Big 5 Conferences Pass Rules Changing NCAA Sport Hour Requirements

The Big 5 conferences in the NCAA’s Division I have voted to confirm proposed rule changes that require schools to give athletes more time off in between practices and seasons.

We reported on these rules when they were proposed last summer – you can read that report here. The long and short of it is that the NCAA has authorized its five biggest conferences – the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – to implement some of their own rules dealing with student-athletes. The system is set up to address concerns about student-athletes being treated unfairly by the NCAA and its member schools while helping their schools, conferences and the NCAA make major money.

The new rules address a few areas:

  • Mandatory 7-day “recovery period” after the end of the NCAA season
  • Mandatory 8-hour block of free time overnight
  • 14 additional days off during the academic year
  • Travel days no longer count as days off

Here’s what we wrote in explaining those proposals last summer:


Under the proposed rule changes, each NCAA sport in the Big 5 conferences would be required to give athletes a full week off at the conclusion of the season, before training can begin for the off-season. Under current rules, the “off” period between the end of the college season and the beginning of off-season work varies by sport.

There would be exemptions to this rule for “training for elite national/international events,” which would likely cover a year like this past one, where many student-athletes didn’t take a break after NCAAs in order to train for various Olympic Trial selection meets around the world.


Currently, NCAA rules prohibit any required athletically related activities between midnight and 5 AM. But the new rules would expand that, requiring teams to give athletes a block of at least 8 hours overnight between activities. the block can take place anywhere from 9 PM to 6 AM.

These new rules would, for example, prevent a team from holding a 5 AM morning practice the day after a meet or practice that ran until 9:30 PM.


The new rules would also build 14 additional days off from practice into student-athletes schedules. These “days off” would include no required athletic activities, and would be designed to allow student-athletes to “engage in other collegiate activities.”


Under current rules, NCAA sports teams must give student-athletes at least one day each week off from practice. However, travel days can currently count as the “day off.”

The new rules would change that, counting travel to and from a team event as a team required activity. That would mean a team swimming a Saturday dual meet and flying home on Sunday would have to build another “off day” into its schedule, perhaps the Monday after returning.


The Big Ten sent out the following press release announcing the results of the autonomy meeting:

Representatives of the Autonomy Five conferences met in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, January 20, to take additional action to improve the experiences of students who play sports. Over the last three years, the Autonomy Five conferences have passed significant reforms to help student-athletes succeed in college and in life.

Students who participate in intercollegiate athletics at the 65 institutions within the Autonomy Five conferences of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC will soon see changes to their athletics schedule to include more time away from athletics so they may pursue other endeavors. Previously-adopted reforms include protecting athletic scholarships from being canceled due to athletic performance, providing full cost-of-attendance stipends, and for the first time ever, a new structure that allows students to vote on legislative matters.

“We are here to help students be successful in college and in life,” the five commissioners said in a statement. “In three years, we have taken many steps to further improve the experience of some 36,500 students in our five conferences. These students are great representatives of our schools and our goal is to help them earn their degree while playing the sport they love and, in many instances, graduate debt free thanks to the scholarships we provide.”

The following is a summary of the reforms that have been put in place:


  • The Autonomy Five conferences, in consultation with students, coaches, faculty and administrators, approved changes giving students more time to pursue academics, work, internships, or additional rest and recovery. 
  • Students who play sports will have an additional 21 days away from athletics, in most cases.
  • Student-athletes will be involved in the establishment of their schedules, allowing for more transparency for student-athletes than ever before.


  • Prior to full-time collegiate enrollment, an individual who is drafted by a professional baseball team may now be represented by an agent or attorney during contract negotiations, without impacting future collegiate eligibility.


  • To better protect the safety of students competing in athletics, medical officials at each school have “unchallengeable autonomous authority” in deciding a student’s ability to play a sport.
  • A Concussion Safety Protocol was established to review each institution’s concussion management plan.


  • For the first time in history, students who play sports at an Autonomy Five institution are receiving full cost of attendance benefits as part of their athletic scholarship.
  • These students can receive stipends to cover expenses in addition to their scholarships.
  • In total, with scholarships and cost of attendance stipends, students may receive benefits for tuition, fees, room, board, books, transportation, general supplies, and personal expenses, allowing many of them to graduate debt-free.


  • The Autonomy Five conferences voted to guarantee that athletic scholarships cannot be canceled for poor athletics performance.

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6 years ago

Still won’t stop teams from peer pressuring their athletes into “optional” (mandatory) captain led practices.

6 years ago

I’m sorry… but none of this matters. I’m on a top-15 D1 men’s team and the coaches can easily get around this by implementing “optional” practices…. that you get yelled at for missing.

6 years ago


Reply to  Ravioli
6 years ago

suhh dude

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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