Spring Football Highlights D3 Proposals

Division III has the most ambitious legislative agenda of the three divisions at the current moment. Like Division II, most of the proposals are focused on playing and practice season rules. But while D2 is mostly tweaking, D3 has two major changes. One would cut the number of contests in most Division III sports while another would bring spring football practice to D3.

No. 1–1: Full-Time Enrollment Exception – Cooperative Educational Work Experience

Intent: “To allow student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics while participating in cooperative educational work experiences regardless of whether such educational experiences are a required part of the academic programs.”

Analysis: Currently an athlete in Division III can participate while enrolled less than full-time in classes if they are enrolled in a co-op work program that the institution considers full-time only if the work experience is required for the degree program. This proposal would allow athletes to compete while enrolled in any co-op work program that the institution considers full-time enrollment, regardless of whether it is required.

No. 1–2: Reduction of Maximum Number of Contests

Intent: “To decrease traditional segment contest and dates of competition limits in selected sports by up to 10 percent.

Analysis: I’ve covered this proposal in more detail earlier, but some of the reductions are significant, more than 10%.

No. 1–3: Date of First Basketball Contest

Intent: “To permit an institution to conduct its first date of regular-season competition in basketball on November 15 or the preceding Friday if November 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday.”

Analysis: Division II is considering a similar proposal for a number of sports other than basketball. In the rationale, the sponsors note that the proposal does not have a significant academic impact. From a health and safety standpoint, the sponsors also mention that basketball has the longest preseason of any sport, so players are prepared for the season to begin.

No. 1–4 – Date of First Football Contest

Intent: “In football to permit an institution to play its first permissible contest (game) on the Thursday preceding the weekend which is eleven weeks prior to the first round of the NCAA Division III Championships.”

Analysis: The Division III football season starts on a Friday except when the opening weekend lands on Labor Day weekend, in which case institutions can play their first game on Thursday. This would allow institutions to play their first game on the Thursday preceding the weekend that allows for an 11-week regular season, regardless of whether it lands on Labor Day or not.

No. 1–5: Football – Nontraditional Segment

Intent: “To provide students participating in the sport of football with skill instruction and development opportunities equivalent to the opportunities provided student-athletes participating in other sports, while maintaining the health and safety of the student-athletes as a top priority.”

Analysis: This proposal would establish spring football in Division III. It would be based on the following format:

  • A total of 14 days of required activity within a five week period;
  • Four of the 14 days are “non-instruction” days limited to meetings, film study, fitness testing, and strength and conditioning;
  • Of the remaining 10 days, a three-day acclimatization period is required where no contact is allow and helmets are the only equipment permitted;
  • Seven days of contact, full-pads practice. Proper tackling form may be taught in all seven practices.
  • Of the seven days of contact practice, three may include live tackling, defined as bringing the ball carrier to the ground.
  • Two of the seven contact practices may be devoted to scrimmages.

During the five weeks, the 20-hour per week/4-hour per day limit is in effect. A football team is limited to three on-field practices plus one non-instruction day per week. This would replace D3 football’s current spring strength and conditioning segment.

No. 1–6: Out of Season Fundraising Activities – Use of Athletic Ability

Intent: To permit student-athletes to participate in institutional fundraising activities involving athletics ability provided that the student-athlete’s participation in the activity is voluntary.

Analysis: This would allow, for example, golfers to participate in the institution’s summer golf outing, so long as it was voluntary. The rationale for the proposal says these events do not include monitoring or assessment of an athlete’s ability and it would provide additional networking opportunities between athletes and alumni.

Playing and Practice Seasons Dominate D2 Legislative Agenda

Division II released its Initial Publication of Proposed Legislation (IPOPL) last week. Like Division I’s, the Division II legislative agenda is short and focused. As of now D2 will take up four proposals at the 2015 NCAA Convention and all of them involving playing and practice seasons to some degree. Also interesting compared to Division I’s likely push to limit time demands on athletes, all the Division II proposals would expand athletic time by creating additional practice opportunities, lengthening seasons, or exempting more contests.

No. 1–1: Strength and Conditioning Personnel Designing and Conducting Workouts During Summer

Intent: “In fall championship sports (including golf and tennis, for those institutions that conduct the championship segment during the fall term), to specify that June 1 through the conclusion of an institution’s summer vacation period, strength and conditioning personnel may design and conduct workout programs for student-athletes, as specified.”

