The Division I Council this week began a discussion about how to address the time demands on college athletes, and members will look to the students themselves to offer potential solutions.
Both the Council and the Student-Athlete Experience Committee spent time dissecting the issue during their quarterly meetings in Indianapolis, just a few weeks after participants in the Division I Strategic Summit and the members of the Board of Directors identified time demands as a focal point needing further study.
The discussion was aimed at finding ways to support college athletes in their pursuit of educational, athletic, personal and professional goals. Council members acknowledged that participation in Division I athletics requires a commitment that also provides benefits beyond competition.
“This is something that is really pertinent to the student-athlete experience, and we should be looking into it,” said Harvard University Athletics Director Bob Scalise, chair of the Student-Athlete Experience Committee. “We looked at it from the various perspectives of all the stakeholders. ... We realized how complex and complicated the issues are.”
Student-athletes are expected to make a significant contribution to the conversation, beginning with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which will meet this month.
Dustin Page, co-chair of the Division I SAAC and a former student-athlete at Northern Illinois University competing in men’s soccer, said his group will take an approach similar to the Council.
“First, we want to discuss if this is a real problem or not. If we decide that it is, we’ll try to sort through the facets to see where we can come up with concrete ideas for change,” Page said.
A potential piece of the solution that Council members identified is a need for transparency with incoming student-athletes about the demands of Division I athletics. Some college athletes can arrive on campus without fully developed time-management skills, and members said coaches should set clear expectations about the demands on Division I athletes from the beginning of the recruiting process.
Members will further examine different elements of the issue. Those areas include: the rule allowing student-athletes to participate in 20 hours of athletics activity per week during their season; required days off; limiting the nontraditional season; and reduction in competitions.
The membership could consider a sport-by-sport approach, which could result in rules varying among different sports. The group also will consider whether to seek further information from student-athletes through a survey.
In January, the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences will consider two Pac-12-sponsored proposals that aim to give time back to student-athletes. One of those proposals would provide an eight-hour period daily during which students couldn’t participate in athletics activities. The other would create a three-week period at the conclusion of a season, during which any athletics participation would be at the student’s discretion. The group also will consider a Big Ten proposal that would not allow travel days to be counted as a required day off. All three concepts will be reviewed as part of the larger time demands discussion.
The Council hopes to introduce legislation into the 2016-17 cycle.
“The membership is looking to the Council to provide direction in the area of time demands,” said Council chair Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation at Northwestern University. “We had a very robust conversation, and we will be engaging different constituent groups to provide feedback. Ultimately, it’s up to the Council, working in tandem with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, to find appropriate direction and changes to help all Division I student-athletes make the most of their experience as a student, a person and an athlete.”
The Council also discussed its strategic agenda for the next several years, identifying key initiatives that will receive attention either through legislative change or policy recommendations. Some of those priorities include: health and safety initiatives; time demands; financial aid issues; sports wagering; transfers; agents/advisors and career-related insurance; a review of championships and sport committees; and amateurism issues.
Using written feedback provided by the Council members, the Council Coordination Committee, a smaller group authorized to act on important issues in between meetings, will determine a timeline for considering each of those issues.
In other business, the Division I Council accepted a modification to a proposal that would allow men’s basketball student-athletes additional time to weigh their draft status and allow coaches additional contact with those college athletes in the weeks before the NBA Draft Combine. The Council will vote in January on both the NBA draft withdrawal proposal and the measure allowing Football Bowl Subdivision conferences the opportunity to determine their own champion in that sport.
The full Council meets next at the 2016 NCAA Convention in January.