I recently attended the annual NCAA rules seminar for updates on the changes taking place with NCAA rules and policies. The bottom line – there is still a lot of uncertainty on some topics. Here are a few important items that were presented:

The final terms of the settlement in the ‘House” lawsuit against the NCAA won’t be implemented until the 2025-26 academic year.

As with most class action lawsuits, individual parties will have the choice to object to the class settlement if they choose to do so. And the first such action occurred this past week when Houston Christian University filed a motion asking a judge to declare the settlement “void” as they claim that they weren’t represented in the negotiations.

Potential impacts on student-athletes

Division I team scholarship limits in each sport will probably be eliminated.

Instead, roster limits will likely be implemented for each sport. Therefore, the largest and most well-funded universities may be cutting roster spots, but possibly providing full scholarships to all of those still on the roster.

Eligibility rules will also be reviewed by NCAA Committees over the next 12-15 months.

This review will include academic, amateur and athletic eligibility rules (e.g., academic requirements to be eligible, amateur status rules, and a possible revision to the four seasons of competitive eligibility to reduce the need for so many waivers).

It appears that these settlements won’t impact Divisions II and III, at least not directly. But athletes being cut from Division I rosters may be transferring down to D2 or D3.

NCAA staff members also shared that they are continuing to work with Congress to advocate for legislation that student-athletes would not be able to be considered as employees of their universities.

While this wasn’t explicitly stated during the seminar, my sense is that the NCAA feels that the increased opportunities for more athletic compensation through NIL activities and the sharing of athletic department revenue counteract the arguments that student-athletes should be employees.

If you have any questions, call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com

The annual NCAA Convention was recently held in San Antonio The following is a summary of the official rule changes or resolutions in each Division that will have the most direct impact on student-athletes.

NCAA Division I Changes

Transfer Waiver Guidelines Change For 4-4-4 transfer athletes who transfer a second time to a Division I university as an undergraduate:

When an athlete transfers to their third university (4-4-4 transfer) and wants to be eligible in their first year, they can no longer use the following arguments in a waiver application:

  • No Participation Opportunity
  • Financial Hardship
  • Misinformation From a Staff Member

The NCAA Division I Council voted unanimously that going forward, each waiver request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

One of the following criteria must be satisfied to receive a waiver:

  • A demonstrated physical injury or illness or mental health condition that necessitated the student’s transfer (supporting documentation, care plans and proximity of the student’s support system will be considered), or
  • Exigent circumstances that clearly necessitate a student-athlete’s immediate departure from the previous school (e.g., physical assault or abuse, sexual assault) unrelated to the student-athlete’s athletics participation.”

Transfer Exceptions are not the same as Transfer Waivers and will still be available.

The most common Transfer Exception for a 4-4-4 transfer to be eligible in their first year at a Division I university is the Non-Scholarship or Non-Recruited Transfer Exception.

Student-athletes who qualify to use one of the Transfer Exceptions (other than the One-Time Transfer Exception), will now be allowed to enter the Transfer Portal at any time instead of having to wait for the Transfer Portal schedule for their sport.

Softball Athletes – Midyear Transfer Rule Change

A midyear transfer to a Division I softball program – whether from a two-year or four-year college – will no longer be immediately eligible in their first softball season unless they are transferring as a postgraduate student.

This rule takes effect on August 1 of this year and will impact the 2024 softball season.

NCAA Division II

Effective August 1, 2023, NCAA Division II Football student-athletes will be allowed to participate in up to three games during their initial year of enrollment at a Division II institution without being charged with one of their four seasons of playing eligibility.

In addition, Division II football teams will be permitted to scrimmage against another four-year college team as one of the three permissible scrimmage sessions that are allowed during Spring practice.

Student-athletes participating in this scrimmage will not trigger the use of a season of playing eligibility AS LONG AS the athlete was academically eligible during the preceding Fall term.

NCAA Division III

A resolution was approved (but not an actual rule change at this time) directing Division III governing committees to work with member schools and conferences to “…establish a hardship waiver process specific for mental health…”

The intention of this resolution is to establish a hardship waiver process for Mental Health that is separate from that of a Physical Injury Waiver.

The formal resolution also noted that the requirement for a Mental Health Hardship Waiver should allow for appropriate flexibility in supporting documentation since individuals “…suffering with a mental health condition often do not seek immediate support.”

Do You Have Questions?

