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DI Council introduces time demands legislation

If approved, new rules would take effect Aug. 1

Division I college athletes could have more time to pursue study abroad and internship opportunities if measures introduced by the Division I Council on Wednesday are adopted. Additionally, the Council introduced legislation that would require schools to inform prospective student-athletes in writing about the time demands for student-athletes.

Both proposals were introduced for the 2016-17 legislative cycle and will be considered in January by the Division I Board of Directors. If approved, they would take effect Aug. 1.

The Council also introduced a third proposal, which will create a new category within the rulebook called “required athletically related activities.” This proposal would not change what counts toward the 20-hour weekly limit on athletics activities. Instead, it would help give students a better idea of what’s required beyond the obligations that do count toward the limit. 

The Council introduced the rule changes during its Oct. 4-5 meeting in Indianapolis.

All of the time demands proposals will be considered in the regular legislative cycle, and will be voted on in January in concert with a group of measures to be considered by the autonomy conferences through their separate governance process. The entire package of rule changes is intended to assist students who want the ability to have a more varied college experience and let them know up-front the demands of being a Division I athlete.

“This issue has been the Council’s top priority, and I am pleased to see we’ve taken some strong steps toward helping student-athletes more fully participate in the overall college experience,” said Council chair James J. Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation at Northwestern University. “To be certain, I look forward to conversations about these proposals over the next several months as we will continue to work closely with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and the autonomy conferences to identify other ways to enhance the day-to-day lives of student-athletes."

The study abroad and internship proposals, intended to be considered separately, would extend a student’s five-year period of athletics eligibility for each of the academic terms he or she is pursuing either a study abroad experience or a required internship or similar work experience. Specific criteria would apply, including that the student can’t participate in competition of any kind or practice with the school’s team during the internship or study abroad period.

Additionally, these proposals would exempt a student-athlete studying abroad or participating in an internship from counting against a team’s financial aid limits during that term and allow some student-athletes to be replaced for the term.

“These proposals would eliminate a barrier to the study abroad and internship opportunities, if a student-athlete chooses to partake in those,” said Michael Sagas, faculty athletics representative at the University of Florida, and a member of the Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee, which recommended the proposals to the Council. “We feel good about these recommendations. They are based in the vision that was shared at the strategic summit (of presidents and other leaders in 2015).”

Sagas chaired a subcommittee of the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and also took part in the development of companion proposals that likely will be considered by the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences at their business session in January. According to the redesigned governance process, new rules that would restrict the amount of time a Division I student can spend on athletics must be voted on by the 65 schools in those five conferences. Schools in the remaining 27 conferences may choose to adopt the new rules – or not.

The autonomy conferences are considering a requirement that teams create an annual time management plan that would include both countable and other required athletically related activities. The plan must be developed by head coaches in collaboration with administrators and students. The document, to be approved by the athletics director and distributed to students on the team, must include not only traditional activities considered countable against the 20-hour weekly athletics activity limit but also any activity required, recommended or sponsored by the coach or athletics department. Medical and rehabilitation activities, as well as academic support, would be excluded from both required and countable athletically related activities. The Student-Athlete Experience Committee will recommend the rest of Division I create time management plans as a best practice.

Each team’s plan also would include one required day off per week during the season, and two days off per week during the offseason. Travel would not count as a day off, and no countable or other athletically related activities would be allowed on days off. Students also would have eight consecutive hours free from athletics activities overnight, in a single block to be scheduled between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The plan also would call for a week off after the season plus an additional 14 days off during the academic year.