Analysis: Last year Division II allowed strength and conditioning staff to design and conduct voluntary workouts for football players. This proposal would expand that opportunity to all fall sports.

No. 1–2: Team Activities

Intent: “In sports other than football, to permit a student-athlete to participate in a maximum of two hours of team activities per week as part of the permissible eight hours of countable athletically related activities that may occur outside the playing season during the academic year.”

Analysis: Division II’s two hours per week of offseason skill instruction is a hodgepodge of regulations even more complicated that Division I’s with its different dates numbers. This proposal would unify all those rules and allow team activities (basically practice) during those two hours at any time offseason activities can be required.

No. 1–3: Spring Sports – First Date of Competition – Friday before February 1

Intent: “In baseball, golf, lacrosse, rowing, sand volleyball, softball and tennis, to specify that in years when February 1 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, a member institution shall not engage in its first contest or date of competition with outside competition in the championship segment before the Friday preceding February 1.”

Analysis: Currently the sports listed above may not start their championship segment prior to February 1. If February 1 will fall during a weekend or on a Monday, this proposal would allow competition to start the preceding Friday, since no or little additional class time will be missed. This is designed to give schools increased scheduling flexibility.

No. 1–4: Conference Challenge Events in Baseball, Softball, Soccer, and Women’s Volleyball

Intent: “In baseball, soccer, softball and women’s volleyball, to permit a maximum of two contests played as part of a conference challenge event to be exempted annually from the maximum number of contest limitations, as specified.”

Analysis: In Division II basketball now has an annual exemption for two games in a conference challenge event. This is essentially the closest thing Division II has to the qualifying regular season multiple-team event exemption in Division I basketball. This proposal would expand that exemption to the sports listed above. A conference challenge event must involve two conferences from the same region and both games must be played during the first full weekend after competition can start.

Schools May Not Need SAF to Pay for Insurance

Oregon joined Texas A&M, Florida State and Baylor as schools paying the premiums for disability/loss-of-value insurance for athletes. Wisconsin is also rumored to have joined this club as well. As more schools realize this is possible, more athletes will be aware that they could get such insurance and as some people have pointed out, the floodgates could open where this becomes a common occurrence.

But the problem with the current way schools are providing this benefit to athletes is that the money is coming from the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund. In athletic departments that rake in and spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year, there is only a few hundred thousand dollars in their SAF distribution to go around. For one or two athletes, the $50,000+ premium is manageable with SAF, mostly because the schools were probably not spending SAF on something only SAF could pay for in the first place. But if it were even five athletes, that could easily be more than half the fund.

The solution would be to simply pay disability/loss-of-value insurance premiums out of a school’s budget. That may be something the power conferences take up early in their autonomous legislative process. But perhaps a school could do so right now.

The NCAA’s new interpretations philosophy is designed to give institutions more flexibility especially in the area of benefits for athletes. Using the application chart for the new philosophy, insurance premiums would fall under the category of “expenses arising due to participation in athletics.” That’s the same justification conferences are using to allow schools to use SAF funds to pay these premiums. That puts this in the green category of more flexibility. This is the standard we have to meet:

Categories in the left-hand column are those areas that are outside the intended scope of the legislation or areas where the legislation has been deregulated. Institutions have discretion to take action that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in light of the applicable rule(s) and the relevant circumstances.

The application document also gives use eight questions to ask about the proposed action to help determine if institutional discretion is appropriate. Since we’re in the green category, we should approach these questions with more flexibility, with an eye toward why a school could pay insurance premiums rather than why not.

