As you look at the whole landscape of college athletics, doing what’s best for the student-athletes is becoming more and more important. – Chris Hill
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah athletics director Chris Hill said it’s been a couple of years in the making.
On Thursday, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott issued a joint statement with his counterparts from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC proposing NCAA legislation designed to give student-athletes more time off.
“We believe we have found the right balance between helping students participate in sports while also providing them with more down time,” the statement said. “Different sports have different demands and we think the concepts we’ve agreed to will help tens of thousands of students achieve more balance as they pursue their academic and athletic commitments.”
The proposed changes from the commissioners are “intended to give students who play sports more time off.” The purpose, as stated in the announcement, is to “rebalance the student experience between athletics and campus life.” The aim is to give college athletes additional opportunities to focus on such things as academics, rest, travel and work experience.
“As you look at the whole landscape of college athletics, doing what’s best for the student-athletes is becoming more and more important,” said Hill, who noted that part of the package was cost of attendance. “Now it’s taking a look at time demands on student-athletes and how anecdotally it's been growing over time.”
The proposal by the commissioners includes a concept called the “Flex 21.” It’s designed to give students at least 21 additional days to be free of required activities related to athletics. Flexibility exists so that every sport can create a plan that meets its needs.
Hill explained that research was done and found that it takes more and more time to be a student-athlete. Some of it is good, he added, but it’s a struggle for many. The Pac-12 reports that the proposed changes were made after in-person meetings and feedback from surveys given to athletics administrators, faculty, head coaches and students.
“We heard from our students that they would like more certainty in their schedules in order to engage in other activities. We recognize there will need to be a level of flexibility and reasonableness in carrying out these changes, especially with regard to travel, but students deserve time off and we want athletic departments to work in a sensible and appropriate way to provide it,” the announcement said. “We want administrators to have some degree of flexibility in implementing these rules, but they must be mindful that rest is important to a student’s health, in addition to their athletic and academic performance.”
In a nutshell, the proposed changes center around four time periods — in-season, the academic year, overnights and the postseason.
— The conferences are proposing that every student-athlete have a least one day each week free from sports. That includes travel days.
— Provide student-athletes with at least 14 additional days off during the academic year, free from any required athletic activity.
— Establish an eight-hour block of free time each night, between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
— At the conclusion of a season, the plan includes a mandate that all student-athletes be given at least one week to recover.
Thursday’s announcement states that the proposals are representative of an agreement in concept by the membership of each “Autonomy-5 conference.” The individual leagues maintain the right to pursue additional changes if desired.
Formalized proposals must be submitted to the NCAA this fall. Legislation will be considered and voted upon at the organization’s convention in January.
“It’s something that’s important, something that we need to do,” Hill said. “I’m sure it’s going to have some ups and downs about how to do things logistically, but it’s the right thing to do.”