NCAA Rundown: News From Nashville

Football is a full-time job in the association’s most visible division; ban on text messaging high-school recruits remains in effect.
January 14, 2008

The practices, the workouts, the video sessions, the four-hour games — it adds up to 45-hour sport weeks during the season for college football players in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top competitive level.

In addition to their athletic time commitments, players in Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A) reported spending on average 40 hours on academic activities, according to a study of athletes’ engagement, released by the NCAA during its annual convention in Nashville.

Rules dictate that major-college football coaches can occupy only 20 hours of their players’ time per week (not including travel), but athletes often work out on their own after practice, and many report that they’d like to log more hours if they could. The athletic time estimate includes the sum of hours players spend in both physical activities and prep work such as meetings and team functions.

The report didn’t include questions about whether coaches were asking athletes to spend more than the allotted time on football-related activities. The 45-hour mark was concerning to some at the meeting who wondered whether coaches' pressure played any role.

Myles Brand, the NCAA’s president, said it’s natural for the players to want to spend extra time playing and training, but added that “once you get past 40 hours, you’re really pushing it.”

Those surveyed in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) reported spending on average 35 hours a week on athletic activities, with players in Division II and III indicating totals of 37 and 34 hours, respectively. Baseball players and men’s golfers were the only others to report spending more than 40 hours a week. And the plurality of students say they spend as much or more time on their sport out of season as they do in season.

Brand said he wasn’t surprised with other results showing that the majority of those surveyed identify themselves as athletes first and students second — with baseball players most likely to say so, followed by men’s basketball and football players. The analogy Brand used: Ask students studying music the same question, and they’d likely refer to themselves first as musicians.

Students who identified themselves as athletes first reported having slightly lower grade point averages than their counterparts. Nearly two-thirds of Division I students said their GPA would be higher had they not participated in a sport, compared to about half of Division II athletes and 40 percent of Division III players.

More than 50 percent of Division I and II students said their primary reason for choosing their college was athletics, and the majority of athletes across sports and divisions said all or many of their friends are teammates.

Brand said he was heartened by data showing that athletes report being engaged in their classes, with the majority saying they participate in class often and skip rarely. A majority of those surveyed also said they’re aware of academic advisers who help with scheduling and help monitor their degree progress.

The survey results come from Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in College (GOALS), which surveys 21,000 current students at 627 institutions; and Study of College Outcomes and Recent Experiences (SCORE) is of 8,500 former students who graduated high school in 1994 and are mostly former D I and II students or recruits.

Division I Legislation

College coaches hoping they would once again be allowed to send text messages to recruits were dealt a blow over the weekend, as the Division I membership opted not to overturn a ban that went into effect in August.

Ivy League officials proposed the ban, and the NCAA’s Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee had lobbied hard for the legislation, arguing that texting high school athletes is an intrusive practice -- one SAAC leader called it “unprofessional” -- and often costs students significant money to be on the receiving end. The Division I board agreed, and only 21 percent of Division I delegates sought to overturn the decision. (Five-eighths of the delegates present need to cast votes in favor of an override in order for it to go into effect.)

The measure limits electronic communication with recruits to e-mail and faxes.

Legislation set to go into effect this August that would increase scholarship minimums and decrease squad sizes in baseball also survived an override vote. The measure, part of an academic reform package approved as emergency legislation in April, requires that athletics scholarship money make up at least 25 percent of a baseball player’s total financial aid package. It also limits the number of players that can be on scholarship to 30 next year and 27 thereafter, and sets the squad maximum at 35.

The idea is to discourage teams from dividing the available pool of financial aid among a large number of players and all but encouraging the least productive players to transfer. Some have described spring practice as a de facto tryout, with the losers entering the free agent market in search for other colleges. Critics say such a system invariably hurts athletes’ academic performance.

Among the issues that garnered much attention but saw little in the way of developments was the playoff proposal floated last week by Michael F. Adams, president of the University of Georgia and head of the NCAA Executive Committee. Adams will present his plans to the Division I Board of Directors today.

The board will also look at legislation that would change NCAA financial aid regulations to include protections for students who are pregnant or dealing with other medical conditions. As it stands, aid based on athletics ability may not be increased, decreased or canceled “because of any injury” that prevents an athlete from playing, but it doesn’t address whether the aid can be affected from an “illness or medical conditions,” regardless of whether the student is prevented from participating in athletics.

The Division I Management Council overwhelmingly passed the measure on Sunday, and it will take effect immediately if approved by the board.

New Call for Coaching Diversity

In his association-wide address last year, Brand decried the dearth of black football coaches in the NCAA’s top competitive level. The call for more diversity in the coaching ranks came again during a luncheon headlined by Gene Smith, athletics director at Ohio State University; William C. Rhoden, columnist for The New York Times; and Nancy L. Zimpher, president of the University of Cincinnati.

All but eight coaches in Division I-A are white — a number that has been relatively stable for more than a decade. Smith said there are plenty of worthy minority candidates who don’t get a look because colleges tend to make their choice without widely interviewing.

“If we don’t provide an opportunity for assistant black football coaches to go through the process, if they aren’t even in the room, we’re doing them a disservice,” he said.

Added Brand: “There are qualified people who aren’t getting the chance in football.”

Brand asked the panel why the same isn’t true in basketball, which has far more black head coaches. Smith said one reason is that minority basketball coaches often get a chance to prove themselves as mid-major coaches before moving up, while football programs rarely look in that direction.

And Smith made an offer to hopeful minority coaches in the audience: "If you’re having a problem moving up and feel it’s because of your race, call me. I'll take care of it."


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