  1. Do the circumstances at issue impact the immediate health or safety of a student-athlete? This is not an immediate health or safety issue.
  2. Do the circumstances at issue impact student-athlete success generally (e.g., personal or academic well-being)? Yes, especially when you consider Texas A&M paying for Cedric Ogbuehi’s insurance enticed him to return to school.
  3. Was the legislation intended to address the circumstances at issue? Perhaps, but there is no bylaw that explicitly says institutions cannot pay for disability/loss-of-value insurance, only the general rule on extra benefits.
  4. Do the circumstances require a consistent national standard (e.g., recruiting, eligibility, financial aid)? No. The action is not part of those categories and the NCAA will likely soon have different rules on benefits for athletes for different schools.
  5. Is the proposed action associated with a recruiting initiative? Only in the sense that everything is related to recruiting. But not a “initiative”.
  6. To what extent does the proposed action provide a recruiting, competitive or other advantage or benefit? Only to the extent that paying for the insurance helps an institution retain its best athletes and shows recruits it may be willing to do so for them.
  7. Is the proposed action an isolated or limited occurrence? Not isolated but limited to a small fraction of an institution’s athletes annually.
  8. Is there another way to accomplish the intended objective? Using SAF but that’s what we’re trying to avoid.

In the green category, this exercise seems to go in favor of paying for the insurance. Even if we say this action is in the yellow category because it provides more than a minimal benefit or advantage, the analysis still may end up in favor of allowing schools to pay the premiums if there is not an interp which expressly prohibits schools from paying these expenses for athletes. It is definitely not in the red category, so at least some flexibility should be allowed.

As this becomes more common, hopefully institutions will get more creative with paying for these expenses out of the general budget. SAF should be a last resort, especially when one athlete will use a significant chunk of the fund and a few might take up the majority of an institution’s distribution. If the new governance structure does not produce a bylaw explicitly allowing institutions to pay for these types of insurance, schools should make sure they are pushing the envelope as much as they can to leave SAF for the expenses that only SAF can pay.

Notre Dame Reports Potential Academic Violation to NCAA

Today Notre Dame confirmed that it was investigating potential academic misconduct involving four football players:

Evidence that students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others was initially detected at the end of the summer session, and referred to the compliance office in athletics on July 29. The Office of General Counsel initiated an immediate investigation.

The conduct does not fall under the definition of “arranging fradulent credit or false transcripts” which the NCAA defines like this:

This phrase refers to conduct such as altering or “doctoring” transcripts or arranging to receive credit for a course in which the prospective student-athlete or student-athlete did not enroll or he or she did not complete.

Therefore the process for Notre Dame deciding whether a violation has occurred should go like this:

  1. Determine whether academic misconduct has occurred, i.e. whether the school’s Academic Code of Honor was violated.
  2. If yes, determine that but for the academic misconduct, the athlete(s) would not have been academically eligible.
  3. If yes, determine whether the athlete(s) competed while erroneously declared eligible.

Notre Dame’s statement suggests that the focus of the investigation at this point is the second step of that process:

That investigation is ongoing. If it determines that the student-athletes would have been ineligible during past competition, Notre Dame will voluntarily vacate any victories in which they participated.

Update: During the press conference Notre Dame made it clear it has not reached a conclusion on the first question, whether academic misconduct has occurred.

In addition to the academic questions, there is also the possible issue of impermissible benefits, i.e. an arrangement not available to other students, according to both the NCAA Ed Column above and UNC’s recent major infractions case.

Proposed Legislation for Division I Highlighted by Championships and Drug Testing

Depending on who you ask, August 15ths prior to 2011 were either the good ol’ days or the bad ol’ days. On August 15th, the Division I Publication of Proposed Legislation is due. Prior to 2011 and the Presidential Retreat, it was hundreds of pages long and included 80–100 different proposals that ranged from important reforms to one conference’s pet project. After the Presidential Retreat, the POPL (pronounced pop-el) slimmed down, if the working groups met the deadline at all.

The 2014 POPL takes the prize for slimness though. It includes just six proposals and none affecting Bylaws 11 (personnel), 13 (recruiting), 14 (academic eligibility), 15 (financial aid), 16 (awards and benefits) or 17 (playing and practice seasons). There is just one amateurism proposal and it is relatively uncontroversial. The reason for this is governance reform. The power conferences will get their first shot at autonomous rule making in January while Division I’s shared governance is on hold for yet another year. So it will likely be these six proposals voted on in January, and they will likely be voted on by the existing Division I Legislative Council before the new Council takes over next year.

2014–3: Championships Access and Appointment of Cabinets

Intent: “To specify that members are guaranteed access to national championships (including the play-in structure in certain championships, sizes of championship fields and the number and ratio of automatic qualifying conferences) at least at the level provided as of August 1, 2014; further, to eliminate legislation that related to the appointment of cabinets under the previous governance structure.”

