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Conferences refer time demands proposals for further study

Deadline for new legislation comes this summer

The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences plan to work with students and the Division I Council in the next several months to develop research-based proposals aimed at ensuring student-athletes have the time needed to balance athletic, academic and personal interests.

During Friday’s Autonomy Business Session at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio, voters referred three proposals intended to reduce time spent on athletics to the governance structure for more robust consideration, and passed a resolution vowing to create new proposals addressing the issue to vote on in January 2017.  The referred proposals included:

  • The prohibition of athletics activity for a consecutive eight-hour period overnight.
  • A discretionary period of at least two weeks at the end of a season, during which only voluntary athletics activities may take place.
  • A full day off during the week that addresses the impact of travel time.

The action came in part as a response to the 2015 Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in College study and a survey of student-athletes sponsored by the national Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The 28,000 responses to the SAAC survey further illuminated the desires of the students themselves and helped inform the resolution. For example, the majority of student-athletes – including those in the high-profile sports of basketball and football – supported a mandatory two-week, no-activity period at the end of the season. The original proposal called for a mandatory three-week, no-activity period.

Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, cited the student-athlete survey when he introduced the resolution.

“Now we’ve got the benefit of a comprehensive survey of student-athletes. I’d like to commend the student-athletes for their engagement with the process,” Scott said. “We see these (referred proposals) as merely a starting point to address the larger issues of time demands. We have a tremendous opportunity to build on it moving forward.”

The survey also showed broad variances among students who play different sports, something the adopted resolution addresses by acknowledging that solutions may come on a sport-by-sport basis. SAAC members themselves suggested the sport-by-sport approach might be more prudent than uniform legislation.

Students spoke on both sides of the issue. Ty Darlington, a football student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma, expressed disappointment at the decision to continue studying the proposals.

“I feel like this should be done already. We’ve had an entire year to talk about these things,” Darlington said. “This is frustrating for us. What are we doing today that’s significant? When I leave here today, what have I done to significantly impact the student-athlete experience? Nothing.”

Taylor James, a rowing student-athlete from the University of California, Berkeley, supported the resolution because of its potential for the future.

“This resolution, although it is a delay, sets us up to adopt a bigger and stronger set of well-thought-out policies,” James said. “There is no opposition that time demands on student-athletes are a pertinent issue. We must respond to the 28,000 student-athletes who have taken their time to respond to us and tell us what they need.”

As part of the resolution, the 65 schools in the five autonomy conferences gave themselves until July 1, 2016, to collaboratively address the concepts in the three referred proposals, including input from the Division I Council. They have until Sept. 1, 2016, to work with students and the Council to develop other concepts into legislation.

In addition to the referral of the time demands legislation, the Pac-12 tabled its proposal that would allow student-athletes to use their name, image or likeness to promote their own non-athletically-related business. The conference will review the concept with additional groups with the goal of reintroducing the idea as legislation at a later time, noting that a waiver process currently exists to help student-athletes with those pursuits.

Voters did adopt a proposal that allows drafted, prospective baseball student-athletes to retain an agent for contract negotiations, provided that the relationship is severed if the student decides to enroll in college and play baseball in Division I.

Anthony Lyons, who competes on Texas Tech University’s baseball team, spoke in support of the rule change.

“You’re dealing with high school students who are approached by professional baseball scouts, and a life-changing amount of money can be thrown your way,” Lyons said. “In this situation, it’s very important for student-athletes in high school and their families to feel comfortable, to have an agent or advisor or lawyer to help them out. … I believe this proposal will help not only (preserve) eligibility for student-athletes all across the nation, but also help them and their parents make decisions … and smoothly transition into their college athletic experience.”

Another proposal creating an independent reporting line for medical staff also passed, as did a change that allows students to refuse athletics aid that is part of a multiyear grant-in-aid if a school’s financial aid package is equal to or greater than the athletics package offered. Both rules take effect Aug. 1, 2016.