The NCAA Division I Council unloaded a slate of recommended changes this week covering the operation and governance of many of its sports. While some still have to be approved by a full vote in January, all are expected to pass that final hurdle.
Following is a summary of the week’s activity, and the impact and ramifications for WVU and the collegiate sports world.
Item: Winter sports participants will receive the same eligibility waivers that those in fall sports were previously awarded. Additionally, teams in winter sports can participate in as few as 50% of the required minimum contests/dates of competition and still be considered for championships selection. This reduction is consistent with what was provided for fall sports.
Teams in winter sports are not required to have an overall won-lost record of .500 or better, which is normally required for teams to be eligible for at-large championships selections. This also is consistent with what was provided for fall sports teams.
Reaction: This is a logical extension, and while it will be costly for some schools, and cause some roster management issues, those negatives don’t even register a blip against the correctness of this decision.
For WVU, this affects men’s and women’s basketball, rifle, gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s indoor track and wrestling. It is identical to the ruling made for fall sports, so many of the same issues will have to be addressed for the participants in the winter group.
A question for future budgets: Will these costs, while admittedly more short term, along with the massive financial losses caused by the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments, cause a decrease in some of the inflated coaching salaries that dominate the landscape? If the idea of a free market prevails, then it follows that salaries could decrease in order to meet other needs, just as they have spiraled heavenward in times of flush cash.
Item: Athletes in all Division I sports will be able to transfer one time and compete immediately, rather than having to sit out a year at their new school. This measure will be voted on in January, 2021, is expected to pass without problem, and will take effect in the fall of 2021.
Reaction: There is a great deal to unpack here. Along with the one-time free pass come a number of other items.
The proposal includes two deadline dates for transfer requests – May 1 for fall and winter sports and July 1 for spring sports. Those dates will be problematic for schools trying to nail down their scholarship numbers for the succeeding year – a task which will be doubly hard with the extra year of eligibility granted for this year’s athletes.
The proposal also allows for exceptions to those deadlines, such as in the case of head coaching changes or a scholarship being cancelled. That raises the spectre of more appeals and waiver applications, such as currently exists with the entire transfer process.
Another long term problem for schools is the potential impact on Academic Progress Rates. Schools currently receive points for retention, and an increase in transfers could affect those numbers, and potentially cause postseason eligibility for some programs. The Division I Committee on Academics has been asked to study that issue, and will likely produce projections on those results. This is a sort of “kick the can down the road” approach, but under massive pressure to change the current transfer rules, the DI Council had no choice but to open up the current procedures, no matter how many other issues it spawned.
Item: The Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees will expand from 10 to 12 members.
Reaction: Under the theory that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, the addition of more members to an already seemingly bloated bureaucracy doesn’t seem like the greatest idea. The DI Council supported the move as a way to increase representation across more conferences and promote diversity.
Item: Bowl eligibility requirements for the 2020-21 bowl season have been waived. Teams do not have to play a minimum number of games or have a .500 record to participate. Bowl games can be played between Dec. 1 and Jan. 11.
Reaction: OK, you think there are too many bowl games, and don’t care about the Bourbon Bowl or whether the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs are going to qualify. This is still a good move, and a small bonus in a season that didn’t see any school playing a full slate of games.
The change in the date window is also a plus for schools in terms of recruiting, even though in-person visits are still banned. Some games can be played earlier than normal, which will allow those staffs to put in work on recruiting that would otherwise have been pushed back to later dates.
There have been a couple of cancellations so far, but this move provides a path for a number of the games to still take place.
Item: Proposed Name, Image and Likeness “Concepts” Shared For Legislative Action
Reaction: While this is undeniably a huge item, and probably deserves higher billing, at this point it is only an interim step in the process that will allow college athletes to profit from their names and images. These initial concepts don’t go nearly as far as some of the legislation that has already been passed, or is currently pending, in state legislatures, not to mention drafts of potential federal legislation, so there is still a long way to go to get to one set of rules that will cover all Division I athletes.
The concepts proposed will have to be formalized and voted on by the entire NCAA membership, but that will only be the next step in the process. The NCAA’s rules, if not as open as those of some of the proposed governmental laws, will likely be challenged legally, and set off another lengthy round of wrangling.
The overall takeaway, though, is a simple one. College athletes are going to get paid, although not directly by the schools, and the race to see who can monetize their play will take even more attention from their actual performance on the field.