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NCAA Releases Abridged Division I Manuals

Counting everything, including the table of contents, the index, and extra bits about how to use the book and LSDBi, the NCAA Division I Manual is about 400 pages. The version the NCAA prints on paper is about 320 pages, since some bylaws are left out. But how much of that actually applies to a coach’s job? The NCAA gave an answer to that question this year by releasing 28 abridged versions of the Division I Manual for various groups. Those groups include:

  • Each sport, including separate men’s and women’s basketball manuals;
  • Athletic directors and Senior Woman Administrators;
  • Chancellors and presidents; and
  • Faculty Athletics Representatives.

For the different sports, the rule book cuts down the various general rules and exceptions to only include those that apply to a sport. The best example of this is in Bylaw 17, where each sport has its own 17.x bylaw that covers the length of a season, how many contests are allowed, when practice and competition can start, etc. The football version only includes the general regulations and Bylaw 17.9, which applies to football.

The administrator versions include even less. Using Bylaw 17 as an example, the AD/SWA version only includes Bylaw 17.01 (General Principles), Bylaw 17.02 (Definitions and Applications) and Bylaw 17.1 (General Playing-Season Regulations). It includes neither the sport specific rules nor the more technical rules that apply to all sports such as those covering foreign tours. Most of the recruiting rules and all of Bylaw 16 (awards and benefits) are not included in the administrator versions; only FARs have the academic eligibility requirements and the bulk of the financial aid rules.

So out of a 400-page rulebook, how much does someone one who is not a compliance professional need to know? For football, it is about 210 pages. Men’s and women’s soccer, which use more general rules, checks in at 190. The AD/SWA and chancellor/president versions are around 100 pages. That shows both that coaches who say the NCAA expects them to know 400 pages of rules are exaggerating by quite a bit and that harping on the number of pages in a rulebook is a poor metric of how well the rules work.

More significantly though is what these books say about the expectations the NCAA has for different staff members. Athletic directors are not expected to know off the top of their head if an given athlete is eligible or not. Presidents do not need to concern themselves with the difference between official and unofficial visits or publicity bylaws. But coaches are expected to know all these things, even if they work more closely with a compliance office and only rarely encounter many of these situations.

What remains to be seen is whether different rulebooks will mean different standards when those rules are not followed. In most cases the answer will be know because if something is not covered in your rule book, the response should always be the same: ask compliance. But it could be a curious case if asking compliance was literally impossible and an administrator had to make a decision about something that was not in his or her manual.

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