The NCAA Division I Manual takes a lot of criticism for being a large and unwieldy beast full of esoteric and confusing rules. The size is a bit overstated, and much more complicated legal codes can be found. But the best way to defend what’s in the Manual is to point out what isn’t in the Manual.
Every year, about a hundred or so proposals are offered. Many tend to be adopted. And most are approved without much debate or controversy. But between the tendency of NCAA committees to go wherever the data points them and 31 conferences with their own ideas, sometimes proposals can go off the reservation. So here’s the 10 craziest NCAA rules of the last decade that never made it over the hump into the Manual.
In women’s lacrosse, to specify that an institution’s athletics department staff member shall not arrange lodging for a prospective student-athlete on an unofficial visit in an enrolled student-athlete’s residence (e.g., dormitory room, apartment) until August 1 following the prospective student-athlete’s junior year in high school.
2008 began a series of innovative recruiting proposals that lead to a through review of the entire recruiting model that started in 2009 and continues to this day. Part of the impetus for that review was a series of proposals by the Ivy League in women’s lacrosse designed to test different recruiting reforms. The proposal even expressly stated that the concepts could be a pilot program in women’s lacrosse, then expanded to other sports.
The most specific among them was 2008-27, which sought to eliminate the unofficial official visit, where a junior prospect stays overnight, gets free tickets to games, but pays for her own food, transportation, and entertainment. All of the sport-specific legislation was defeated, although many of the concepts were combined in another proposal on the list the following year.
In women’s basketball, to reduce the annual limit on the number of counters at each institution from 15 to 13.
The most recent proposal on the list, offered by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, sought to reduce women’s basketball’s scholarships to the same level as men’s basketball.
The proposal is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it is the only reduction in financial aid for a sport that has been proposed since 2000. Even men’s sports have gotten proposals seeking to increasing scholarship limits. And secondly was the MAAC’s “use it or lose it” rationale, pointing out that the average number of women’s basketball scholarships used was 13.08.
In tennis, to specify that, prior to full-time collegiate enrollment, an individual may accept prize money based on his or her place finish or performance in open athletics events, not to exceed $10,000 per calendar year; further, to specify that once the individual has reached the $10,000 limit, he or she may receive additional prize money on a per event basis, provided such prize money does not exceed his or her actual and necessary expenses for participation in the event.
Division I has always struggled with regulating the amateur activities of prospective student-athletes, who often don’t know the rules but who are equally likely to be attempting to manipulate them. No where is that no prevalent or more highly regulated than tennis. But in 2007, tennis almost went off the deep end of deregulation.
2007-23-A would have allowed for a tennis prospect to pocket $10,000 per year in prize money and then continue to accept prize money, provided it was only for actual and necessary expenses in each event. The rationale was that tennis is exceedingly expensive to play at the elite level, and the $10,000 per year often just covers unitemized expenses. Sponsored by the Ivy League, both 2007-23-A and an alternative allowing $10,000 total were both defeated.
To eliminate the requirement that each Division I member institution, at least once every 10 years, complete an institutional self-study, verified and evaluated through external peer review.
Certification is built into the fabric of Division I athletics at this point. Every 10 years a school studies itself, submits itself to a peer review, evaluates its progress over the last decade, and offers a plan for growing over the next 10 years.
Following the first cycle of certification and as the second cycle ramped up, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference decided the exercise had reached its conclusion. Claiming second cycle certification had produced “few tangible benefits,” the MAAC proposed to do away with continued certification of athletic departments, and proposed ongoing review of topical areas conducted by conferences. After drawing a sharp rebuke from the Committee on Athletic Certification, the MAAC withdrew the proposal.
To specify that an individual who officially registers, enrolls and attends classes at one of the three national service academy official preparatory schools (i.e., Army, Navy, Air Force) prior to initial full-time collegiate enrollment shall not be subject to the contact limitations in Bylaw 13 and shall be considered a student-athlete for purposes of contact by athletics staff members at other Division I institutions.
Proposed by the Patriot League, home of Navy and Army, 2005-162 would have essentially turned into student-athletes anyone who enrolled at one of the official military prep schools. That means recruiting restrictions would not have applied, and anyone from another school seeking to recruit this prospects would have had to get permission to contact these high schoolers.
