The NCAA may need to mandate new “dead periods” to rein in the time demands on college athletes that increasingly pull them away from the classroom, NCAA president Mark Emmert said Wednesday. “One of the things that’s being very actively discussed right now is the creation — it would have to be sport-by-sport, of course — for serious dead periods,” Emmert told reporters following a breakfast speech to members of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce. Athletes would be forbidden in such periods “from going to the weight room, forbidden from having practice, forbidden from being engaged in any informal practices,” Emmert said.
The NCAA already has two similar rules. In Division I football, weeks during the spring and summer that are not designated for offseason conditioning or spring practice are student-athlete discretionary time. While the weight room and practice facilities might still be open, no required athletically related activities are permitted. In addition, coaches cannot recommend athletes participate in voluntary workouts during this time and strength and conditioning coaches may only monitor the facility for safety, not design and conduct workouts even at the request of the student-athlete.
Division II adopted something much closer to what Emmert is suggesting in 2010 as part of the Life in the Balance package. For all winter sports, December 20–26 is a winter break, even though these sports are in-season. No games or practices are permitted. While student-athletes are permitted to participate in voluntary activities, they may only do so in facilities open to all students or the general public.
Expanding student-athlete discretionary time to more sports or establishing dead periods like Division II’s winter break would be a reversal of the current trend. Seasons are getting longer and required activities in the summer are including more sports every year. Dead periods might help spread athletic commitments out during the year and give athletes more time for academics during critical periods like midterms and finals. But the ship seems to have sailed on reducing the overall time commitment.