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NCAA Issues Four Division I Interps

Last week the NCAA issued four interpretations of Division I rules. None of them are groundbreaking, although one does open up an additional question.

The first involved male practice players participating in summer women’s basketball practices:

The academic and membership affairs staff determined that male students may participate in summer athletic activities with women’s basketball student-athletes, provided they are enrolled in summer school, or meet the academic requirements exception to enrollment, and are not receiving any form of financial assistance from the athletics department (e.g., compensation, financial aid).

This is consistent with the male practice player rules, who are for most intents and purposes student-athletes. Therefore they have to meet the same requirements as the women’s basketball student-athletes. And since you cannot give athletic scholarships to male practice players, they still cannot get them in the summer.

The second was the type of interp that makes you ask why the NCAA felt it necessary to clarify an issue.

The academic and membership affairs staff determined that an institution may temporarily employ and compensate a noncountable coach (e.g., volunteer coach) or noncoaching staff member as a countable coach if the regular countable coach has left the program, provided the institution does not exceed the total number of countable coaches for the sport. Further, the noncountable coach or noncoaching staff member may return to his or her original position once a permanent countable coach is employed by the institution.

This happens all the time and had been happening all the time when a coach leaves the program, either for a new job or through firing. All this interp does is put it in writing that schools can move personnel around in this manner.

The third interp has a nugget which is probably not new, but is nonetheless interesting. It is also fairly long, so let’s break it up. First a part that everyone understands:

The academic and membership affairs staff confirmed that an institution’s coaching staff member may not observe enrolled students or student-athletes in nonorganized athletically-related activities (e.g., “pick-up” basketball games) outside the institution’s declared playing season. However, in individual sports, a coach may participate in individual-workout sessions with student-athletes from the coach’s team during the summer, provided the request for such assistance is initiated by the student-athlete.

That is not new at all. The next part is the interesting bit.

Further, a coaching staff member may observe enrolled students or student-athletes in organized competition (e.g., summer basketball league, intramurals), provided the coach does not direct or supervise the organized activity.

The prohibition on directing or supervising the activity, along with outside competition regulations, prevents coaches from doing too much with this. But it does let them go to summer basketball leagues, and to potentially watch other competition in the offseason. This interp overrode and archived two other old interps from 1988 and 1993, which likely addressed the issue of coaches watching their athletes in outside competition during the offseason.

The interp ends with another obvious requirement.

If prospective student-athletes are also participating in the organized competition, the institution’s coaching staff member may observe such competition only if it occurs during a permissible contact or evaluation period, or in men’s basketball, recruiting period.

The final interp will probably strike some people are a big deal, but again is consistent with all existing rules:

The academic and membership affairs staff confirmed that a student-athlete may satisfy the final semester/quarter exception through enrollment in one or more nontraditional courses, provided the student-athlete is a regularly enrolled, degree-seeking student in the final semester or quarter of his or her degree program at the certifying institution and the institution certifies that the student-athlete is carrying (for credit) the courses necessary to complete degree requirements.

So instead of ballroom dancing or underwater basket weaving, athletes in their last semester can take online classes.

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