Analysis: As the intent states, this is enabling legislation to go with the proposal for the new governance structure, Proposal 2014–2. Proposal 2014–3 guarantees championship access at current levels and removes the cabinet appointment language. Removing that language enables the competency-based cabinet and committee appointments to the new Council substructure under the new governance system.

2014–5: Amateurism – Incentive Programs for International Athletes

Intent: “To specify that an international prospective student-athlete or international student-athlete may accept funds from his or her country’s national Olympic governing body (equivalent to the U.S. Olympic Committee) based on place finish in one event per year that is designated as the highest level of international competition for the year by the governing body.”

Analysis: This simply extends the exception for payments under the USOC’s Operation Gold Grant to similar programs operated by other countries. It is the latest in a series of proposals designed to provide the same amateurism exceptions for both American and international athletes.

2014–6: Women’s Sand Volleyball Championship

Intent: “In sand volleyball, to establish a National Collegiate Championship and to establish a six person sand volleyball committee.”

Analysis: Like it says on the tin, this would establish an NCAA sand volleyball national championship. It would be a National Collegiate Championship, meaning one NCAA champion would be crowned from all NCAA members competing in sand volleyball rather than one from each division. Sand volleyball will also be removed from the emerging sports for women list since it will have achieved its goal of getting enough sponsorship to become a championship sport.

2014–7: Duration of Ineligibility – Banned Drug Classes Other Than Street Drugs

Intent: “To specify that the penalty for a student-athlete who tests positive for use of a banned substance other than a ”street drug“ shall include withholding from consecutive regular-season contests or dates of competition equivalent to the maximum number of contests or dates of competition permitted per Bylaw 17.”

Analysis: Last year the NCAA reduced the penalty for street drugs (primarily marijuana) from the same one-year penalty as the other drug classes to 50% of a season. This would bring the other classes, all considered performance-enhancing, into a similar way of counting, making the penalty 100% of the maximum number of games in a season. In most cases, the length of the suspension should be about the same, although switching from 365 days to 100% of a season may cause some suspensions to be more or less than they would have been previously.

2014–8: Duties of the NCAA Sport Science Institute

Intent: “To specify that the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports will work in conjunction with the NCAA Sport Science Institute to fulfill its duties.”

Analysis: This simply establishes in the Division I Bylaws a closer relationship between CSMAS and the Sport Science Institute, which is the NCAA’s research wing for health and safety issues.

2014–9: Banning of Gene Doping

Intent: “To specify that the practice of gene doping is prohibited and any evidence confirming use will be cause for action consistent with that taken for a positive drug test.”

Analysis: In addition to the NCAA’s banned drug classes, some other drugs or procedures are also prohibited including blood doping, improper use of local anesthetics and and beta–2 agonists, and manipulation of urine samples. This proposal would add gene doping to the list which it defines as:

The non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, genetic element or of the modulation of gene expression, to improve athletic performance.

The proposal says that “any evidence” confirming use of gene doping is cause for actions consistent with a positive drug test, i.e. a one-year suspension. The rationale though indicates this is less about the NCAA’s own fight against performance-enhancing drugs and techniques and more about other organizations:

This proposal allows the NCAA to honor suspensions for gene doping issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Pursuant to current legislation, a student-athlete under a drug testing suspension from a national or international sports governing body that has adopted the WADA code shall not participate in NCAA intercollegiate competition for the duration of the suspension. Such suspensions are only applicable to drugs and procedures that are also banned by the NCAA.

Without this proposal, an athlete who was banned for gene doping by another governing body would still be eligible to compete in NCAA athletics.

Division III Proposes Cutting Number of Games

The Division III Presidents Council has voted to sponsor legislation which would cut the number of contests in most Division III sports, some by more than 10%. Aside from football and cross country, all Division III teams could see the maximum number of competitions cut by one to four dates of competition or contests.

The biggest proposed reductions in terms of number of games are for baseball and softball where a reduction from 40 to 36 contests is proposed. The biggest percentage reduction is rugby where a maximum of 13 contests are proposed, down from 15 (13.3%) followed by skiing, swimming, and wrestling where reductions from 16 to 14 dates of competition are proposed (12.5%). Basketball has a reduction of one contest proposed, from 25 to 24.

