A new NCAA survey concerning the time demands on Division I athletes shows a number of areas of consensus among athletes, coaches and administrators, but it also shows areas of considerable disagreement and areas in which consensus may be difficult to achieve as the association attempts to address ways to potentially give athletes more of an opportunity to balance their college experiences.
The survey — conducted in February and March through an online questionnaire — drew responses from more than 44,000 Division I athletes across the range of NCAA sports. Athletics directors, senior women administrators, head coaches, faculty athletic representatives and others, including compliance staffers, also participated. There were nearly 50,000 responses total.
It is an outgrowth of a commitment made at the 2016 NCAA convention by schools and athlete representatives from the five power conferences, which now have the autonomy to make rules changes that can apply to all Division I schools. Faced with a number of proposals intended to reduce the amount of time athletes spend on their sports, the schools and athlete representatives tabled those concepts in favor of a resolution to study the issue and develop new proposals for the 2017 convention.
All of the participants in the survey generally agreed that there should be at least eight hours overnight between activities that can be counted toward the NCAA’s 20-hour-per-week limit on what athletes can do with their teams during the season. There also was agreement about implementing what is termed a “mandatory no-activity period” immediately following the end of a season, as well as offseason no-activity period in which athletes would be encouraged to participate in an educational or career-development activity. But there was disagreement about how long these periods should be.
Potential changes to the 20-hour-per-week rules have long been an area of contention among athletes and coaches, as previous surveys of athletes show they spend far more than 20 hours per week on their sports during the season.
They end up complying with the limit, in part, because of computation rules such as all competition and associated activities on the day of competition counting as three hours against the limit regardless of the actual duration of the competition and activities. In addition, a travel day that includes no athletic activities can be counted as the one day off per week that is required for athletes during the season.
The survey showed that a majority of athletes felt that travel to and from games, compliance meetings and organized team promotional activities also should be counted toward the 20-hour limit. A majority of the faculty athletics representatives agreed, but a majority of AD’s, coaches and administrators disagreed. For example, 63% of athletes said travel should count against the limit while 7% of coaches and 25% of AD’s said travel should count.
Participants also were asked: If the definition of countable activities was expanded, would you be supportive of increasing the hours limit? Athletes in some of the NCAA’s most prominent sports were among the least supportive of this idea. FBS football players were least supportive (34%), followed by those in men’s lacrosse (35%), women’s basketball and FCS football (38% each), men’s lacrosse (35%) and men’s basketball (41%). At least 60% of the head coaches in each of those sports supported that idea (73% in men’s basketball) and 64% of the athletics directors did so, including 56% of the ADs at Power Five conference schools.
Athletes in these sports also largely supported the creation of time limits on team activities during preseason practice and academic vacation periods, while majorities of head coaches in those sports did not, except 52% of men’s lacrosse coaches said they supported this during vacation periods.
Athletics directors were nearly split on the idea of an hours limit during the preseason, with 47% supporting such a limit for all sports, 48% not supporting any changes and 5% saying such an idea should be applied only to some sports.
Summary of Findings Report [PDF 127kb]
Full NCAA Report [PDF 465kb]