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Division I Legislative Agenda Set for 2014 NCAA Convention

At the NCAA Convention in January, all eyes will be on the Division I Governance Dialogue. There the talk about providing autonomy for the largest athletic departments while keeping everyone in the same big Division I tent will move from principle to something more concrete and actionable. At the same time though, the business of running Division I will continue.

The Legislative Council has been sidelined for the past couple years as the Board of Directors took charge of the legislative process after the Presidential Retreat in 2011. Now things are starting to look more normal, with the Legislative Council taking up proposals, albeit handpicked by a series of working groups and committees to advance the Presidential Retreat agenda or take care of pressing issues. The result is a group of 18 proposals that tries to have the best of both worlds: the quick action and broad consensus expected out of Presidential Retreat along with the careful deliberation and inclusive debate of the NCAA’s standard legislative process.

Proposal 2013–15: Catastrophic Injury Reporting
Intent: Would require Division I institutions to report fatalities, near fatalities and catastrophic injuries to the NCAA on an annual basis.
Analysis: Proposal 2013–15 is the first of a package of health and safety proposals, most of which should pass without significant opposition. This proposal would add a new reporting requirement to the existing annual reporting that NCAA members already do. The proposal’s examples of catastrophic injuries are those “related to head, neck, spine, cardiac, pulmonary, heat, sickle cell trait, [and] eyes”.

Proposal 2013–16: Designation of Team Physician
Intent: Would require institutions to name a team physician for all intercollegiate teams, who is a licensed medical doctor or osteopathic physician in the state, and who is authorized to oversee student-athlete care.
Analysis: As most Division I institutions already have designated team doctors, this proposal is also likely to sail through. In fact, most of the health and safety legislation was initially offered as emergency/noncontroversial legislation.

Proposal 2013–17: First Aid, CPR, AED Certification
Intent: Would require all full-time coaches to maintain current first aid, CPR, and AED certifications.
Analysis: Of all the health and safety legislation, Proposal 2013–17 seems likely to draw the most opposition. For coaches of major programs which have a certified athletic trainer present at every practice and competition, keeping current certifications might seem like a duplicative burden.

Proposal 2013–18: Strength and Conditioning Certification
Intent: Would require all strength and conditioning coaches to maintain a certification through a national recognized program
Analysis: As most strength coaches are already certified by programs like the American College of Sports Medicine, National Association of Sports Medicine, or American Council on Exercise, this proposals seems likely to pass easily. An unintended effect might be to prevent strength and conditioning positions from being created to employ individuals associated with prospects or just as favors from a head coach.

Proposal 2013–19: Three Hours Recovery Time During Preseason Football Practice
Intent: Would require institutions to give football players three hours off between any session (including practices and walk-throughs) during the preseason practice period.
Analysis: What this proposal appears to do is to take the required schedules for two-a-days and make it the rule throughout the preseason football practice period. Whether there is significant opposition to this proposal depends on how different schedules are from this rhythm of providing a three-hour break every day.

Proposal 2013–20: Penalty for Positive Test for Street Drugs
Intent: Would reduce the penalty for a positive test in the street drug class from loss of one-season of competition and one-year ineligibility to a suspension for half of a season.
Analysis: This proposal is likely to be adopted without much opposition. The current penalty of losing a season of competition and sitting out for one year can lead to essentially the loss of two seasons if the positive test comes at the wrong time. The street drug class is small, dominated by marijuana and its derivatives, and has traditionally been treated differently than the other banned substances classes, especially in cases involving multiple positive tests.

Proposal 2013–21: Women’s Triathlon
Intent: Would add women’s triathlon to the list of emerging sports for women with regulations for coaching staff, financial aid, recruiting, and playing and practice seasons.
Analysis: Adding another NCAA sport is never easy, but triathlon is unlikely to have the same sort of opposition as sand volleyball. Sand volleyball was seen less as a new sports institutions could decide to have or not and more as an eventually requirement if you wanted to have a competitive indoor volleyball team. Triathlon’s fall season and less clear connection to an existing NCAA sport should reduce those concerns.

Proposal 2013–22: Women’s Rugby Sevens and Dates of Competition
Intent: Would make rugby sevens equal with 15-a-side rugby for many purposes. Would also switch from counting contests to dates of competition and would allow two dates against club teams to count toward nine date minimum for sport sponsorship.
Analysis: This proposal is designed to give women’s rugby a second chance. As the Championships/Sports Management Cabinet noted in their position statement opposing the proposal, women’s rugby has not gained championship status in the 10-year period given to emerging sports. Allowing the increasingly popular sevens format and two dates of competition against club teams would make sponsoring the sport cheaper and finding competition easier. This proposal could end up being heavily debated and a close vote because it would set a precedent that lowers the bar for emerging sports to get off the ground.

Proposal 2013–24: Definition of a Countable Coach
Intent: Would define countable coaches as staff members who provide technical or tactical instruction related to the sport to a student-athlete at any time; make or assist in making tactical decisions related to the sport during on-court or on-field practice or competition; or (c) engage in any off-campus recruiting activities.
Analysis: This proposal was already covered in more detail here. Interpretive issues will need to be sorted out before it becomes clear whether passage is likely. But definition proposals tend to sneak through with less opposition that their apparent implications suggest.

