San Antonio — They seemed like sensible changes: giving big-time college athletes, many of whom spend more than 40 hours a week on their sports, a true day off per week — certain hours when coaches couldn’t make them practice — and more downtime after the season.
But the ideas, part of a package of new rules proposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, did not come up for a vote at the association’s annual convention here on Friday. Instead, leaders of the five most powerful conferences resolved to vote on the measures next year, with the possibility of introducing a more comprehensive set of changes.
The delay rubbed several students the wrong way. Ty Darlington, a former football player at the University of Oklahoma, criticized leaders of the power conferences for their lack of urgency on what he and his fellow students believe is a pressing issue.
“What did we do today to significantly impact the student-athlete experience?” he asked during a meeting of hundreds of leaders. “I have nothing.”
The proposals were introduced following months of discussions in which athletes laid out their concerns about the demands on their time. A recent NCAA survey showed that athletics commitments prevent many players from taking classes they want, studying abroad, or holding internships. Another survey found that many football and basketball players want two days off a week during the season — one more than they are entitled to now — and that most athletes would like two weeks off after the season.
College leaders said that the input was helpful, but that they need to know more about how the proposed changes would affect different sports.
“We weren’t ready,” Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina at Columbia and chair of the Division I Board of Directors, said in an interview on Thursday. “But there’s huge momentum for change.”
Nandi Mehta, a soccer player at Northwestern University, said she spends about 40 hours a week on her sport during the season. Her coaches have supported her studies and given her opportunities to be a normal student. But she worries that, for many athletes, that doesn’t always happen.
“It’s clear that something needs to be done,” she said in an interview after the meeting. “We know that with NCAA legislation, it’s very difficult to get grand, sweeping change that’s perfect. But you take the plunge.”
Chris Hawthorne, a former football player at the University of Minnesota, was concerned about how the delay would sit with athletes who were anticipating changes. “We’re leaving the room where we said we were going to make decisions with no substantive decision,” he said after the session.
He favors a more comprehensive effort to deal with the needs of athletes. “I disagree with inaction,” he said, “because this room is comprised of decision makers.”
He also worries that people departed with no clear direction about where things ought to go next. (Gene Smith, Ohio State’s athletic director, called for a commissioner-led working group on time demands.)
Mr. Hawthorne and other students said they would like to see colleges give athletes part of the summer off, or a break long enough during another time of year for internships, jobs, or other things that regular students do.
They would also like athletics leaders to confront concerns about the playing season, potentially reducing the number of games.
In some sports, Mr. Hawthorne said, “we’ve got 54 to 56 games. What are we doing?”Return to Top