Greatest Nebraska football tradition under threat as NCAA settlement looms

Discover how a potential NCAA settlement could impact Nebraska football's cherished walk-on tradition.
Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

The talk of the town when it comes to college football over the last few weeks is that there is about to be a settlement in the House vs NCAA court case that's due to officially start this winter. At the front of the list of topics covered in this settlement is an agreement that would not only bring revenue sharing to college sports but also potentially reshape the financial landscape of the game. It would also potentially cut out the heart and soul of the Nebraska football program.

According to Ross Dellenger of Yahoo! Sports, there is a potential that college leaders are going to greatly limit the amount of players on a roster. Not scholarships but actual number of bodies allowed to participate in practices and official team events. 

Dellenger says the number most often tossed around is 85. If that number sounds familiar, it's the amount of allowed scholarship players on the Nebraska football roster and every other program in FBS.  In other words, on its face, the new agreement would seem to do away entirely with walk-ons.

Nebraska football is hardly the only program that uses walk-ons. Especially in the era of NIL where schools tend to supplement their scholarship count with guys who will still be on the roster, still won't have to pay for college out of their own pockets, but don't count against the scholarship limit.

Nebraska football could see heart and soul of program cut out

Still, there are few college football teams that are more synonymous with using walkons. The use of those players are legendary going back to the days of Tom Osborne. There will almost certainly be at least a couple of walk-ons who contribute significant minutes to Nebraska football efforts this fall.

In his article, Dellenger explained why the NCAA would consider shrinking roster sizes in FBS all the way down to 85 from its current 120.

"The move is rooted in legalities. Permitting scholarship expansion is a way to avoid future antitrust lawsuits related to athlete restrictions. It also affords schools more freedom to strike a balance with the federal Title IX law requiring equal benefits to women and men athletes. Setting football roster limits is also an effort to both (1) reduce expenses amid the rising costs of athlete revenue sharing and (2) instill a cost-containment concept to limit a school’s scholarship distribution."

Dellenger did also note that when the provision was presented to athletic directors and coaches, there was significant pushback. Nebraska football might consider itself a safe haven for walk-ons but it's clear other schools use them, and like them too. 

For now, this development is not official. It's definitely something to keep an eye on for Nebraska football fans.