ESPN the Magazine’s “New Year, New Rules” piece is a great read for anyone interested in how sports are regulated, on or off the field. Amazingly there was not a single NCAA regulation in the list. Considering the goal of a magazine is to sell issues and nothing about rules in sports gathers eyeballs as fast as the NCAA, it seems like a bit of an oversight.
It’s not like big ideas weren’t part of the story, which included a proposal to play the World Cup every three years. And it’s not like minor tweaks were overlooked either, like the idea to literally draw a line in the sand on pickoff moves.
So to make up for it, here’s six tweaks that could have outsized impact on how college athletics are played. One each for Bylaws 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 & 16, and 17. Most are obscure, most are relatively minor tweaks, and none of these proposals are currently active in the legislative cycle.
Bylaw 11 (Athletics Personnel) – Give Basketball a Volunteer
Every sport except for men’s and women’s basketball can employ a volunteer coach. Volunteer coaches are just like regular coaches except they cannot recruit off-campus and cannot be paid by the athletic department. It was long thought that a volunteer coach would be a farce in basketball, since they could easily make a decent salary on camps alone.
But with expanding noncoaching staffs, it’s clear that keeping a volunteer away from basketball hasn’t contained costs at all. So instead of simply taking away the armies of not-quite coaches, replace them with someone who must be focused just on teaching and who doesn’t (directly at least) cost the university money.
Bylaw 12 (Amateurism) – Prize Money Year-Round
A rule change last year allows athletes in individual sports like tennis to accept prize money without jeopardizing their eligibility, provided the prize money was less than expenses. But there’s one additional caveat: it can only happen during the summer.
If accepting prize money less than expenses is ok, why is it ok during the summer only? Allow student-athletes to accept prize money to cover costs of outside competition year-round. There would still be all the normal limits on outside competition (vacation periods only, during the offseason, etc.).
Bylaw 13 (Recruiting) – Grades Before Money
Few people would argue that Division II is more highly regulated than Division I. But Division II requires at least one thing Division I doesn’t: a prospect has to provide a transcript before a grant-in-aid agreement or NLI can be sent.
Division I should require the same thing and up the ante by requiring a test score. It addresses directly what the oversigning limit in football (more on that below) takes an end around at: encouraging coaches to take academics into account in the recruiting process.
Bylaw 14 (Eligibility) – Get to the Heart of APR
The transfer exception for the APR has only been around since 2008, but it has caused the NCAA a heap of trouble. Supporters of the APR (myself include) point out how it much easier it is for a school to meet the minimums. Critics of the APR (i.e. basketball coaches) see it as a stepping stone to avoiding responsibility for retaining student-athletes altogether.
If the transfer exception is going to stick around, make sure it gets to the heart of what the retention point is focused on: losing credit due to transfer. Remove the 2.600 GPA requirement and replace it with one that requires the student-athlete to retain enough credit to be academically eligible at the new institution, remaining on the mandated five-year graduation track.
Bylaw 15 & 16 (Financial Aid & Benefits) – Requirements for Reductions/Nonrenewals
Oversigning and running off student-athletes are getting more and more attention. Oversigning limits have been the first response, but either haven’t gotten traction or aren’t real oversigning limits.
Instead of focusing on the recruits coming in, focus on the student-athletes going out. Right now, a grant-in-aid can be nonrenewed or reduced between academic years for any reason. Establish limits like the limits between terms or extend California’s financial aid disclosures to the entire country.
Bylaw 17 (Playing and Practice Seasons) – All the Skill Instruction You Can Eat
During the offseason, student-athletes are limited to eight hours of practice per week. But there’s a second limit: only two hours of skill instruction is allowed. That means only two hours with bats, balls, sticks, and goals. Not to mention that during the beginning and end of an academic year, only four student-athletes can be involved in skill instruction at once.
Let’s give coaches eight hours per week and let them slice it and dice it however they want. As long as they keep giving two days off as well.
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.