Newly proposed NCAA rules would help fix time loopholes for student-athletes
Major-college athletes will have the opportunity to gain some additional time away from their sports and some new input into demands on their time under a series of NCAA rules changes that officially have been proposed this week by the five major conferences.
Faced with a set of similar proposals at the 2016 NCAA convention, the conferences instead adopted a resolution under which they agreed to create a new set of proposals for consideration at the 2017 convention. Under increasing pressure from athletes, the schools have been seeking a way to address time demands in an orderly, relatively uniform way that would not end up placing restrictions on elite athletes in sports – especially those in swimming and track and field – who believe their training must be virtually year-round.
Under current NCAA rules, during a playing season and while school is in session, athletes are supposed to spend no more than 20 hours a week on required athletic activities. In sports other than football, that limit drops to eight hours per week during the offseason. But schools end up complying with the in-season limit, in part, through computation rules such as all competition and associated activities on the day of competition counting as three hours against the limit regardless of the actual duration of the competition and activities. In addition, a travel day that includes no athletic activities can be counted as the one day off per week that is required for athletes during the season.
However, NCAA surveys of athletes have shown – and school and conference officials readily acknowledge – that athletes spend much more time than that on their sports.
The proposed changes in the time-demand rules are set to be voted on in January under procedures that allow the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences greater autonomy in rules making. (The Mid-American Conference’s schools voted in September to adopt a similar set of rules changes.) Approval from a required combination of the 65 schools and 15 athlete representatives — three from each of the five conferences – will allow, but not force, all Division I schools to make these changes that would become effective Aug. 1, 2017:
► A prohibition on required athletically related activities, other than those related to competition, during a continuous eight-hour period between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. There also basically would be an continuous eight-hour ban on required activities after an athlete is released from team obligations after a home game that ends after 9 p.m., or upon a return to campus after 9 p.m. from an away or neutral-site game.
This would effectively prevent coaches doing something like holding a practice immediately after a game or immediately after a team’s return from an away game. The change would not prevent athletes from receiving treatment for injuries during the eight-hour period.
► A prohibition on required athletically related activities for a seven-day period, beginning the day after a team’s last regular season or, as applicable, postseason game. In addition, schools would be required to give athletes an additional 14 days off during the regular academic year when classes are in session. Athletes would be able to use these days off during the regular season or outside the season.
At present, schools are required to give athletes one day off per week during the season.
► Schools would be required to develop a “student-athlete time management plan” for each varsity team under which athletes would be provided “adequate notice” of all of the team’s athletically related activities; schedules for all team activities are developed through “a collaborative process” that includes input from athletes; and athletes would be provided “adequate notice” of changes to previously established schedules for team activities.
Each team’s plan would have to be reviewed at the end of the year by the athletics director, the faculty athletics representative, the team’s head coach and at least one member of the team. A school’s president or chancellor would be required to go over each of these reviews.
The Pac-12 has offered two additional proposals:
► Schools would be required to give athletes one day off per week during a preseason practice period and during a vacation period when classes are not in session.
► Schools would be barred from holding off-campus practices that are not related to an away or neutral-site game during a school vacation period that occurs outside a team’s regular playing season. The proposal appears aimed at preventing activities such as the spring football practices that Michigan held earlier this year in Florida.
Schools in the Mid-American Conference voted in September to adopt the two-week, after-the-season time off period and an eight-hour period without activities after a team’s return from away games, effective with the 2017-18 school year. The MAC schools also voted to require athletes who are out of season to have a week off with no athletics obligations at the beginning of each semester and to require that team practice schedules be shared with athletes on a weekly basis and that if changes are necessary, the changes must be known by the athletes 24 hours prior to the scheduled practice time.
This article was selected for educational purposes only.
Jennifer M. Condaras
Deputy Commissioner, NCAA Relations & Administration
Colonial Athletic Association
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