We’re 5 weeks into the 2022 college football season, and 5 FBS programs have already punted on the season. That doesn’t include Iowa, which just decided to punt on playing offense in 2022.

With the surprising news on Sunday night that Paul Chryst is out at Wisconsin, the coaching carousel spun a little faster. That’s the way this works now. It spins for basically the duration of fall until it finally slows down sometime in December before the Early Signing Period. The buyouts have never been bigger and the ducks have never been lamer. The difference, however, is that a lame duck coach doesn’t stay a lame duck for very long.

My guess is that we’ll see several more FBS coaches fired in October. Last year, look at all the FBS head coaches who were fired before November (5 of the 6 had 3 losses or fewer at the time of their firing):

  • Ed Orgeron, LSU
  • Clay Helton, USC
  • Gary Patterson, TCU
  • Matt Wells, Texas Tech
  • Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern
  • Randy Edsall, UConn

All signs point to 2022 surpassing that total (looking at you Auburn). That’s the world we live in.

Think about that from a player’s point of view, though. You’re being told in the middle of the season that all hope is lost when an 8-month offseason was washed away by 2 or 3 losses in the first part of the season. Sure, not all motivation is lost. But that’s not really what this is about. This is about administrators telling student-athletes that they no longer care about any short-term goals.

So what’s the solution? There’s not a solution. But something can be done to do right by student-athletes who watch their coaches get fired mid-season.

Don’t count the year against their eligibility.

If an FBS coach is fired before Nov. 1, that year shouldn’t count against a player’s eligibility. Just like we did with the 2020 COVID season, we should acknowledge that there are some extenuating circumstances and treat this with the nuance it needs.

But what about from a roster management standpoint? Isn’t that going to be a headache for a new head coach?

Um, last I checked, roster management for a new head coach already is a massive headache because of the lack of restrictions for undergraduate transfers. If you wanted to incentivize staying, you could add the caveat that transfers don’t get the year of eligibility back and it’s only rewarded to those who stay for the new coach.

There. I made the purists happy, too.

If you don’t think that would make a difference, I recommend you look around at the handful of 24-year-old quarterbacks who are taking advantage of the free COVID year and providing huge lifts to their respective teams. Hendon Hooker, Stetson Bennett IV, Jaren Hall, Chase Brice and Sean Clifford are all 24-year-old quarterbacks who are soaking in every bit of their 6th and final years in school. In fact, 9 of the Top 25 teams in the AP Poll are being led by 23- or 24-year-old quarterbacks.

It’s not just a quarterback thing, either. Picture someone like Grant Morgan. The former Arkansas walk-on linebacker stuck around for 2 coaching changes, only to blossom into a star with his 3rd head coach as a Year 5 player. He stayed for Year 6, where he cashed in on several NIL deals. He made his program better, and I’d argue that’s the case for a lot of these Year 6 guys. There’d be more of them with this proposed rule, and they’d make the sport better as a whole.

Again, this is just referring to the firings that are truly midseason. Obviously there’s a big difference between firing a coach in September as opposed to firing them the week of Thanksgiving. Hence, why there should be a different set of parameters for the teams who make that early move.

It’s different than professional sports wherein teams will often fire a head coach in hopes of sparking a run. We see that more so in the MLB and NBA. Firing a coach that early in the season and paying him 8 figures to walk away — that’s the new norm — hits differently at the college level.

Go ask Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen, who is now tasked with finding running lanes behind a Wisconsin offensive line that was told in the first week of October “hey, your season is over.”

That’s more about fans who supported the move and how well-liked Chryst was within that locker room. That’s Allen’s side. The other side, of course, is that a coach working in the wrong direction in Year 8 probably isn’t going to lead the program to the promised land, especially when the divisions get a shakeup with the USC and UCLA additions.

We can debate how much of a difference it actually makes in recruiting and hiring a new head coach to make a move this early, but this isn’t about whether athletic directors should fire these head coaches. It’s about when they’re being fired and what’s right by the players impacted.

Consider this: Since the start of the 2021 season, 11 FBS head coaches have been fired in-season before the month of November, and 9 of them had 3 losses or fewer. Mind you, Power 5 teams can still reach a New Year’s 6 bowl with 3 losses. And if it was so inevitable that a team wasn’t on that track, why start the season with them?

That’s the part that’s unfair to players. We’re living in a time when they have more freedom than ever with the transfer portal and NIL, but it’s also never been more common for an early-season firing that squashes any hope they entered the season with. Give them that year back, NCAA.

Or rather, give them that year back, governing body that replaces the NCAA.