Last month, the NCAA rejected a proposal by a number of NCAA Division I institutions requesting the ability to drop below the minimum 14 varsity sports to deal with the financial fallout of the global coronavirus pandemic.
This week, however, the national organization that governs most college varsity athletics in the United States did approve 3 other waiver requests, including allowing schools to offer less-than-the-minimum financial aide to remain in Division I of the NCAA.
NCAA Division I institutions are required to offer a minimum of 200 athletic grants-in-aid per year, or spend at least $4 million in grants-in-aid on athletes, in addition to providing 90% of the permissible maximum grants-in-aid in football over a rolling two-year period. Both of those requirements will be waived for one year.
The NCAA was careful to say that this does not absolve schools of other scholarship requirements, including honoring those scholarships that have already been signed for.
In total, NCAA institutions provide almost $3 billion in athletics scholarships to more than 150,000 student-athletes across Division I and Division II.
For many schools, an effort to prevent cutting of sports has been coupled with the reduction in scholarship offerings, with universities seeing this reduction as an opportunity to collect more tuition dollars from student-athletes.
The committee voted to grant blanket waivers for all Division I members for one year to allow:
- Basketball and football student-athletes to participate in currently defined summer athletic activities without being enrolled in summer school.
- Schools to provide less than the currently legislated minimum financial aid requirements to maintain membership in Division I. This waiver does not provide relief from other financial aid rules, including financial aid commitments to prospective and current student-athletes or regulations related to the cancellation or reduction of financial aid.
- Reclassifying schools to count as Division I opponents in the first year of the reclassification process, whether or not the school meets Division I scheduling requirements.
The committee also granted waivers of recruiting rules, effective May 11th, to make them more flexible during the dead period that has been imposed through May 31st. For example, any school staff member may now participate in recruiting calls between a countable coach and a recruit. Under normal circumstances, only coaches, and a few others in limited situations, may communicate with uncommitted prospective student-athletes via telephone or video calls.
The committee will make a final decision on whether to extend the recruiting dead period regarding on-campus or off-campus visits of prospective student athletes until the end of June. The flexibility in recruiting rules extends until the end of the dead period.
The committee also lifted the restriction on the number of uncommitted prospective student-athletes (and their family members) who may participate in a recruiting call with a countable coach.
Additionally, current student-athletes may now participate in recruiting calls with coaches, as long as that time counts against the eight hours of countable athletics related activity that the committee permitted in all sports earlier this spring.
Finally, committed prospective student-athletes may participate in virtual team activities after completion of all academic requirements for high school graduation or transfer to a Division I school. Uncommitted prospects could on one occasion observe such activities but not participate.
Finally, the group voted to allow coaches to participate in virtual camps and clinics, provided prospective student-athletes are not in attendance. Sport-specific legislation still would apply.
So far, only three Division I sport reductions have been announced: the University of Cincinnati has cut its men’s soccer team, Old Dominion has cut its men’s wrestling team, and Florida International has cut its men’s indoor track & field team. More cuts are expected, and CSCAA head Greg Earhart reports that in the past 5 weeks, 50 teams across all sports have been eliminated (a number that includes an entire university shutting down).
Many programs across divisions have announced deep funding cuts and furloughs.