Aside from cost concerns and reducing midweek games, the rationale for the proposal offers up a very different type of arms race than the ones commonly discussed in Division I:

When it comes to contest limits, over time, maximums have become minimums and increased competitive pressures from coaches have challenged institutions to “keep up with the Joneses.” In fact, most institutions already exceed the “maximum” as conference tournaments provide up to four additional exempt contests at the end of the regular season. A division-wide approach to contest reduction can provide institutional leadership the avenue it needs to better balance its sports offerings, regardless the motivation.

While Division I is considering moves to cut back on student-athlete time demands, contest reductions seem unlikely, especially in the revenue sports. Most of the plans in Division I involve establishing dead periods and cutting back on “volandatory” extra practice time.

SMU Golf Coach Resigns Over Alleged Recruiting Violations

Josh Gregory, SMU’s head men’s golf coach and winner of two national championships as head coach at Augusta State, resigned on Friday from his job at his alma mater. The reason, according to Golfweek, is NCAA recruiting violations:

Among the alleged violations were impermissible text messages sent to recruits, in violation of NCAA rules.

While Gregory may have texted recruits, it seems unlikely that would be the type of violation that would result in him being pressured to resign. As of August 1, golf coaches are allowed to text seniors and can text juniors starting on September 1. Unless he was texting sophomores and freshmen in high school, text messages alone seem unlikely to have pushed Gregory out even if they were still violations that SMU would have to report to the NCAA.

It seems likely that if NCAA violations were the root of Gregory’s resignation, they were more serious than impermissible text messages.

Wide Variance in COA Calculations with No Good Solution for Power Conferences

Yesterday I explained how the judge’s injunction in O’Bannon simplified the cost-of-attendance debate by making many of the alternatives illegal. Under the injunction there can be no need-based cost-of-attendance stipend nor can the NCAA and its members agree on the value of certain elements of COA. The judge required COA to be calculated:

As defined in 20 U.S.C. § 108711 and calculated by each school’s financial aid office applying the same standards, policies, and procedures for all students.

So that means existing COA calculations are a good benchmark of what athletes might be offered. As the numbers show, that will create some major problems.

A few notes on my methodology:
– I generally used out-of-state numbers for public schools. Travel allowances tended to be larger and the idea is these power conference schools are recruiting beyond state borders.
– I generally used entering freshmen numbers. Again, this is focused on the recruiting angle.
– This is not the full cost-of-attendance gap in many cases. I did not include books and supplies, nor did I include any loan fees or health insurance costs.
– The goal was to approximate how much “pocket money” per year a school might be able to offer a recruit. So only transportation/travel money and personal/miscellaneous expense allowances were included.
– Because school supplies are not included, you can add $250 to $500 to each of these. In many cases you can also add up to $2,000 one-time for purchase of a computer. Case-by-case adjustments are also permitted if the same adjustment is available to all students.

Here is each school’s annual personal and travel allowance (a.k.a. “pocket money”):

– Boston College: $2,200
– Clemson: $3,608
– Duke: $3,466
– Florida State: $5,356
– Georgia Tech: $1,600
– Louisville: $2,476
– Miami: $3,390
– North Carolina: $3,804
– NC State: $3,488
– Notre Dame: $1,950
– Pitt: $3,300
– Syracuse: $1,596
– Virginia: $3,770*
– Virginia Tech: $2,860
– Wake Forest: $2,400

*Virginia gives a range for transportation, I used the maximum.

Big Ten
– Illinois: $2,500
– Indiana: $3,036
– Iowa: $2,128
– Maryland: $3,824
– Michigan: $2,204
– Michigan State: $2,610
– Minnesota: $2,194
– Nebraska: $3,604
– Northwestern: $2,949*
– Ohio State: $3,346
– Penn State: $4,000
– Purdue: $1,910
– Rutgers: $2,747
– Wisconsin: $4,888

*Northwestern gave no travel cost except for commuter students, so that number was used.

Big 12
– Baylor: $3,882
– Iowa State: $2,430
– Kansas: $3,586
– Kansas State: $4,000
– Oklahoma: $4,500
– Oklahoma State: $4,560
– TCU: $2,700
– Texas: $4,310
– Texas Tech: $5,100
– West Virginia: $1,971*

*WVU forced me to use the Net Price Calculator to find out personal and travel expenses.

