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The New Era of College Football May Feature Unlimited Coaching Staffs

While the college athletics landscape has already seen great transformation over the past few years, it’s no secret that more change is coming in the near future. From the looming settlement of the House v. NCAA case, the prospect of college athletes being deemed employees, further conference realignment, etc. there’s little doubt that more change is on the horizon.


As the NCAA becomes less powerful over the college athletics enterprise, some of their rules, regulations, and limits could be going by the wayside in short order. An example of this could be the elimination of the NCAA cap on how many on-field coaches a football program can have on staff.


The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Oversight Committee put forth a proposal to remove the cap while still limiting off-campus recruiting activities to 10 assistants (or 12 in the FCS) plus the head coach. If this comes to fruition, it would mean hundreds of analysts and quality control coaches around the country could finally coach in practice, bringing a monumental change to the profession.

“The landscape has changed in college football,” said former Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, who is now executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and sits on the oversight committee. “The competitive equity has changed.”

Over the past decade and change, college football staffs have seen a dramatic increase in the number of off-field coaches oftentimes called “analysts.” Nick Saban most prominently started the trend and many of his former assistants who went on to become head coaches took the “Saban Blueprint” to other programs. While analysts provide value in scouting, game planning, and player development, they are technically not allowed to coach in practice or during games.

While some believe this rule gets violated on a regular basis by some of the major programs, the NCAA has cracked down on analysts coaching in practice. In 2022, the NCAA laid down infractions on Nebraska for exceeding the countable on-field coaches rule. If the FBS Oversight Committee’s proposal goes through, these types of penalties would go away.


Over the course of history in college athletics, rules have been strict, enforcement has been robust, and the preservation of the amateur model has been impregnable. However, as we enter this new era of NIL, the transfer portal, and player empowerment, the NCAA’s power to regulate is at its lowest ebb.

This isn’t the first attempt to remove the cap on on-field coaches. A similar proposal was discussed NCAA transformation committee in 2022, but the Division I Council rejected it. In order to pass, the same Division I Council will have to approve it, but a lot has changed even over the last two years in the college athletics landscape to inspire confidence that the result will be different this time around.

While in a different sport with different revenue figures, volunteer college baseball coaches filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA for illegally limiting their pay to $0. In the aftermath of that lawsuit, the Division I Council reclassified all volunteer coaches across all sports as full-time assistants. The approval gave Division I baseball programs the ability to have three full-time paid assistant coaches.

This, in conjunction with the legal environment surrounding the NCAA and college athletics as a whole, will likely lead to the end of the cap of on-field coaches in college football and perhaps other sports. If it comes to pass, there will be more opportunities for young coaches to break into the Division I coaching ranks. It means more actual coaching jobs, which will help younger coaches develop and older coaches stay in the game.

Some have questioned whether all of this change in college athletics is healthy for the sport. While conference realignment has left certain schools behind, lessened the regionality of the sport, and widened the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots,” it is not all bad. Players finally getting to profit from their name, image, and likeness and coaches potentially getting more opportunities is certainly a positive moving forward.

We’ll see if the FBS Oversight Committee’s proposal officially goes through, but the expectation is that the NCAA’s limit on on-field assistants will be gone in short order.


 Brendan Bell is a rising 2L and is the Southwest Regional Rep on Conduct Detrimental's Law School Student Board. He can be followed on Twitter (X) @_bbell5

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