If you have questions about these changes or any other questions about specific issues that impact you or your athlete regarding college athletics eligibility, scholarships, waivers or transfers, we invite you to schedule a confidential consult by calling us at 913-766-1235 or sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

The annual NCAA Convention was held recently in Indianapolis. While much of the publicity over the last few months regarding the Convention was regarding the work of the Constitution Committee to propose a new draft of the NCAA Constitution, I doubt that work will really impact the day-to-day life of NCAA student-athletes – at least not in the near future.

Here’s a brief rundown of some topics of interest for NCAA DI, NCAA DII, and NCAA DIII.

NCAA DI

For women’s basketball, recruiting rules were revised in several different topic areas, including telephone calls, official visits and the recruiting calendar. Due to the number of changes, contact us directly if you desire information regarding those changes.

In men’s basketball, the number of recruiting-person days (number of total days the men’s coaching staff could be off-campus recruiting) was reduced from 130 to 100. Two coaches recruiting on the same day equals two recruiting-person days.

For both men’s and women’s basketball, a proposal to allow student-athletes to appear in up to four regular season games without being charged with the use of a season of competition was defeated.

Football spring practice opportunities for full contact practice sessions will be reduced. They won’t be allowed on consecutive days during spring practice and won’t be allowed for more than 75 minutes in any practice session (other than a scrimmage).

New guidelines for transfer waivers that were set to go into effect in 2022 will be delayed until January 2023. This means that athletes transferring to a Division I university who need a waiver to be ruled eligible will have a wider range of acceptable reasons and circumstances that can be cited as a factor in the waiver decision as compared to the new waiver guidelines.

Those guidelines – which are now postponed a year – basically limit acceptable waiver reasons as:

  • An athlete has a diagnosed learning disability which was not sufficiently supported at the previous university OR
  • An athlete has faced a “real and imminent health and safety” threat at the previous university.

NCAA DII

The Division II One-Time Transfer Exception was changed to more closely align with the Division I One-Time Transfer Exception. The key aspects of the new Division II rule are:

  • The school from which an athlete is transferring will not have the opportunity to object to the athlete’s transfer.
  • Athletes will be required to view an educational video or online module regarding the transfer rules before their name will be entered into the Transfer Portal.
  • Athletes will be required to provide written transfer notification to their school by June 15 to have the chance to be eligible during the upcoming academic year.
  • A transferring athlete and the head coach at the new school to which they are transferring will be required to certify that they had no direct or indirect contact regarding a transfer prior to the student-athlete entering the Transfer Portal.

NCAA DIII

The proposal which would have had the most direct impact on Division III student-athletes was not voted on, but instead was referred to the Division III Interpretations and Legislative Committee for additional analysis and consideration.

If it had been approved at the Convention, it would have allowed Division III student-athletes to participate in a full season of practice with their team and still claim a “redshirt season” if the athlete did not compete in any games against another university.

As a result, the current Division III rule is still in effect. That rule charges a student-athlete with a “season of participation” even if they only practice with their team beyond the first game of the season but even if they don’t appear in a game against another opponent.

 

If you have questions about any actions taken at the NCAA Convention, contact us directly via e-mail at rick@informedathlete.com or by calling 913-766-1235.

It’s the time of year when the NCAA is starting to publicize proposed rule changes that will be voted on at the annual NCAA Convention in January. I’ll highlight those that will likely be of most interest to student-athletes and families.

Division I

The Division I Council has introduced a proposal to reduce the number of official visits a men’s basketball recruit can take to a Division I university from five to three during each of three periods:

  • Junior year of high school.
  • Senior year of high school.
  • After high school graduation (for a transfer or during a prep school year for example).

The proposal would also reduce the length of official visits in men’s basketball to 36 hours from 48. Members of the Council believe many student-athletes are taking official visits simply because they can and not because they intend to attend a school.

Division II

If approved, the Division II transfer rules will be revised to more closely align with the Division I transfer rules. Perhaps the most important revision would be that a Division II coach or athletic department would not be able to object to a student-athlete’s opportunity to be eligible in their first year at their new university.