The rationale was that the United States Military was already investing substantial resources in these prospects, and thus they should be treated like student-athletes. While our service academies get a number of breaks in the NCAA legislation, a de facto farm system went too far and was seen as too much of a competitive advantage. Thus it was defeated.
In women’s soccer, to revise or establish restrictions related to contacts, telephone calls official and unofficial visits, offers of financial aid and involvement in nonscholastic-based soccer programs, as specified.
There has been a lot of talk of recruiting models and comprehensive recruiting reform. But no single proposal capture an entire recruiting model quite like 2009-28-A. “As specified” meant no contact prior to August 1 before a prospect’s senior year in high school. That meant no unofficial visits, no phone calls made or received, no off-campus contacts, and no club coaching by college coaches, although official visits were moved up to August 1, allowing them to be taken before school started for prospects.
Proposed by the SEC, the fear amongst the membership was that August 1 would be a feeding frenzy of coaches who would pressure student-athletes to make a decision quickly to fill a recruiting class they were used to being finished with up to two years prior. Both this proposal and a companion offered by the Ivy League proposing many of the same restrictions for all sports were both defeated.
In men’s basketball, to specify that the head men’s coach must annually develop an individual personal growth plan with each student-athlete using community and institutional resources; further, to require the coach to periodically meet with each student-athlete to ensure that appropriate progress is being made toward the objectives set forth in the student-athlete’s personal growth plan.
Offered as part of a package developed by the NABC, this proposal would have required the creation of a mentioning plan between head coaches and student-athletes in men’s basketball. It’s a far cry from the NABC’s recent stance of deregulating most men’s basketball activities outside of money funneling.
The unanswered question is how this would ever be monitored. Sure, plans could be created and filed. And meetings could be scheduled and tracked. But how would you ever know if a student-athlete was progressing along his personal growth plan? Sadly we’ll never know. The proposal was defeated, resoundingly so, by a vote of 41-4.
To specify that there shall be no simultaneous telecasting or cablecasting of regular season intercollegiate football games on Friday nights.
There’s college football televised on almost every night. But back in 2001, the Atlantic Coast Conference proposed leaving Friday Night Lights for high school only. There was one catch though: a Friday game could be broadcast live if it finished by 7:00 PM everywhere it was broadcast. So had the ACC not withdrawn the proposal after it was introduced, perhaps college might have seen the Friday Night Dusk.
#2: 2002-97, 2006-86
To establish an NCAA Division I Nonscholarship Football Championship.
Twice since 2000, the Football Championship Subdivision teams that do not provide scholarships have asked for the NCAA’s assistance in creating their own national championship. Conference of nonscholarship FCS schools are not eligible for automatic bids and the individual schools are rarely, if ever, selected as at-large participants. On two separate occasions, the schools have tried to carve out their own unique niche.
2002-97 was to create an official NCAA championship for Division I FCS (I-AA at the time) nonscholaship football. 2006-96 asked to allow schools to exempt the games in a non-NCAA championship event for nonscholarship football programs. As the calls for a major college playoff get louder and louder, we almost had two Division I playoffs without including the big boys.
To permit a student-athlete to obtain a loan (not to exceed $20,000) based on future earnings potential from a centralized lending institution, as specified.
First the particulars: it wasn’t all student-athletes. Only student-athletes that had qualified for the NCAA’s disability insurance for elite student-athletes. Currently, that would apply to student-athletes who are projected to be drafted in the first round of the NBA, MLB, or WNBA Draft or first three rounds of the NFL or NHL Draft. And it wasn’t a loan from just anyone but from a real bank.
The Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet sponsored the proposal through the Management Council, the predecessor to the Legislative Council. The Board of Directors did not yet have authority to sponsor legislation, so 2000-103 came from as close to the top as it could back then.
And the proposal was never actually defeated in an up and down vote. It was tabled and forgotten until 2008 when the shift to the current governance structure finally killed the proposal. It may not be paying athletes exactly, but it’s the most surprising rule that could have been from the last 10 years.
The opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s and the author’s alone, and are not endorsed by the NCAA or any NCAA member institution or conference. This blog is not a substitute for a compliance office.