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Sports Seasons to Start Later

January 17, 2011

SAN ANTONIO — Athletes in Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association will have more time to get a jump on their studies next fall.

Saturday, the last day of the association’s annual convention here, the members of Division II overwhelmingly approved a pair of legislative proposals mandating that conditioning activities, practice and competition for many sports cannot take place until September 7 or the fourth day of classes, whichever is earlier. Proponents of the legislation argue that this will give athletes “the opportunity to begin getting acclimated to the campus, their class schedule and nonathletic-related commitments before engaging in countable athletically related activities.”

Currently, some teams require athletes to arrive on campus significantly before their non-athlete peers to begin training activities, causing some athletes to fall behind on their coursework as they juggle multiple responsibilities at the start of the academic year.

The scheduling restriction, as well as another change adopted Saturday that limits out-of-season practice time for many sports, completes a legislative initiative Division II began at last year’s convention to reposition itself as the NCAA division where athletes achieve a “life in the balance,” giving equal focus to their academics, athletics and personal lives. Unlike Division III institutions, Division II institutions offer athletic scholarships to their athletes, but they are primarily partial scholarships. In terms of the commitment of hours by athletes and other measures, Division II athletic programs are generally considered to be less demanding than those in Division I.

With this positioning platform in mind, the Division II membership voted at last year’s convention to significantly shorten the athletic seasons for many sports by reducing either the number of games that can be played or the time frame teams have for preseason scrimmages and practices. This past semester, many fall sports operated on truncated schedules for the first time.

Saving Summer School

In a rare overturning of a prior vote, the Division I Board of Directors revived a piece of legislation Saturday that was dismissed Thursday by the Division I Legislative Council. The proposal in question would require institutions to send academically deficient men’s basketball players to summer school before their first semester to “acclimate” them to college life.

"The presidents wanted the membership to have more discussion on the subject, and many expressed support for the proposal’s academic portion," according to an NCAA news release. The proposal will be sent back to Division I member institutions for further debate, and a final vote is scheduled for April.

Troubling Trends

Over the past two years, failure by a coach or an institution to monitor a sports program was the most common major violation found by NCAA enforcement staff in Division I. Unethical conduct — including academic fraud, failure to address prior violations and providing extra benefits to prospects, athletes or their relatives — was a close second.

Julie Roe Lach, new NCAA vice president of enforcement, shared these and other troubling trends with Division I administrators Friday. These findings are worrisome primarily because they involve acts of commission or omission by institutional or athletic officials who are generally supposed to know better. She added that there are more than 4,000 secondary violations reported to the NCAA annually, mostly improper phone calls or text messages sent by coaches during the recruiting process.

Lach encouraged attendees to report any and all of the secondary violations they uncover at their institutions, noting that this proactive approach typically helps an institution’s case if it is ever under investigation for a major violation.

“The better job an institution does monitoring its athletics program and self-reporting secondary violations, the better chance the institution has of avoiding a major infractions case,” Lach said. “It’s better to have violations and self-report than to not report any violations. The Committee on Infractions and [NCAA] enforcement staff are most concerned about institutions that do not report violations.”

Later in the session, echoing concerns expressed by the NCAA's new president, Mark Emmert, in his speech Thursday, Rachel Newman Baker, the association's director of agents, gambling and amateurism activities, told attendees that she has seen a definite uptick in the number of agents hoping to earn money off college football players.

“Outside third parties are inserting themselves into student-athletes' lives and creating problems,” Baker said. “Specifically, they attach themselves to the student-athlete early in order to establish trust and build a relationship that will pay off when the student-athlete turns professional. Additionally, no one has jurisdiction over their behavior so there is no accountability from either the NCAA, professional leagues, professional players’ associations, or state government agencies.”

Baker revealed that the NCAA staff has found that some current National Football League players are either being compensated or having their agent fees reduced in return for setting up meetings between agents and college football players.

Finally, LuAnn Humphrey, director of the Basketball Focus Group — a newly created group made up of officials from multiple departments within the NCAA that looks specifically at problems in men's basketball — told attendees that her group would be more aggressive in its monitoring and investigating recruiting and other potential violations in Division I men’s basketball this year. For example, she noted that one of the group’s newer concerns was the growing practice of institutions agreeing to relocate an athlete’s parents near the institution in return for their son's commitment to play there.

 

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