Many College Athletes Say They Want More Time Away From Sports

Many big-time college football and basketball players want two days off a week — twice what they are entitled to now — and athletes across the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top competitive level would like a two-week break at the end of their traditional playing season.

Those are among the findings from a survey of nearly 30,000 Division I athletes conducted last year by the association’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The Chronicle spoke to several athletics leaders who were briefed on the results, which are to be released at this week’s NCAA convention.

NCAA rules limit teams to 20 hours a week of organized practice and competition. But many players, coaches, and compliance officials agree that those limits are regularly exceeded. Previous studies have shown that elite athletes spend more than 40 hours a week on their sports.

The survey did not ask players to specify the total weekly time they devote to athletics, but it did inquire about the hours they spend competing. In a typical day of competition, the students said, they spend four to nine hours on sports activities. NCAA rules stipulate that individual competitions count for three hours toward the 20-hour limit, no matter their length.

Such discrepancies are one reason colleges should consider re-evaluating the 20-hour rule, said Brian D. Shannon, the faculty athletics representative at Texas Tech University.

“We need to be realistic about what we’re counting and recognize that, for many sports, the demand for competition is greatly more than three hours,” said Mr. Shannon, who is the Division I-A faculty representative on the NCAA’s Division I Council.

Members of the five most-powerful conferences are set to vote this week on several proposals aimed at reducing the demands on players’ time.

One measure would require teams to stop counting days in which they travel, but otherwise don’t have required athletics activities, as off days for athletes. Under NCAA rules, that is allowed.

Many survey respondents said they did not want travel days to count as days off.

More than 40 percent of football and basketball players said they wanted an additional day off per week during the season. But not all athletes were as supportive of such an idea.

Students were asked about other ways in which the focus on sports could be reduced, including eliminating midweek competitions against nonconference opponents. Midweek games often require players to be gone from their campus for parts of two days, which can disrupt their studies. But many athletes said they had no problem with such games.

That result was not consistent with other survey findings suggesting that players want more time to rest their bodies and do things other students get to do. But for players who don’t receive much playing time, it’s understandable why they wouldn’t want a reduction in games that have less at stake. Such outings often offer those students their only opportunity to compete.

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