LINCOLN — Shawn Eichorst calls the mission a “deep dive.” And it requires the kind of thoroughness that makes his summer anything but lazy.
Changes could be coming to college football, and Nebraska’s athletic director is part of a group of NCAA representatives tasked with making sure any tweaks are the result of exhaustive and informed study. Eichorst — a member of the Division I Football Competition Committee as well as its oversight committee — is in the middle of ongoing discussions that include topics like standardizing 14-week seasons, altering redshirt rules and reshaping the size of support staffs.
Committee members will study the possibilities this summer and present recommendations when they reconvene Oct. 2-3.
The World-Herald spoke with Eichorst last week, and the A.D. updated where the committees are on a range of issues.
» What is the status of a 14-week season?
The NCAA began reviewing the idea a year ago, Eichorst said, but recently passed legislation has essentially required the discussion to start over.
The same new rules that Eichorst helped spearhead in the spring — an early signing period, the elimination of two-a-days, earlier official visits, a 10th assistant coach and summer camp restrictions among them — have committee members in a wait-and-see approach before making any more changes.
For example: With two-a-days gone, how will coaches react to new fall camp schedules? Could this shift help players stay healthier and better manage a 14-game slate?
“Those variables changing have gotten us thinking more thoroughly and holistically and comprehensively about what the practice and playing season should look like,” Eichorst said.
He later added: “I think we’re most interested in seeing how coaches and programs adjust and adapt. We’re working very closely with the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) and the conferences to get as much information as we can. I think that it will be important for us to pay attention to how programs manage their business.”
» What could change for redshirts?
The discussion isn’t a new one, Eichorst said, but there are many reasons to consider redshirting rules.
Debate sparked last winter when high future NFL draft picks such as Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette elected to skip their teams’ bowl games. Why not allow redshirted players who had been through a year of team workouts to play — as a reward for their work and as an evaluation tool for coaches looking ahead to next season — during what amounts to an exhibition game?
The concept of allowing redshirt players to compete in a limited number of games throughout a season is another possibility and could help teams replace injured athletes without spending a replacement’s entire year of eligibility.
“We’re in the early stages of reviewing that,” Eichorst said of the general redshirt concept. “But we have to review it not only in the context of football, but we have a lot of other sports that we sponsor and so we’ve got to make sure that we get that right.”
» What about football support staffs?
Eichorst said this issue is one of the committee’s top priorities. It also requires extensive information gathering as members survey programs from around the country about the size of their support staffs and what roles different people play.
The crux of the question, Eichorst said, is asking what each program wants. More analysts? Recruiting support staff? Maybe strength coaches, quality control individuals or administrative positions?
“We’re in the process of continuing to gather information and solicit input from the membership,” Eichorst said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to arrive at some concepts here in the not-too-distant future.
“I don’t want to speculate at this point about what that might look like. But I will let you know that we are paying close attention to it and I’m going to give it a lot of thought to make sure that we’re doing what’s right for the overall health of college football.”