The Division II transfer rules would be revised to:

  • Require a transferring student-athlete to view an NCAA-produced educational video before an institution may enter the student-athlete’s information into the NCAA Transfer Portal;
  • Eliminate the previous institution’s ability to object to use of the one-time transfer exception;
  • Require the new head coach and the student-athlete to certify in writing that they had no direct or indirect contact about a possible transfer prior to the student-athlete entering the Transfer Portal;
  • Establish June 15 as the date by which a student-athlete must enter the Transfer Portal to utilize the one-time transfer exception (not applicable to midyear transfers); and
  • Permit institutions to reduce or cancel an athletics aid agreement previously signed for the next academic year.

Division III

The Division III Presidents Council is supporting a proposal that would change the current “season of participation” rule to specify that only actual competition against another institution would trigger the use of a season.

  • A student-athlete would be charged with the use of a season of eligibility if the student-athlete competes at any point during the traditional season in their sport.

Please note that these rule changes are not currently planned to take effect until next June. We will be updating you and confirming the approval of these proposals when that occurs.

In the meantime, if you have questions about any of these proposals, contact us at rick@informedathlete.com or by calling 913-766-1235.

Recently, the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sent a memo to regional offices indicating that student-athletes are considered employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

The memo from NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo stated that “My intent in issuing this memo is to help educate the public, especially Players at Academic Institutions, colleges and universities, athletic conferences and the NCAA, about the legal position that I will be taking regarding employee status and misclassification in appropriate cases…”

What exactly does that mean, and how might it impact your student-athlete? It’s hard to know at this point.

  • Will college athletes unionize and end up being paid as employees?
  • If so, will they be prepared to pay the appropriate taxes? Will that mean the end of athletic scholarships? (Which aren’t taxed on the portions that cover educational expenses of tuition, fees, books, etc.) Could it also mean the end of Pell Grants for student-athletes?
  • If athletes at a private institution are successful in forming a union, does that mean that all athletes will need to pay union dues?
  • Could that also result in a significant reduction in donations to athletic departments from alumni and boosters that have been used to fund many sports teams and facilities?

It is important to note that the General Counsel’s memo included the statement “…it is my position that the scholarship football players at issue in Northwestern University, and similarly situated Players at Academic Institutions, are employees under the Act.” (She was referring to the National Labor Relations Act.) Therefore, she is initially referring to scholarship athletes at a private institution.

As I skimmed through different media sources after hearing about this, here are a few of the opinions that I came across:

  • Darren Heitner of Heitner Legal pointed out that the National Labor Relations Act only applies to private employers and that public colleges and universities aren’t directly impacted. However, he shared that they may be indirectly impacted as members of private entities (meaning the conferences and the NCAA).
  • Michael McCann wrote for Sportico that while Abruzzo is not a voting board member of the NLRB, she certainly does have influence over future votes by the five-member NLRB Board. He also shared that Abruzzo rejects the term “student-athlete” which has been the standard term the NCAA has used in referring to athletes at NCAA member colleges for many years.
  • University of Illinois law professor Michael LeRoy believes that Abruzzo is “…inviting a petition from players to form a union at a private institution.”

As if we haven’t had enough change over the past few months with the revision to the NCAA One-Time Transfer Rule, and the permissibility of Name, Image and Likeness opportunities, it appears there may still be more to come.

We’ll keep you updated when more specific information about this topic becomes available.

On Monday (June 21), the US Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling against the NCAA in the case of “NCAA vs. Alston.”  This ruling addresses benefits for athletes that are related to education, but it did not specifically address the issue of Name, Image and Likeness or direct payments to athletes.

The official Supreme Court opinion is 40 pages long.  I haven’t read all of it.  As I scroll through comments on Twitter or other social media, some folks are predicting the death of the NCAA.

A summary article on the USA Today website indicates that this ruling “…specifically challenged the association’s ability to have national limits on benefits for athletes that are related to education, but more broadly had raised doubts about its ability to limit benefits at all.”

In it’s own statement regarding SCOTUS decision, the NCAA claims that “While today’s decision preserves the lower court ruling, it also reaffirms the NCAA’s authority to adopt reasonable rules and repeatedly notes that the NCAA remains free to articulate what are and are not truly educational benefits…”

In thinking about yesterday’s ruling, the predominant thought I have is that this decision seems to create more questions than it answers.

While I think most of us can agree that this ruling is focused on NCAA Division I sports and the athletes that compete in those “high profile” sports, this ruling simply refers to “the NCAA.”  I haven’t seen anything that distinguishes between Divisions I, II, and III.

