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Rules Working Group makes final recommendations for first phase

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Rules Working Group recommended the Division I Board of Directors adopt a group of 26 proposals, including a set of Division I commitments, aimed at creating Division I rules that are meaningful, enforceable and supportive of student-athlete success. The Board will review the group’s report and vote on the proposals Jan. 19 at the 2013 NCAA Convention in Grapevine, Texas.

The working group met December 17-18 in Indianapolis.

Working group chair Jim Barker, president at Clemson, urged the membership to remain involved with the process.

“We on the working group are committed to changing the regulatory culture in meaningful ways,” Barker said. “(We hope the membership will) remain actively involved, open-minded and engaged throughout this process. A successful culture change will require a collaborative effort and a sense of shared responsibility. Our goal is smarter rules and tougher enforcement.”

Beyond adding a set of commitments, the proposals would deregulate some personnel, amateurism, recruiting, eligibility and award, benefit and expense rules and are considered the first phase of a multi-phase effort to change the regulatory structure in meaningful ways that, in conjunction with an enhanced enforcement structure, will better support the collegiate model and, where practical, simplify the rules.

If adopted by the Board next month, the most interesting changes will come in recruiting. Two proposals that illustrate the type of changes that could take place are Proposal Nos. 13-2 and 13-3. Proposal No. 13-2, which establishes July 1 after the sophomore year as a uniform recruiting date, continued to receive support from the working group, despite some issues raised in the membership’s feedback. The group believed having the date earlier in most sports would support student-athlete success by allowing prospects more time to develop relationships and gain information to help them make the best college choice possible. The proposal also fulfills the group’s goal of simplifying the rulebook by creating a uniform date for all sports.

In 2012, men’s basketball coaches were allowed to contact recruits beginning June 15 after the sophomore year. If adopted, Proposal No. 13-2 would, beginning in 2014, move that date back approximately two weeks. The July 1 date was chosen with input from Student-Athlete Advisory Committee vice chairs Maddie Salamone (lacrosse student-athlete from Duke) and Curtis Schickner (former baseball student-athlete from University of Maryland-Baltimore County), who pointed out that many high schools don’t finish final exams until late June. Allowing recruiting to begin June 15, they said, could potentially have a negative academic impact on prospects studying for final exams in that period.

“The rules group believes that the uniform recruiting date will create significant ease of administration on campus, make the rules more understandable and allow for better recruiting decisions from both the coach and prospective student-athlete,” said Clemson President Jim Barker, working group chair. “If the presidents on the Board agree with us, Division I will review this proposal – and every proposal that is adopted through this process – in two years’ time.”

Proposal No. 13-3, which removes restrictions governing modes and numerical limitations on recruiting communication, also continued to be supported by the working group. The feedback on this proposal indicated broad support from the membership. If Proposal Nos. 13-2 and 13-3 are adopted by the Board, then coaches in all sports will be allowed to begin recruiting the July 1 after the prospect's sophomore year using all modes of communication, including text messaging.

In response to feedback from the membership and other entities in the Division I governance structure, the working group withdrew its support from Proposal Nos. 13-5-B and 13-6. 

Proposal No. 13-5-B, which would have prohibited schools from sending any recruiting materials to prospects beyond general correspondence, was rejected in favor of Proposal No. 13-5-A. In contrast to Proposal No. 13-5-B, Proposal No. 13-5-A would eliminate restrictions on recruiting materials.

Schickner and Salamone supported the shift from Proposal No. 13-5-B to 13-5-A, sharing that their fellow student-athletes told them that recruiting decisions aren’t made based on materials sent through the mail. As for Proposal No. 13-6, feedback from the membership, including the Leadership Council, indicated there was not broad support for this proposal.

The proposal would have removed restrictions on general advertising and promotional materials designed to solicit the enrollment of prospects, such as advertising in high school game programs, on billboards and on banners at high school venues. Some who provided feedback believed adopting the proposal would lead to an arms race in this area.

All of the awards, benefits and expenses proposals the working group supported in September continued to receive the group's support. And, of the eight proposals in this area, only Proposal No. 16-5 was modified. Previously, Proposal No. 16-5 would have replaced references to a student-athlete’s “spouse,” “parents,” “family member” or “children” with “relatives or individuals of a comparable relationship” throughout the awards, benefits and expenses legislation. 

The version of the proposal the working group is recommending to the Board does not change the legislation that permits an institution to provide an eligible student-athlete’s spouse and children the cost of actual and necessary expenses to accompany him or her to a licensed postseason football game, NCAA football championship or round of any NCAA championship in which the student-athlete is a participant. All other Bylaw 16 references to a student-athlete’s “spouse,” “parents,” “family member” or “children” would be replaced with “family member,” and a definition of family member would be added as well.

