Finding balance between coursework and athletics will always be a challenge, but where is the line that separates a challenge from a burden? Even at the Division I level, where student-athletes know their seasons and practices will be demanding, has the time come for the NCAA to do more to help student-athletes balance athletics, academics and other pursuits?
Several groups within the NCAA, led by principles outlined this summer at the Division I Strategic Summit, are examining the demands athletics places on students’ time. Three autonomy proposals will be voted on at the 2016 NCAA Convention, while the NCAA Division I Committee on Academics has forwarded to the NCAA Division I Council two proposals related to life balance.
“When does a student-athlete get to be a student and do all the things students do?” asks Committee on Academics member Kurt Zorn, a faculty athletics representative at Indiana University, Bloomington, and chair of that committee’s Subcommittee on Student-Athlete Academics. “Some of these issues can be addressed fairly quickly. They’re no-brainers.”
Meanwhile, the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is awaiting results of a survey of their peers. The students are being asked for their opinions about issues such as providing an additional day off from athletic activity and reducing the number of midweek nonconference games. And the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee mulled over the issue throughout 2015; the Council will ultimately consider whether that committee’s recommendations will be introduced into the 2016-17 legislative cycle.
“We want to look sport by sport, in season and out of season,” says Bob Scalise, chair of the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and athletics director at Harvard University. “Where are things being asked of athletes that are unreasonable?”