July 30, 2001
BY GARY T. BROWN
THE NCAA NEWS
MONTEREY, Calif. -- For the first time since a rule restricting the number of initial grants-in-aid in men's basketball was implemented, the Division I Management Council had a chance to review its impact.
The so-called "5/8 rule," which limits to five the number of initial scholarships that can be awarded in any one year, and eight in a consecutive two-year period, was atop the Council's July 23-24 agenda, along with a review of another issue that has garnered its share of debate in recent months -- Friday night football.
Approved as part of a legislative package from the Division I Working Group to Study Basketball Issues in April 2000, the 5/8 rule has since been criticized by those who believe it unfairly penalizes institutions that for a variety of reasons experience a significant reduction in the number of scholarship players on their rosters in a given year. To date, 16 appeals for relief of the rule have been submitted to the Administrative Review Subcommittee, but that group has denied all 16 cases thus far based on the principle that the primary circumstances prompting the request were within the control of the student-athletes and institutions in question.
Council Chair Charles Harris, who is the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, said there did not seem to be a consensus from the membership on the bylaw, and that various groups have asked that the rule be modified, or that some sort of waiver or relief process be considered.
Because of that lack of consensus, Harris said Council members believed the issue merits review from the Division I Basketball Issues Committee, which next meets in September.
"Clearly, the number of different viewpoints on the issue called for a more thorough review from the group created to take on those types of issues," Harris said. "The Council believes the Basketball Issues Committee is in the best position to determine if the current legislation is appropriate, or whether an alternative remedy needs to be identified. The fact that the Basketball Issues Committee meets in September provides an opportunity for the issue to be clarified before the early signing period in November for the 2002 recruiting class."
Any recommendations from the Basketball Issues Committee would be forwarded to the Management Council in October. Those recommendations that are approved would then be sent to the Board of Directors for consideration at its November 2 meeting, which would mean that changes could be effective for the 2002 signing period. Harris did say, though, that the current legislation -- as well as the current principle on which the Administrative Review Subcommittee has based previous decisions on appeal requests -- would remain in effect at least until then.
The other high-profile issue the Council discussed at length concerned an action the group took in April that eliminated restrictions prohibiting member institutions from televising Friday night football games. The measure in April was passed as part of a deregulation package, but since then the issue has stirred debate about whether NCAA schools should be permitted to televise games on Friday nights.
Some within the NCAA have even called for legislation to reinstate the restriction, but the Council at its July meeting did not take action on the proposal because of potential restraint-of-trade concerns. The Council did release a statement, however, indicating that Fridays should be reserved for high-school football games, and that NCAA institutions should be sensitive to the possible impact that scheduling and/or televising their games on Friday nights would have. Because of the restraint-of-trade concerns, though, the Council thought the final decision about televising college games on Fridays should be up to individual member schools and conferences rather than through a national rule.
In another football-related matter, the Council heard from its Membership Subcommittee, which is among groups the NCAA Football Study Oversight Committee has charged with reviewing football issues. The subcommittee reported on a proposed membership model that retains the current subdivision structure, but introduces more stringent standards for Division I-A membership. The oversight committee endorsed the foundation of the subcommittee's proposal in May but asked the group to further define those standards.
The refined standards the subcommittee presented to the Council include:
The proposal also contains revised criteria for conferences to be classified as Division I-A: (1) The conference must have at least eight full members that participate in at least seven men's sports (including football) and seven women's sports. In addition, three sports for each gender must be team sports. Conference-sponsored sports also must provide regular-season and/or championship opportunities, consistent with the minimum standards NCAA sports committees have identified for automatic qualification.
The proposed effective date for the adjustments in conference criteria is August 1, 2002.
The Council supported the subcommittee's recommendation that the proposals come back to the Council in October for initial review as draft legislation. The proposals also will go to the Football Study Oversight Committee for review at its August 3 meeting. If the oversight committee suggests any amendments, they would be included as separate proposals in the Council's October legislative package.
Special Assistance Fund
In an important student-athlete welfare measure, the Council approved an additional use of the Special Assistance Fund, an annual allocation administered through conferences that is intended to assist student-athletes with needs of an "emergency or essential nature" when financial assistance is otherwise not available. The Council approved a request from the Division I Committee on Financial Aid to allow student-athletes who qualify for a clothing allowance of $500 from the Special Assistance Fund to also use those funds for personal transportation home from the institution.
The recommendation originally came from the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was intended as another option for student-athletes without increasing the dollar amount of the fund. It would be up to conferences to determine whether the allocation would be a one-time allowance for a single trip or be applied to multiple trips during the year. Regardless, the $500 amount is the total maximum allowance per student-athlete for one year for travel, clothing or essential expenses (not entertainment).
Because the July meeting is not a legislative meeting for the Council, the group considered only those legislative proposals that are potentially emergency and noncontroversial in nature. The Council approved three such proposals and will forward them to the Board of Directors for adoption at its August 9 meeting. They are (with effective date):
Division I Management Council
July 23-24/Monterey, California