Time for the longest award in sports

• Graduation rates should be factored into the new FBS playoff ranking system. Not the meaningless "Academic Progress Rate" the NCAA touts precisely because of its meaninglessness -- graduation is what matters. News organizations that rank college football should add graduation rates voluntarily, as news organizations have voluntarily agreed to many best-practice standards.

• For FBS players, the year-to-year scholarship -- which pressures them to favor football over the library, to ensure the scholarship is renewed -- should be replaced with a six-year scholarship. That way once a player's athletic eligibility has expired, typically after 4.5 years, and once the NFL does not call -- 97 percent of FBS players never take an NFL snap -- there will be paid-up semesters remaining for him to be a full-time student, repair credits and earn that diploma. Not all will need the extra semesters. But six-year full scholarships would change big-college football from a cynical exercise in using up impressionable young men and throwing them away, into a fair deal: The university gets great football, the players get educations.

• NCAA penalties should follow coaches. If a coach breaks rules at College A then skedaddles to College B, all College A sanctions should follow him. The NFL should agree, voluntarily, that the length of any NCAA penalties follows any coach who skedaddles to the pros. So if Coach A gets out of town just before the posse arrives and imposes a two-year sanction on College B, Coach A should face a two-year sanction from the NFL.

For high school:

• Football should return to being a seasonal sport -- no practices or events from January to July. Coaches can't be present at anything in shorts, not even conditioning.

• Once school starts, contact only once a week, and surprise inspections of practices. With one high school player in 2,000 advancing to the pros, and 40,000 to 60,000 high school football concussions annually, most of those sustained in practice, contact hours simply must decline.

• New laws should impose on high school coaches the same "care and custody" standards that apply to teachers. There are 10 conscientious prep coaches for each one irresponsible coach. But when a high school player -- a child -- dies from heat stroke because a sadistic coach screamed at him to keep running though vomiting, or dies from brain injury because concussion symptoms were ignored, the adult responsible must be punished. Today, there is no oversight on most high school football coaches. If only a few go to jail, the negative culture of high school football will be transformed, leaving behind the positives.

For football at all levels:

• Eliminate kickoffs, the most concussion-prone down. After a score, the opponent starts on his 25. Basketball eliminated most jump balls; purists cried doom; basketball is just fine.

• Ban the three-point and four-point stance. Because of these stances, most football plays begin with linemen's heads colliding. No reform reduces helmet-to-helmet contact faster than requiring all players to begin downs with hands off the ground and heads up. Will this make football a sissified sport? That's what was said of the forward pass.

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