The proposal’s definition of “family member” is close to that used by the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management, and would allow more people to qualify for benefits previously reserved only for blood or legal relations. It also would allow schools additional discretion to make decisions about what benefits they will provide. Agents and individuals who meet the definition of "individual associated with a prospect" are not included in the definition of a “family member.”

Some working group members expressed reservations about the proposal, but the prevailing sentiment was that the revised language addresses concerns about a lack of clarity in the original proposal and that not changing who is permitted to receive expenses to attend championships addresses issues raised by the membership.

In addition to finalizing the 26 proposals for Board approval, the group agreed to recommend an effective date of Aug. 1, 2013 for all the proposals.

The group also began devising a new approach to the legislative process in Division I. Membersagreed that the new process must include an initial vetting of all proposals to ensure they adhere to the strictures established by the working group in its review of the rules: Is it enforceable? Is it consequential and national in significance? Does it support student-athlete success?

Finally, the group began to review concepts and survey results that it will consider when developing proposals in the second phase of its work, including financial aid and playing and practice season rules, as well as additional concepts in topic areas covered in the first phase.

The Rules Working Group recommended the Board adopt the following proposals in January:

  • 2-1, which establishes the commitments that guide the underlying operating bylaws. This includes a commitment to fair competition, which “acknowledges that variability will exist among members in advantages, including facilities, geographic location and resources and that such variability should not be justification for future legislation.”
  • 11-2, which would eliminate the rules defining recruiting coordination functions that must be performed only by a head or assistant coach.
  • 11-3-B, which would prohibit the live scouting of future opponents except in limited circumstances.
  • 11-4, which would remove limits on the number of coaches who can recruit off-campus at any one time, the so-called “baton rule.”
  • 12-1, which would establish a uniform definition of actual and necessary expenses.
  • 12-2, which would allow the calculation of actual and necessary expenses to be based on the total over a calendar year instead of an event-by-event basis. The working group recommended the calculation change for both prospective and enrolled student-athletes.
  • 12-3, which would allow a student-athlete to receive $300 more than actual and necessary expenses, provided the expenses come from an otherwise permissible source.
  • 12-4, which would permit individuals to receive actual and necessary competition-related expenses from outside sponsors, so long as the person is not an agent, booster, or representative of a professional sports organization.
  • 12-5, which would allow student-athletes in sports other than tennis to receive up to actual and necessary competition-related expenses based on performance from an amateur team or event sponsor.
  • 12-6, which would allow student-athletes and prospects to receive actual and necessary expenses for training, coaching, health insurance, etc. from a governmental entity.
  • 13-1, which will allow schools to treat prospects like student-athletes for purposes of applying recruiting regulations once a National Letter of Intent or signed offer of admission or financial aid is received.
  • 13-2, which will allow off-campus contact with recruits beginning the first day of junior year in high school and communication with recruits on or after July 1 after the completion of the recruit’s sophomore year in high school.
  • 13-3, which would eliminate restrictions on methods and modes of communication
  • 13-4, which would eliminate the requirement that institutions provide materials such as the banned-drug list and Academic Progress Rate data to recruits.
  • 13-5-A, which would eliminate restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to recruits.
  • 13-7, which would eliminate restrictions on publicity once a prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent or written offer of financial aid or admission.
  • 13-8, which would deregulate camps and clinics employment rules related to both recruits and current student-athletes. Senior football prospects would be allowed to participate in camps and clinics.
  • 14-1, which eliminates academic regulations that are covered elsewhere and directly supported by institutional academic policy.
  • 16-1, which would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA national office to provide an award to student-athletes any time after initial full-time enrollment.
  • 16-2, which would allow conferences, an institution, the US Olympic Committee, a national governing body or the awarding agency to provide actual and necessary expenses for a student-athlete to receive a non-institutional award or recognition for athletics or academic accomplishments. Expenses could also be provided for parents/legal guardians, a spouse or other relatives as well.
  • 16-3, which would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for other academic support, career counseling or personal development services that support the success of the student-athlete.
  • 16-4, which would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for medical and related expenses for a student-athlete.
  • 16-5, which, except for Bylaw, would change all Bylaw 16 references to a student-athlete’s spouse, parents, family members or children to “family member,” establish a specific definition of “family member,” and permit specified benefits to such individuals
  • 16-6, which would allow institutions to provide reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice.
  • 16-7, which would allow schools to provide actual and necessary expenses to student-athletes representing the institution in practice and competition (including expenses for activities/travel that are incidental to practice or competition) as well as in noncompetitive events like goodwill tours and media appearances.
  • 16-8, which would allow student-athletes to receive actual and necessary expenses and “reasonable benefits” associated with a national team practice and competition. The proposal would also allow institutions to pay for any number of national team tryouts and championship events.