2013–25-A: Men’s Ice Hockey Initial Date for Communication and Deregulation of Electronic Correpondence
Intent: Would allow men’s ice hockey coaches to have off-campus contact starting June 15 after a prospect’s sophomore year in high school, to have phone contact starting January 1 of a prospect’s sophomore year in high school, and to allow texting or other forms of electronic correspondence starting January 1 of a prospects sophomore year in high school. Also removes all limits after that date for phone calls and electronic correspondence.
2013–25-B: Men’s Ice Hockey Initial Date for Communication and Deregulation of Electronic Correpondence
Intent: Alternative to 2013–25-A, same in every respect except it would not allow texting and other forms of electronic communication to be sent to prospects (still restricted to email and faxes).
Analysis: Men’s ice hockey was one of the more enthusiastic supporters of an earlier date for communication which was tabled for all sports by the Board of Directors last year. Part of the reason is likely that ice hockey coaches are recruiting not just against each other, but also major junior hockey which professionalizes ice hockey players at a very young age, before they have a chance to play college hockey. Either of these proposals would allow coaches to recruit against these professional teams. Given that reasoning, restricting text messaging would make little sense.

Proposal 2013–26: Initial Date for Communication and No Limits on Phone Calls
Intent: Would allow phone calls in most sports to start September 1 of a prospect’s junior year in high school, remove limits in those sports on how many phone calls can be made after that date, and would allow text messaging and other forms of private electronic correspondence.
Analysis: This proposal would move up the start date for regular telephone conversation for all sports except basketball (already allowing calls to juniors), football (just had a group look at recruiting which did not change phone call rules), swimming and diving and track and field (large squad sizes already without the resources of football or basketball). It would keep some of the exceptions that allow for even earlier calls, although 2013–25-A or -B might eliminate those in men’s ice hockey. This is another attempt at an earlier start date and unlimited phone and texting proposal which throws a bone to the sports which most objected to the previous version.

Proposal 2013–27: Recruiting Materials and Electronic Correspondence
Intent: Would eliminate some categories of recruiting mail and have no limits on general correspondence except for size (8 1/2“ x 11”, 9“ x 12” envelopes). Would also eliminate restrictions on attachments to emails other than they may not be created for recruiting purposes or personalized for the recruit.
Analysis: This proposal is another attempt at simpler regulation of printed materials and email. The many different kinds of printed materials are slimmed down; items like institutional postcards, notecards, and letterhead would all be treated as general correspondence with only size limits. This provides greater flexibility but still prevents the Fathead problem, the (incorrect) idea that anything printed could be sent through the mail and called a letter. Some of the more technical restrictions on email attachments are eliminated. The core idea, trying to avoid an audio/visual arms race, is still there.

Proposal 2013–28: Maximum Meal Plans
Intent: Would allow institutions to provide any meal plan to student-athletes that is available to all students, even one which provides for more than three meals per day.
Analysis: This proposal was covered in more detail earlier along with the meals and snacks proposals below. The big question here is whether institutions without unlimited or more-than–21-meals-per-week plans see this as falling further behind or a chance to develop those plans and start providing them to student-athletes.

Proposal 2013–29: Elimination of Certification Requirement
Intent: Would eliminate the practice of noncounter financial aid certification.
Analysis: When a walk-on, particularly a recruited walk-on, receives financial aid from the institution, the faculty athletics representative and financial aid office must certify that the financial aid was awarded without taking athletics into account. In practice this meant annual, individual forms for every walk-on receiving financial aid from the university, signed by the faculty athletics representative and the financial aid director. Eliminating this individual certification requirement will mean in practice that the compliance and financial aid offices will certify different funds or programs as non-athletically related, rather than every individual award.

Proposal 2013–30: Squad List Procedures
Intent: Would eliminate the requirement that the athletic director compile the squad list and would allow a designee to sign for the athletic director.
Analysis: The squad list is a master list produced for each team before the first competition that denotes every member of the team, whether they are eligible for competition, how athletes count against financial aid limits, and whether the team is complying with financial aid rules. The rules say the athletic director must compile the squad list, but in practice this is the job of the compliance office. This proposal recognizes that and also allows the head of the compliance office or other administrator to sign off on the list.

Proposal 2013–31-A: Meals Incidental to Practice and Snacks Any Time
Intent: Would allow institutions to provide meals incidental to practice activities during the playing season and in conjunction with noncompetitive events. Would also allow snacks at any time.
Proposal 2013–31-B: Meals and Snacks Incidental to Participation
Intent: Would allow institutions to provide meals and snacks to student-athletes as a benefit incidental to participation.
Analysis: Proposal 2013–31-A was already covered along with unlimited meal plans in detail before. And while Proposal 2013–31-B lacks buzzwords like “unlimited”, “at the institution’s discretion”, or “at any time”, it has the potential allow even more flexibility in how athletic departments feed student-athletes if broadly interpreted. It lacks, for instance, the limit in 2013–31-A that extra meals are only allowed during the playing season. The rationale does say though that incidental meals are not intended to replace a student-athletes normal meal plan.

More than any other proposals, 2013–31-A and -B will have the spotlight on them when they are discussed with the specter of governance reform happening at the same time. This proposal is exactly the type of deregulation the largest and richest athletic departments are asking for the freedom to adopt without consulting the have-nots. Passage of either will not slow down the push for governance reform, but defeat or even sending the proposals out for comment will give the haves a brand new example to point to about why they need more autonomy.

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