To address the imbalance in student athlete time commitments a number of changes can be made, including:
- Time limitations should be sport specific. Every coach will tell you their sport is unique - establishing a permissible number of athletic activity hours for a sport should be no less specific. This concept is already evident in the number of contests played, season lengths and a host of other areas. There should be no expectation that the number of permissible hours should be the same for all sports.
- Acknowledge that 20 hours per week in-season may not be enough to allow appropriate preparation and the permissible number of in-season hours should be increased by sport to reflect this reality.
- As compensation for increased in-season hours, reduce out-of-season time demands from eight hours per week to four or perhaps even fewer and reduce the number of days these activities can occur. At eight hours per week, student athletes can be required to participate in 90 minutes of athletic activities five days per week or two hours four days per week. The logical opportunity for student athletes to regain time is out of season when extensive direct preparation for competition is not necessary.
- Hours should be counted accurately. The current "20-hours per week" rule is laughable because numerous activities are not counted (e.g rehabilitation, travel, recruiting assistance, training meals, fund raising and community appearances, etc.) but do in fact utilize student athletes time and are without question mandatory. The accounting of hours needs to reflect reality and include:
- Increasing the estimated amount of time that is used to account for a competition day - current rules count all activities on game day as three hours, regardless of the amount of time spent. When factoring in pregame meetings, warm ups, post game, and the contest itself, the hours spent in most sports are likely double the accounted for three hours.
- Counting all activities that involve coaching and sport specific staff, whether mandatory or voluntary, towards the new hours limitation. If there is seriousness about emphasizing freedom to pursue personal opportunities, part of this is recognizing that time spent on one activity cannot be used on another. By accurately counting hours and establishing sport specific limits, it should be evident when a student athlete has reached a point of diminishing or negative returns and engage in other activities.
- Counting activities under the safety exception - Workouts that are supervised by coaches for safety purposes should be considered countable hours.
For example, rehabilitation from an injury does not count in the current NCAA permissible 20 hours. If you were counting academic hours, would you say the same thing about tutoring, which is a form of academic training? If a three credit hour class meets for 50 minutes three times a week, would you count this time as 2.5 hours or three? On the athletic side when trying to avoid hitting a maximum, it would be counted as 50 minutes per practice. Would it be counted similarly on the academic side? While not a perfect test, these parallel examples help sort out what should and should not count and will help move toward greater accuracy.
Ultimately, the challenge of solving student athlete time demands will be only partially addressed by the above ideas. Tweaks around the edges to give a week or two back to students and letting them reclaim their sleep time between 9 pm and 6 am is only effective if it occurs within a larger adjustment of the structural aspects that truly drive time demands - length of season, out of season requirements, practice and competition start dates, exempt events and the number of contests among other things. In part three of this series, I'll move past accounting for hours and examine ways to provide even greater reductions in student athlete time demands.