Survey of Athletes Reveals Desire for Better Life-Balance in NCAA

In an NCAA survey of nearly 50,000 Division I college coaches, athletics administrators and student-athletes, respondents dissected how college athletes spend their time and offered feedback on how to ensure the demands of academics, competition, practice and travel are managed fairly.

The vast majority of respondents – 44,058, or 89 percent of respondents – were Division I college athletes.

The survey identified several areas of consensus in which college athletes, coaches and administrators agree. Those include:

  • Requiring a minimum of eight hours overnight between countable athletically related activities periods.
  • Mandating a no-activity period at the end of the competition season received strong support from athletics administrators and student-athletes. Overall, a majority of coaches also support this concept; however, within some sports, a majority of coaches did not support this idea.
  • Maintaining the requirement of a minimum of two days off per week out of season.
  • Allowing student-athletes to take a period of no activity outside the playing season to     participate in an educational or career development opportunity. (A majority of college athletes and coaches would prefer this opportunity be limited to two to four weeks).
  • Limiting the number of contests during exam periods.

The findings put the Division I Council, along with the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences, one step closer to addressing the time demands of Division I sports on student-athletes.

“The Council’s commitment to enhancing and improving the undergraduate experience for our student-athletes, on and off the playing surface, is as strong as it’s ever been,” said Jim Phillips, Council chair and vice president for athletics and recreation at Northwestern University. “Our young men and women continue to respond to our inquiries in staggering numbers to help inform and guide our decision-making. The results of this survey will allow us to consider feedback from administrators, coaches, faculty representatives and, most importantly, the student-athletes, in order to help determine the best course of action moving forward.”

The survey comes in the wake of the Council’s February meeting, where members discussed taking a thorough, methodical approach that included input from Division I athletics directors, senior woman administrators, faculty athletics representatives, coaches, compliance officers and others. The survey assessed a range of concepts proposed to play a role in ensuring student-athletes have the time needed to balance their lives and succeed academically, athletically and socially.

Since the Council was created last year as part of a restructuring of Division I, improving the student-athlete experience has been among its goals.

The survey, conducted online in February and March, included sport-specific questions and identified potential solutions for various concerns including countable athletically related activities, competition time demands, out-of-season time demands, academics and travel.

Results from the Council-sponsored survey supplement data from the 2015 NCAA Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in College study and the December 2015 Division I SAAC survey, which helped spearhead the conversation on time demands and identify potential areas of improvement. The initial findings from those surveys were discussed at the 2016 NCAA Convention in January. As part of a resolution adopted by the autonomy group at the Convention, the topic of time demands was referred for further study, which led to the recent collaboration.

Dustin Page, co-chair of the Division I SAAC, is a recent graduate of Northern Illinois University who played soccer as an undergraduate and is now a law student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said he is encouraged by the record number of responses student-athletes provided for both time demands surveys and believes student-athletes have collectively identified target areas for Division I to consider.

“The recent Council-sponsored time demands survey represents the next step forward in tackling one of the biggest problems facing Division I athletics right now,” Page said. “The feedback that the division has received from student-athletes, coaches and administrators will serve as the platform for proposals to come in the next legislative cycle.”

The Council and five conferences with the ability to propose and adopt rules in many of the areas touched by the survey will base future proposals on its results. The division plans to bring forward a number of proposals in this area for a vote at the 2017 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Additional proposals will be introduced in future legislative cycles.

Legislative concepts must be submitted to the national office by Sept.  1 for consideration in the 2016-17 voting cycle.

Above Press release courtesy Tom Yelich,

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Joe Carrol
4 years ago

Does that mean that we will start by not practicing more than 20 hours per week, the elimination of “optional” practices, and not turn in falsified ncaa practice logs any more?

Reply to  Joe Carrol
4 years ago

Hope so. There are coaches who demand that swimmers turn in false practice logs to hide the extra ten hours per week of practice. Coaches should respect the 20 hour per week limit, not pressure athletes into fraud. Don’t forget that the coaches hold enormous power over the swimmers, who can’t say no without retribution and abusive behavior by coaches.

4 years ago

Does that mean that you will also return a portion of the scholarship monies, which would be gladly accepted by high achieving academic students who have no problem in putting in a few more study hours when needed? Can these athletes spell SPOILED?

Reply to  Dave
4 years ago

Clearly you have never been a division 1 student athlete…. Most coaches go over the 20 hour limit along with breaking numerous rules Along with most professors now a days giving way more work today then they did 10 years ago. It’s a lot. The rules need to be changed. Highly academic students, that do not partake in a varsity sport, go to class for 2-5hours a day and then have the rest of their day to do with what they please. They have nothing to do BUT study (unless they have a job). Maybe you’re the spoiled one here, hiding behind a freaking computer. The world does not revolve around swimming. We have to get our degrees sometime or… Read more »

Ivy Swim Watcher
Reply to  HMC
4 years ago

I was a Div I athlete in college on scholarship and had no problem keeping up with studies and plenty of practice and extra sessions in the weight room, etc. Nor did the majority of my teammates. PLUS we didn’t have computers to speed things up with respect to research, math, writing papers, etc. We had to spend time going through actual books in the library and cranking out formulas by hand aided only by a calculator. You ever try to write a 10-page paper on a typewriter and deal with typos, tangled ribbons, and the like? AND….we all managed to graduate in 4 years and yes, we all took 15 or more credits a semester AND went to practice… Read more »

4 years ago

And this mindset is exactly why we are on our way to being dominated by the rest of the world in our sport.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of 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, …

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