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SAAC reveals time demands survey results at Division I Issues Forum

Feedback from students will help Division I consider how to balance time demands of sports

Throughout Division I, those who work in college athletics are asking questions about how student-athletes spend their time – and whether the demands of sports allow adequate time for coursework, sleep and a chance to just be college students.

This week at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Division I schools and conferences began getting some initial feedback from a constituency that knows this issue well: college athletes.

The national Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee presented results from its widespread survey of student-athletes from throughout the country Friday afternoon at the Division I Issues Forum. Combined with results of the NCAA research staff’s recent Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in College study, the autonomy conferences considered that feedback when they decided Friday morning to work with the rest of Division I to research possible changes to NCAA rules on how much time students spend on their sports.

Among the most important findings: Division I student-athletes strongly prefer that their weekly day off not involve travel to a competition site. At the end of the competition season, they would prefer a two-week break from all team-related activity. And while competition days in Division I are currently counted as three hours spent on the sport, student-athletes in every sport reported that between four and nine hours were required on competition days.

Completed in November, the survey drew 28,004 responses. Every conference is represented in the results, as is every sport. Twenty-five percent of female college athletes answered the survey’s questions, while 12 percent of men participated. Football was better represented than any other sport, with 2,007 responses, representing 7 percent of Division I football players.

Two SAAC leaders – Dustin Page, co-chair and a recent graduate of the University of Northern Illinois, where he competed in soccer, and Rachel Scott, co-vice chair and a graduate student and softball player at the University of Texas at Austin – presented the SAAC survey results. They presented their findings as basic concepts for Division I schools to consider as they begin working on the issue.

“The work,” Page said, “is just getting started.”

Other findings in the report Page and Scott outlined for Division I members included:

  • While Division I college athletes are already required to have one day each week free from practice and competition during the playing season, students strongly preferred that the day off not involve travel time to a competition site. “If you’re traveling on your day off,” Page said, “you’re really not getting the rest that you need.”
  • Based on the survey results, SAAC wants to see Division I consider changing the weekly number of hours spent on sport activities – currently limited to 20 – to a daily cap and examined on a sport-by-sport basis.
  • Student-athletes across all sports were overwhelmingly in favor of mandatory “no-activity period” at the end of their seasons. (The only sport that did not favor that break was men’s gymnastics, where 47 percent said they wanted it.) When asked how much time would be ideal for such a break, respondents were allowed to choose between one and four weeks off; the most popular choice was two weeks.

Scott noted that student-athletes want the time they spend on their sport to be acknowledged. “One thing that would help in this whole issue of time demands is just a recognition of the time that we do spend,” Scott said. “We have this 20-hour rule, but are we actually spending 20 hours doing countable athletically-related activities? Maybe, maybe not.”