– Arizona: $3,300
– Arizona State: $3,358
– California: $2,528
– Colorado: $2,992
– Oregon: $2,340
– Oregon State: $2,577
– Stanford: $2,550
– UCLA: $2,223
– USC: $1,580
– Utah: $5,094
– Washington: $2,679
– Washington State: $3,542

– Alabama: $3,298
– Arkansas: $4,002
– Auburn: $5,586
– Florida: $3,320
– Georgia: $1,798
– Kentucky: $3,536
– LSU: $3,680
– Mississippi: $4,500
– Mississippi State: $5,126
– Missouri: $3,664
– South Carolina: $4,151
– Tennessee: $5,666
– Texas A&M: $3,100
– Vanderbilt: $2,730

*Vanderbilt only gives “varies” for travel allowance so it was not included.

The takeaway is obvious here. There is no way this will fly. Not only do some schools offer more than others, but there is no rhyme or reason to why one is greater than the other. Why are travel, clothing, entertainment, and other personal expenses more than twice as expensive in Knoxville, TN as in Los Angeles, CA? Why an over $600 difference between the two Los Angeles schools.

But at the same time, the options for doing so are very limited. The power conferences have one way to normalize cost of attendance across all 65 schools: let every school go up to the highest cost of attendance figure, which in this case is Tennessee’s $5,666.

But that has its own set of problems. First, many schools would then be permitted to exceed cost of attendance, some by thousands of dollars. Not only is that philosophically troubling for the NCAA, it also complicates matters with financial aid offices. If a portion of an athletic scholarship exceeds cost of attendance and is not paid through the financial aid office, what is but payment for services rendered?

Second, this would be massively more expensive than some schools were likely planning for. Tennessee’s number is almost twice as much as the Pac–12’s average. A school like Iowa State, already worried about paying for COA scholarships would see the cost go up by more than $3,000 per full scholarship equivalency. At that point, the divide between the haves, the have-mores, and the real elite would begin to show quickly and clearly.

And finally, it does not solve the perceived imbalance of giving athletes the same living allowance across the country when the cost of living varies wildly among the cities where these 65 schools are located.

So the debate is now simple: stick with schools coming up with their own individual numbers or let everyone go to the maximum. But expect it to the vicious. It will pit the have-mores with low COA gaps (Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, USC) against the haves with similarly small allowances (Wake, Syracuse, BC, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa State, WVU, Cal, Oregon State). What everyone in the middle decides will say a lot about just how unified and similar those 65 schools are.

Will Transfers and Early Draft Entrees Lose Out Under O’Bannon?

implications of o'bannon caseAs fascinating as the 99-page ruling in O’Bannon is, for the immediate purposes of the judgment the two-page injunction order is much more significant. Yesterday I looked at how the injunction essentially solves the cost of attendance debate (much more on that soon). There is also an interesting wrinkle in the deferred compensation portion of the injunction which could have a major impact on which football and men’s basketball players get paid should this exact order stand up on appeal.

Here is the text of that portion of the injunction order:

Prohibit deferred compensation in an amount of $5,000 per year or less (in 2014 dollars) for the licensing or use of prospective, current, or former Division I men’s basketball and Football Bowl Subdivision football players’ names, images, and likeness through a trust fund payable upon expiration of athletic eligibility or graduation, whichever comes first.

It is important to keep in mind that the injunction order does not compel the NCAA or its members to create or pay any amount into a trust fund. It merely says what the NCAA may not prohibit or, to lose the double negative, what the NCAA must allow. Under the order the NCAA must allow two things:

Allow schools to pay at least $5,000 into a trust fund per year for each year a football or men’s basketball player is on the team; and
Allow schools to pay out the fund upon graduation or expiration of athletic eligibility, whichever comes first.

It seems safe to assume that in the interest of competitive balance, a continued defense of the collegiate model, and limiting the financial impact of the decision, the schools will enact NCAA rules that limit the deferred compensation to the greatest extent allowed under the injunction.

The $5,000/year cap seems self explanatory although there seems to be suggestion that this means $5,000 per year an athlete is eligible. The remedy section of the ruling does not say this explicitly. The injunction order also does not mention academic eligibility. The most obvious reading of the injunction is that the NCAA cannot enact a rule which says athletes only get money paid into the trust if they are academically eligible. I imagine this will be clarified or amended between now and the start of the deferred compensation plans.

