Arizona Football

UA football: Rodriguez heated over NCAA walk-on rule

2014-08-13T00:00:00Z 2014-08-13T19:06:49Z UA football: Rodriguez heated over NCAA walk-on ruleBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Rich Rodriguez has been known to have a beef or two with the NCAA during his 13 years as a Division I head coach.

The UA’s coach has criticized the NCAA’s meal policy, annoyed that walk-ons can’t eat the same food as scholarship players during the season, and that schools couldn’t provide more than one meal a day for the players.

The NCAA reformed that policy this summer, satisfying Rodriguez.

The coach also targeted the NCAA for not allowing players to work with the coaches during the summer. A small step was taken there in the past year, when the NCAA allowed players to spend two hours a week with their position coaches to go over film and strategy.

Now the coach has a new pet peeve.

NCAA rules forbid teams from giving scholarships to walk-ons during their first two seasons without it counting against the initial total.

A team can award 85 scholarships overall, but only 25 per class. So if Rodriguez awards a player a scholarship who has been in the program for more than two seasons, it just counts against the 85.

If he hands out a scholarship to a sophomore, it counts against the incoming class of 25. The UA’s 2014 recruiting class is already at its limit. If the Wildcats awarded a sophomore a scholarship, it would count twice toward the 2015 class, per NCAA rules.

“If a guy walked on for a year, you should be able to give him a scholarship and it not count against the initial number,” said Rodriguez, who began his college career as a walk-on at West Virginia. “It’s ridiculous — the NCAA and all its infinite wisdom of being out for the welfare for the student-athlete. If a guy pays his own way for a year, and he’s a walk-on, you should be able to give him a scholarship in his second year.”

Former Ironwood Ridge High School linebacker Jake Matthews is the perfect case study. Matthews played in eight games last year on special teams and as a reserve at linebacker.

He has made enough progress and has shown enough talent to earn a scholarship. But if the Wildcats gave him a scholarship before the season starts, it would count against the UA’s 2015 recruiting class.

“It’s a joke,” Rodriguez said. “Jake Matthews is earning a scholarship right now. But because of the silly rules by the NCAA, we have to get a waiver for it or something. I’m talking as a former walk-on who was able to get (a scholarship) my second year. I don’t know who is making that decision.”

Griffey hoping
to carry momentum

Wide receiver Trey Griffey finished the 2013 season with a flourish.

Griffey caught 14 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns over his final four games. He came on the most in the UA’s 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, where he had three catches for 41 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Griffey wants to carry that momentum into this year.

“I feel like I’m ready to do that,” Griffey said. “You’re never where you want to be. You can always get better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Griffey has spent training camp rotating between the first and second teams. Whether he’s technically a starter doesn’t really matter: Griffey will surely see plenty of playing time and factor into the UA’s plans.

Griffey said he has been helped by the return of Austin Hill.

“Just watching him do everything helps you become a better receiver,” Griffey said. “I try to watch him as much as possible. I want to be the type of receiver he is.”

Injury update

Several Wildcats continue to miss practices with various injuries.

Senior safety Jared Tevis has been out nearly a week with a hamstring injury. LSU transfer Jordan Allen and defensive tackle Dwight Melvin are both dealing with concussions.

Josh Kern, Reggie Gilbert and Kaelin DeBoskie also remain out.

Rodriguez touched on the injuries as a whole this week.

“Everybody is getting hurt,” Rodriguez said. “Some of the guys that are not practicing much are falling way behind, as far as the depth chart is concerned. They aren’t going to come back and jump in the middle. A guy like Jared Tevis, it’s still going to take him a while to get back, but he’s a proven guy.

“The unproven guys, the more they miss, the further they fall behind. It’s just bad luck.”

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@tucson.com or 573-4330.

On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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