Returning seniors won’t count toward 85-scholarship limit

Coach Mike Norvell will have an opportunity to reshape the Florida State roster in the coming months in the early signing period and the transfer portal.

But a new NCAA ruling — allowing seniors to return in 2021 — could be advantageous in helping bring back those Seminoles who have “bought in” to Norvell’s vision. And one little-known loophole? They won’t count toward the NCAA-mandated limit of 85 scholarships.

“The 85-scholarship limit does not go away but players using their final year of eligibility would not count within the 85,” ACC spokesperson Amy Yakola told the Osceola.

This is good news for FSU: Norvell mentioned two injured grad transfers, offensive tackle Devontay Love-Taylor and defensive back Meiko Dotson, have discussed with him returning in 2021. Other seniors who could be weighing their decisions are linebacker Emmett Rice and tight end Jordan Wilson. Rice has made consistent progress over the course of the season and has been praised by coaches. Wilson was cited for his leadership in the preseason before he was lost due to injury. Plenty of seniors will move on to the NFL, but those who don’t feel they have put enough tape out there for the pro football scouts will have a window to come back.

There are some hurdles to cross. Players must be in good academic standing, but Norvell has pushed for accountability and FSU had a program-best 3.127 team GPA in the spring. Boosters must raise funds for the additional scholarships, which is something the coaches’ clubs have done to accommodate returning seniors in baseball, softball, golf, track and field and other sports. And Norvell will have to see a player who is a fit for the future.

“We’ll sit down after the season and be able to evaluate where everybody is at,” Norvell said. “We will explore the options that are available to us and for us, and then we’ll be able to move forward. But we’re going to have, I fully expect, some guys that normally would have exhausted the ability that they will have a strong desire to be back.”

This will likely result in an uneven playing field across the ACC and college athletics. Yakola said how many seniors return will be a school-by-school decision and it’s conceivable some ACC schools won’t be able to afford to bring back a senior who wants to return. But it is an opportunity for schools that can raise the funds to bring back veteran pieces for 2021.

Those seniors could help make the roster stronger for the future but also won’t compromise Norvell’s plans with the 2021 signing class, which includes 16 commitments ahead of the early signing period on Dec. 16. And the staff could also pursue up to nine players in the transfer portal, although the NCAA will continue to limit the number of newcomers to 25.

But FSU will have the chance to rebuild with the help of some veteran pieces, and those seniors could bring valued production and leadership.

”I plan to sit down with coach after the season and discuss the options and his recommendations,” FSU athletics director David Coburn said. “I intend to be as supportive as possible.”

Comment on this story on the Osceola’s message board