC did there was a genius move by (athletic director) Pat Haden," said Scout National Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins. "They’re going to look like they’re out in front of this offering four years and now other schools are going to follow suit just to keep up. I think it’s more for the parents to give them security of knowing that their kid is going to be taken care of for four or five years."

Some coaches refer to it as attrition. Once the season is over, players decide to transfer from the program for various reasons; from family issues to not being happy with playing time or frankly not being able to cut it at a high level.

When a coach tells a player chances for playing time are between slim and none, that usually equates to a green light for the player to be granted a release from the program and a transfer to some other institution.

Biggins doesn’t believe that will change because of USC’s announcement, because at the end of the day, players want to play.

"If you have a kid on a four-year scholarship and you don’t think he can play for you by year two, you’re going to go up to the kid and say ‘hey, you know what, you’re not going to play for us’ and eight out of 10 times the kid is going to say ‘OK, I’m going to transfer out,’ " Biggins said.  

It does, however, beg the question how will the landscape of recruiting change? It would appear being locked in for four years means having to hit home runs on the recruiting trail with every signee, providing less margin for error, similar to what the program has endured the last three recruiting classes with scholarship reductions.

"I haven’t seen too much of a problem with ‘SC not honoring scholarships," Allen said. "They’ve been pretty good about that but it’s still good to provide the commitment. I think it does make it advantageous for recruits. If I’m a recruit I’m looking at that very favorably.

"Hats off to ‘SC."

Added Biggins: "I think if you’re USC or any school, you don’t ever offer a guy with the belief that ‘this guy better be good because now we have to give him four years instead of the one. I don’t think they think that way. I think every school, when they offer a kid, is thinking this is going to be a guy for us for the next four or five years."