The date of payout is trickier and raises more interesting questions. The biggest questions seem to be surrounding two groups: transfers and early draft entries.

Nothing in the injunction says how the trust fund(s) must be set up. The NCAA could set up a trust for all Division I members. Conferences could each have their own. Or individual schools could each have one. If there each school has their own trust, can they all agree to not pay out if an athlete transfers? If an athlete fails to exhaust his or eligibility or graduate at a specific school, does he lose the money he would have been entitled to at that school?

Early draft entries may also lose out. The order says that the NCAA must allow the “expiration” of athletic eligibility to be a payable event. In NCAA-speak, that means exhausting or using up athletic eligibility by playing four seasons or running out your five-year clock. Joining the professional ranks results in “forfeiting” your eligibility. But it is not clear whether the judge is recognizing this distinction or using “expiration” to mean any point where an athlete’s eligibility is gone for any reason. And what of athletes who enter a draft before graduating then return to finish their degrees?

Like the academic eligibility question above, this will hopefully be resolved before the effective date of the injunction (also a question mark). But the payout event question is more complicated and has many possible solutions for the type of rule the NCAA could enact:

  1. Transferring or entering the draft early terminates an athlete’s interest in the trust fund;
  2. Transferring or entering the draft early has no effect on the athlete’s interest in the trust fund;
  3. Transferring or entering the draft early delays an athlete’s interest in the trust fund until graduation;
  4. Transferring or entering the draft early must be payable events; or
  5. Some combination of the above for the two events.

I doubt transferring will be made a payable event. That would be a disaster, giving athletes a $5,000 incentive to transfer every year. My guess would be that in response to a post-trial motion, the judge will rule that entering a draft early causes a payout and transferring has no effect, i.e. once an athlete graduates or exhausts his eligibility, he can go back to any school he played at and receive his deferred compensation.

But if transferring or entering a draft early either causes an athlete’s interest in the fund to be terminated or makes graduation the only payable event, it could have the effect of keeping athletes at the same school longer. Transferring both delays the end of athletic eligibility (by making an athlete redshirt) and graduation (because athletes tend to lose credits in the switch). And while athletes might eventually get their payout if the entry the draft early and come back to graduate, more might be willing to stick it out, especially if their professional prospects are extremely good (guaranteed first round NBA or first-second round NFL draft picks).

O’Bannon Case Clears Up Cost of Attendance Debate

The O’Bannon decision may not have a major impact in college athletics for a couple years and if it stands as is, may not have a major impact by itself at all. But it will do one thing immediately. It will make the debate over cost-of-attendance scholarships very easy. The decision prevents the NCAA from setting a cap on athletic scholarships below the cost of attendance. That has two major ramifications for the cost-of-attendance question, both of which should mean a proposal gets passed without significant opposition and which applies to more schools and teams than expected. First, the idea of a cost-of-attendance proposal that results in scholarships that are capped below an individual school’s cost-of-attendance are nonstarters. That includes the ACC’s need-based proposal. It also includes proposals which envision the NCAA setting the value of elements of cost-of-attendance. And it certainly means no return to the NCAA’s original $2,000 miscellaneous expense allowance idea. Second, it also means that individual conferences will likely not be able to choose to keep the maximum athletic scholarship at the full grant-in-aid level. The injunction entered against the NCAA prohibits the NCAA, its members and conferences from agreeing to limit the grant-in-aid to below cost-of-attendance. The decision is only binding in the Northern District of California. But given the plaintiff’s victory in O’Bannon, the odds of winning a preliminary injunction in another district against a conference would be very good. It had appeared that implementing cost-of-attendance scholarships was going to be more difficult that expected with the power conferences all having slightly different ideas. No longer. Now only one proposal will be allowed under the injunction: a rule which permits institutions to provide athletic scholarships up to their published cost of attendance, not some substitute number created by the NCAA or limited to athletes with financial need. And that rule will likely apply to all Division I institutions. An individual school may decide not to provide cost-of-attendance scholarships, but it seems unlikely that a conference will test its luck by saying no conference member can provide COA scholarships.