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2009-10 Legislative Cycle More Exciting Than Expected

Feb. 3, 2010

The Bylaw Blog

The Unofficial Blog of NCAA Compliance

One of the biggest events in college sports every year is not on any schedule, has no athletes, and generally isn't reported on that widely. At the NCAA Convention every year in January, the Division I Legislative Council, the body tasked with approving or defeating new NCAA legislation makes its first votes on new legislation.

The legislative process normally starts in April every year, which is when the previous legislative cycle finishes up. Conferences as well as NCAA cabinets and committees submit legislation to be voted on during the upcoming year through July. In October, the Legislative Council along with other NCAA committees and cabinets offer an initial opinion on legislation. Conferences then develop positions on the legislation and vote in January, with larger conferences getting a bigger vote.

In January, there are three options when a proposal is voted on. It can be adopted, defeated, or forwarded for comment. When a proposal is forwarded for comment, institutions then offer their opinion on legislation before a final round of voting in April. All of the Legislative Council's actions must be approved by the Board of Directors.

This year, NCAA legislation was to be in something of a transitional stage, much like last year. After rolling out the recommendations of the Baseball Academic Enhancement Group in the 2007-2008 legislative cycle, 2008-2009 was a set of tweaks and enhancements. 2009-10 was supposed to be similar, especially as the financial aid and recruiting cabinets finish up major reviews of the legislation for proposals in 2010-11.

But in the original Publication of Proposed Legislation, there were a couple major proposals regarding recruiting and amateurism. Then the Basketball Academic Enhancement Group threw in a couple of proposals. And in between was the biggest change: the quick movement by the Board of Directors on the recommendations of the Basketball Focus Group. The result was that four major proposals or sets of proposal were reviewed this January.



Proposal 2009-22: Amateurism

Proposal 2009-22 did three things. It removed penalties for participating on a professional team so long as the prospective student-athlete was not themselves a professional. It shortened the amount of time student-athletes could delay enrollment and keep competing for most sports from 21 years of age to one year after high school. And it further shortened that period for tennis to six months.

This will make it significantly easier for international prospects, particularly European prospects in sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball to get certified. But more important will be where the amateurism staff at the Eligibility Center turns their attention. A great deal of their time was just freed up. Where they spend that time will be telling.

Proposal 2009-28: Recruiting

Proposal 2009-28 started as women's soccer proposal that in the end was soundly defeated. But the Ivy League submitted a modification removing two components and expanding the proposal to all sports. 2009-28 would have drastically limited recruiting prior to August 1 of a prospect's senior year in high school.

Like it's predecessor, 2009-28-B was defeated. But tellingly, the voting results included a note that it was defeated in deference to the current review by the Recruiting Cabinet. The Legislative Council liked what they saw in a effort to curb early recruiting, but felt the cabinet needed to finish their work. Expect something similar in 2010-11, and with a lot better chance of success.

Basketball Academic Enhancement Proposals

The biggest of the basketball academic proposals, which would allow summer practice for student-athletes enrolled in summer school, is probably coming next year. But this year, the group proposed changes to junior college transfers, the playing and practice season, and financial aid if a head coach leaves.

Of the three proposals, the only one passed limited men's basketball juco transfers to two transferrable PE credits unless they are a physical education major. The other two, larger proposals will wait until April. But once again, the NCAA shows it is trapped between a desire to avoid sport-specific legislation and the effectiveness of sport-specific legislation to solve targeted problems.

Basketball Focus Group Proposals

Proposal 2009-99 has gotten all the press in the news about the legislation. 2009-99 limits the ability of institutions to hire persons associated with men's basketball recruits to noncoaching positions in the athletic department. This is designed to curb the practice of hiring AAU coaches or family members to land recruits.

What remains to be seen is whether the proposal is effective in stopping these abuses. Program-changing recruits might be worth a coaching position or working outside of the athletic department to arrange employment for a family member. Expect the rest of proposals to pass as well, covering recruiting during camps, camp employment, and AAU events on D-I campuses.

Calm Before the Storm

Even with major cleanups to some legislation like 2009-22 and hot button issues like the men's basketball proposals inserted late into the cycle, the 2009-10 legislative cycle should still be considered a period of relative calm before 2010-11.

The Financial Aid cabinet will likely propose significant changes to Bylaw 15 allowing for more need-based aid to flow to student-athletes. The Recruiting Cabinet will likely propose significant limits on early recruiting, and may embark on a general clean-up and simplification of Bylaw 13. And the BAEG will propose its summer school model that will be the topic of endless debate. 2009-10 may have made a bit of news, but 2010-11 will have many more fireworks.

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