NCAA Rejects Conferences’ Request to Drop Minimum Sports Requirement

The NCAA has rejected a request by 27 Division I conference commissioners to waive the minimum sport requirement for Division I membership over the next 2 years to deal with the economic fallout of the global coronavirus pandemic.

This is a moment of relief for Olympic sports programs that were worried about the possibility of athletic directors cutting or furloughing their programs to deal with budget shortfalls. While that could still happen, there is at least now a floor on those cuts – schools must sponsor at least 16 varsity sports to retain Division I membership.

The NCAA’s Division I Council announced late Friday evening that while they are still considering other requested changes, they have rejected waiving the minimum sports requirement.

Greg Earhart, the Executive Director of the Collegiate Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) says that this is a crucial announcement, though there is still a final hurdle to kill the proposal.

“It’s a step in the right direction and appreciate Director Calhoun’s strong statement,” Earhart told SwimSwam on Friday evening. “However the commissioners initially went around the Council with their request so we are hopeful the Board of Governors will respect the Council’s decision

“In the meantime we’re working with our coaches and other associations to help schools get through this.”

The CSCAA was one of a number of organizations that took a leading effort in opposing the waiver.

The Council did change a rule that prohibited waivers of FBS membership requirements, which will allow them to make other waivers.

The NCAA says that it considered “a request from the majority of Division I conferences to consider providing a blanket waiver for all Division I members of several legislative requirements,” which was to last for 2 years, but ultimately removed sport sponsorship minimums be removed from the list of items under consideration for waivers.

The Council is still considering other elements of the waiver request, including scheduling and summer access requirements.

“Higher education is facing unique challenges, and the Division I leadership believes it’s appropriate to examine areas in which rules can be relaxed or amended to provide flexibility for schools and conferences,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “We will prioritize student-athlete well-being and opportunities balanced with reducing costs associated with administering college sports, but a blanket waiver of sport sponsorship requirements is not in keeping with our values and will not be considered.”

The Council did accept some new legislation at their meeting on Friday. That includes allowing student-atheltes who transfer after graduating to pursue a second undergraduate degree or enroll in coursework that could lead to another degree after they transfer, rather than requiring that student-athletes pursue a graduate degree to take advantage of graduate transfer rules. The NCAA says that this change will relieve tension between various academic departments and athletics departments.

The NCAA Division I Council also discussed a new rule that would first-time four-year transfers in all sports be allowed to compete immediately, but decided to vote on the guidelines at a future meeting, possibly next month.

There was also discussion about the “name, image and likeness” rules that would allow student-athletes to earn money from sponsors while college athletes, and a timeline for return to sports.

At least 4 aquatic sports teams have been dropped in the last 2 weeks. The men’s and women’s swimming & diving programs, and women’s water polo program, at Division II Urbana University were lost when the school closed its physical campus permanently. This week, Sonoma State announced that it would be cutting its women’s water polo team.

Full NCAA Council Press Release on Waivers is Below

The Division I Council spent much of its meeting Friday discussing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on student-athletes, schools and conferences. Recognizing the severity of the impact, the group took action to address potential needs.

The Council removed a barrier to its consideration of a blanket waiver of Football Bowl Subdivision membership requirements. Rules had prohibited waivers of FBS membership requirements.

The Council discussed the issue in response to a request from the majority of Division I conferences to consider providing a blanket waiver for all Division I members of several legislative requirements. The letter asked for the blanket waiver for a period of at least two years to allow schools to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While several legislative changes will be considered for blanket waivers, the Council indicated that sport sponsorship minimums should be removed from that list. Schools still can request sport sponsorship requirement waivers on an individual basis.

The other elements of the waiver request, including scheduling and summer access requirements, will be considered over the next few weeks.

“Higher education is facing unique challenges, and the Division I leadership believes it’s appropriate to examine areas in which rules can be relaxed or amended to provide flexibility for schools and conferences,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “We will prioritize student-athlete well-being and opportunities balanced with reducing costs associated with administering college sports, but a blanket waiver of sport sponsorship requirements is not in keeping with our values and will not be considered.”

The Council provided feedback on draft principles that could guide the conversation about flexibility in legislative requirements moving forward, and the Division I Board of Directors will discuss the principles at its next meeting.

Additional educational opportunities for grad transfers

Student-athletes who transfer after graduating will be allowed to pursue additional educational opportunities at their second school, the Council decided.

The Council adopted legislation to allow graduate transfers to seek a second undergraduate degree or enroll in coursework that could lead to another degree after they transfer.

The change, which originated with the Committee on Academics, provides graduate transfer student-athletes the same academic opportunities they would have if they stayed at their original school. Current rules require graduate transfer student-athletes to pursue a graduate degree, which has caused some tension between various academic departments and athletics departments.

The academic requirements were voted on after the Council Coordination Committee tabled most legislation in order to give members time to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislative Committee recommended that the remaining legislation remain tabled until after the Council’s June meeting.

Transfers

The Council discussed recommendations from the Transfer Waiver Working Group, which has recommended that waiver guidelines be changed to allow first-time four-year transfers in all sports the ability to compete immediately. While the group didn’t take a vote on the recommendations, it provided valuable feedback with regard to timing and uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and could vote on the guidelines changes next month. It also recommended the Division I Board of Directors lift the moratorium it placed on transfer legislation last fall in order for the Council to vote on the legislative concept in January 2021.

The Council had robust discussions about proposed changes to name, image and likeness rules and the timeline for a return to sports. The group and other governance bodies within Division I will continue to discuss all these issues over the coming weeks.

10
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
10 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JCO
5 months ago

Let’s gooooooooooooo

DMacNCheez
5 months ago

I’m ecstatic they did this; they just saved the dreams of so many student athletes.

But let us not forget that the main reason these conferences made the request was because the NCAA drastically reduced the money they gave out to schools this year(mainly due to the March Madness cancellation), while sitting on massive cash reserves of their own. I’m not sure how much we should praise them on fixing a problem of their own creation.

Ladyvoldisser
Reply to  DMacNCheez
5 months ago

Naive to believe men swim and dive programs are out of the woods. If any sport is at risk…

Paula (Dean) Farris
Reply to  DMacNCheez
5 months ago

Has the NCAA president taken any salary reduction?

GA Boy
5 months ago

Thank you NCAA, it is good moves like this that make us not lose hope in you!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »