NCAA Proposal Would Clarify Role of Coaches

The NCAA has begun adding the proposals advanced by the Legislative Council in October to its legislative database, LSDBi. In the system already are recruiting proposals which seek to establish earlier start dates for contact in some sports along with deregulation of how often coaches can call or text prospects in most sports.

But more interesting is a new definition of a countable coach. Currently, each sports program is limited in the number of countable coaches it can have at any one time. Noncoaching staff members with sport specific responsibilities like directors of operations or video coordinators are currently unlimited. As the role of these noncoaching staff members evolved and changed, the line between coaching activity and support activity was blurred.

The proposal, 2013–24, defines “coaching”, which is not spelled out in the current rules. According to the proposal, coaching includes any of the following activities:

  • Providing technical or tactical instruction related to the sport to a student-athlete at any time;
  • Making or assisting in making tactical decisions related to the sport during on-court or on-field practice or competition; or
  • Engaging in any off-campus recruiting activities.

The first and third are obvious and fairly clear cut. Of course someone is coaching when they give instruction to an athlete. Recruiting, especially off-campus evaluation and contact with prospects, is another core activity for college coaches.

The second bullet will generate more debate and discussion. Some duties clearly fall into the definition of making tactical decisions. The person on the football staff who calls plays must be a countable coach. But assisting in tactical decisions ropes in a much wider range of activity. If the director of basketball operations is tracking fouls and alerting the coaching staff when a player is in foul trouble, is he or she assisting in a tactical decision? What about a video coordinator for a football team whose game day responsibilities include watching replays to help decide if the head coach should use his challenge?

“Assisting with tactical decisions” will be a major focus of the interpretative process even before the proposal is voted on. The NCAA almost always issues frequently-asked-questions documents about legislative proposals, and 2013–24 will be a focus of this round of FAQs. If the phrase is interpreted expansively, it will relegate noncoaching staff members away from gameday action and more toward support work like film review. If it is interpreted narrowly, this proposal appears to have little impact on the day-to-day operations of most sport programs.

There are two other interesting nuggets about this proposal. First, conspicuous by its absence is any limitation on on-campus recruiting activity. Noncoaching staff members may not call recruits after the override of RWG–11–2. But they would still be able to coordinate visits and recruiting travel, have contact with prospects both on-campus and when initiated by the recruit, and evaluate recruiting film if the proposal passes.

Second, while this proposal might not change the job description for many noncoaching staff members, that is not the main intent. Proposal 2013–24 is the first step in getting the long-stalled movement to regulated and limit the number of noncoaching staff members moving again. Once a better definition of coaching activities are in place, the discussion will likely move to determining who is a noncoaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities. Only after that is clarified can a possible limit on the number of those staff members for each program be debated.

Posted on by John Infante
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