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DI Council continues COVID-19 impact discussions

Group won’t consider a blanket waiver of sport sponsorship requirements

The Division I Council spent much of its meeting Friday discussing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on student-athletes, schools and conferences. Recognizing the severity of the impact, the group took action to address potential needs.

The Council removed a barrier to its consideration of a blanket waiver of Football Bowl Subdivision membership requirements. Rules had prohibited waivers of FBS membership requirements.

The Council discussed the issue in response to a request from the majority of Division I conferences to consider providing a blanket waiver for all Division I members of several legislative requirements. The letter asked for the blanket waiver for a period of at least two years to allow schools to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While several legislative changes will be considered for blanket waivers, the Council indicated that sport sponsorship minimums should be removed from that list. Schools still can request sport sponsorship requirement waivers on an individual basis.

The other elements of the waiver request, including scheduling and summer access requirements, will be considered over the next few weeks.

“Higher education is facing unique challenges, and the Division I leadership believes it’s appropriate to examine areas in which rules can be relaxed or amended to provide flexibility for schools and conferences,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “We will prioritize student-athlete well-being and opportunities balanced with reducing costs associated with administering college sports, but a blanket waiver of sport sponsorship requirements is not in keeping with our values and will not be considered.”

The Council provided feedback on draft principles that could guide the conversation about flexibility in legislative requirements moving forward, and the Division I Board of Directors will discuss the principles at its next meeting.

Additional educational opportunities for grad transfers

Student-athletes who transfer after graduating will be allowed to pursue additional educational opportunities at their second school, the Council decided.

The Council adopted legislation to allow graduate transfers to seek a second undergraduate degree or enroll in coursework that could lead to another degree after they transfer.

The change, which originated with the Committee on Academics, provides graduate transfer student-athletes the same academic opportunities they would have if they stayed at their original school. Current rules require graduate transfer student-athletes to pursue a graduate degree, which has caused some tension between various academic departments and athletics departments.

The academic requirements were voted on after the Council Coordination Committee tabled most legislation in order to give members time to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislative Committee recommended that the remaining legislation remain tabled until after the Council’s June meeting.

Transfers

The Council discussed recommendations from the Transfer Waiver Working Group, which has recommended that waiver guidelines be changed to allow first-time four-year transfers in all sports the ability to compete immediately. While the group didn’t take a vote on the recommendations, it provided valuable feedback with regard to timing and uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and could vote on the guidelines changes next month. It also recommended the Division I Board of Directors lift the moratorium it placed on transfer legislation last fall in order for the Council to vote on the legislative concept in January 2021.

The Council had robust discussions about proposed changes to name, image and likeness rules and the timeline for a return to sports. The group and other governance bodies within Division I will continue to discuss all these issues over the coming weeks.