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DI Council approves time commitment legislation

Changes made to football recruiting proposal regarding signing period, official visits

Student-athletes in Division I will be able to more easily pursue internships and study abroad opportunities after the Division I Council on Wednesday adopted new legislation providing additional flexibility in eligibility rules.

“We as a division are working together to support our student-athletes and help them take advantage of the many opportunities available to them through our great colleges and universities,” said Council chair James J. Phillips, Northwestern University vice president for athletics and recreation. “This legislation, together with the changes proposed by the autonomy conferences and available to the entire division if adopted, will help students better balance their commitments to athletics with the other things college has to offer them.”

The new eligibility legislation extends the time students have to complete four years of eligibility if they  pursue a degree-applicable internship or study abroad program during the regular school year. Students generally have five years to complete four years of eligibility, and with the new rules, that time spent in the internship or study abroad program is exempt from counting against the five-year period.

The change will be effective Aug. 1.

Council members also approved a measure that enhances the information the NCAA Eligibility Center provides to prospective student-athletes. In addition to drug testing and graduation rates information, recruits would receive information about the time commitments involved in participating in Division I sports. The Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee was instrumental in getting this legislation passed and creating a resource all schools can use to meet the requirements of the new rule.

The rule change emerged from student-athlete feedback indicating some felt unprepared for the time commitment required to participate in Division I sports. SAAC members advocated for the proposal and helped create informational material schools can use to fulfill the new requirement.

“SAAC wanted to put this piece of legislation in place to make sure that all prospective student-athletes are informed on what is expected of them when looking at a school, and can understand the time commitments when they get onto campus during their campus visits,” said Connor Donnelly, a golfer and marketing/sports management major at Sacred Heart University. Donnelly is also a member of the Division I Council and vice chair of the Division I SAAC. “SAAC feels as though the more information a student-athlete can get about their time commitments, the more these student-athletes can prepare and find success both in the classroom and in their sport.”

The measure will be effective Aug. 1.

A final measure creating a definition of required athletically related activities was tabled. That legislation describes activities that might be required of a student-athlete but do not count against the 20-hour-per-week limit on athletics activities.

Required athletically related activities include but would not be limited to:

  • Compliance meetings.
  • Team promotional activities.
  • Recruiting activities, including student host duties.
  • Media activities.
  • Fundraising events.
  • Community service events.
  • Team-building activities.
  • Travel to and from away-from-home competition.

This new definition would help schools implement best practices espoused by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences will vote on legislation that includes similar language later this week, and Council members decided to wait to see the outcome of that vote. The proposal will be revisited in April.

Football recruiting

The Council also modified a proposal that would change football recruiting rules, including creating flexibility to allow for earlier signing periods. The modifications were recommended by the Division I Football Oversight Committee.

The Council maintained its support for a mid-December signing date that would last 72 hours and would coincide with the time junior college players can sign a National Letter of Intent. But members decided to withdraw a request for a separate 72-hour NLI signing period for football that would have started on the last Wednesday in June. The Collegiate Commissioners Association has authority over NLI signing periods.

The Council also agreed to another change to the proposal that would expand opportunities for football prospects to take official visits during their junior year of high school by permitting those expense-paid visits to occur from April 1 through the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June. The original proposal would have permitted those visits to occur from June 1 through the Saturday before the last Wednesday in June and from July 25 through July 31 after a football prospect’s junior year in high school.

In the first proposal, official visits could occur in conjunction with camps and clinics. The Council decided to eliminate that section of the proposal.

Official visit changes would be effective Aug. 1.

The Council will vote on the proposal in April.

The Council also elected Blake James, athletics director at the University of Miami (Florida), to serve as chair and Jean Lenti Ponsetto, athletics director at DePaul University, to serve as vice chair. The new terms will begin at the conclusion of the Council’s April meeting.