The report of the January 2014 meeting of the NCAA Division I Leadership Council has two important pieces of information, both regarding how the NCAA makes decisions on cases involving student-athletes.
First, while the press release from the meeting noted that the Leadership Council decided not to move forward with eliminating immediate eligibility in transfer waiver cases, the report revealed just how close the decision was. The final vote tally was 12 for making the change, 13 against, while seven members did not vote either way. One or two votes changing their position might have changed the outcome, but with one-quarter of the group not taking a position, it makes sense to get more feedback and kick the question down the road a bit.
The other bit of news was that the Leadership Council decided to forward the NCAA staff’s request for additional discretion and authority in certain types of waiver, initial eligibility and reinstatement cases to the Board of Directors. The council agreed the staff should have additional discretion to depart from the prescribed penalties in the following types of cases:
- Cases involving the health and safety of a student-athlete, or instances in which the prescribed penalty or outcome would likely have a significant negative impact on a student-athlete’s well-being.
- Cases involving prospective or enrolled student-athletes who have served active duty in the military or who have delayed collegiate enrollment due to serving official religious missions.
- Cases that involve the potential for significant withholding conditions (e.g., a year in residence and one or more seasons of intercollegiate competition, loss of all or part of final year of eligibility), despite the existence of circumstances indicating that the application of prescribed penalties is disproportionate or otherwise inconsistent with the intent of the legislation.
- Cases involving nominal or inconsequential benefits to student-athletes.
The Leadership Council did put a couple of limits on this authority. First, it will only last until the new governance structure and legislative process is in place and effective. Second, the staff must file a report quarterly with the appropriate committee of all waiver decisions made pursuant to this temporary authority. Final approval will come from the Board of Directors, who meet on Saturday, January 18.