A few examples of my questions are:

  • Does this eventually mean that athletes will be able to be “paid” by their schools?
  • If so, how will athletic departments balance their budgets (or least try to)?  Will they drop sports programs?  Will coaches accept reduced salaries so their players can benefit?
  • OR, will head coaches be given a total budget that they must manage to cover not only their assistant coaches but also the athletes on their teams?  (Will athletes be treated as employees of that coach or team rather than of the athletic department?  Will athletic teams be treated akin to subcontractors on a building project??)
  • Will athletes need to pay taxes on those increased benefits/payments?
  • Will NCAA Division II schools be allowed to offer multi-year scholarships like Division I?
  • Will NCAA Division III athletes now be able to receive athletic scholarships?
  • Could this ruling eventually also impact the NAIA or the NJCAA, which also currently offer athletic scholarships but have limits on those scholarships?

I realize that a few of my questions above may seem a bit “out there”, but it remains to be seen how this all turns out.  We’ll provide updates for you as we learn more.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, questions, opinions about this ruling, leave your comments below and I’ll address them directly or in a future blog post.

Two bills were introduced in Congress in December which overlap or intersect with each other.

Name, Image & Likeness Bill

The first bill was introduced in the Senate Commerce Committee and would permit college athletes to receive compensation for their name, image, and likeness (as would many bills introduced by various states this past year).

This particular bill was requested by the NCAA for help on a Federal level in dealing with the numerous bills introduced by various states. It would also provide oversight for the process of athletes receiving such compensation from companies and organizations via the Federal Trade Commission.

The College Athletes Bill of Rights

The College Athletes Bill of Rights, on the other hand, is a competing bill that is much more favorable to the college athletes than it is to the NCAA.

Here are some key provisions of this Bill:

  • It would require universities to share 50% of the profit from revenue-generating sports with the athletes in those sports (after deducting the value of scholarships already provided).
  • It would create “enforceable” health and safety standards developed by the CDC and the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Hefty fines would be imposed on universities not meeting those standards.
  • Establish a medical trust fund for athletes available for five years after leaving college.
  • Guarantee scholarships for athletes to complete their undergrad degree.
  • Remove penalties for not honoring a National Letter of Intent agreement to attend the university signed with for at least one full academic year.
  • Remove restrictions on athletes transferring between four-year colleges.
  • Permit athletes who enter a professional draft to declare a return to college within seven days of the draft.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on these developments in our upcoming newsletters. In the meantime, you can always contact us with questions about these or any other issues by writing to rick@informedathlete.com or by calling 913-766-1235.

We’ve recently written to inform you about the new Transfer Rule being proposed by NCAA Division I, as well as the Name, Image, and Likeness proposals in all three NCAA divisions.

https://informedathlete.com/proposed-new-ncaa-di-transfer-rule/

https://informedathlete.com/ncaa-name-image-and-likeness-legislation-update-overview/

These proposals were originally going to be voted on at the annual NCAA Convention.

However, NCAA President Mark Emmert urged the governing bodies of Division I, II, and III to postpone the votes on these proposals.

There are various factors that have contributed to this delay including:

  • A lawsuit advancing to the US Supreme Court regarding whether the NCAA can limit the benefits that college athletes can receive which are related specifically to their education.
  • Increasing concerns are being shared by university and conference administrators regarding the proposal that a third-party administrator will manage student-athlete information about the “deals” (and compensation) the student-athletes might receive regarding name, image, and likeness.To imagine how a third-party administrator for NIL might work, any of you who have interacted with the NCAA Eligibility Center can think about a similar organization to manage Name, Image, and Likeness information for all NCAA student-athletes and ask yourself whether you think that would be efficient for your athlete.
  • Another reason for the postponement of these votes is the introduction in mid-December of two different bills in Congress that impact NCAA student-athletes. In the following segment of this newsletter, I’ll provide a bit of info about those bills.

Do You Have Questions?

If your athlete is considering a transfer and you would like to review and discuss the Transfer rules, you can schedule a confidential Transfer Consult online. You can also send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call us at 913-766-1235.

Representatives from the NCAA Division I membership will be voting on proposed “Uniform Transfer Legislation” at the January NCAA Convention.

If approved, this legislation will permit all Division I student-athletes – even scholarship athletes in basketball and football – the opportunity to transfer one time to a new school with the chance to be eligible and not have to sit out from competition in their first year at the new university.

Here are some key points to note about this proposed legislation:

  • Student-athletes transferring to an NCAA Division I program for the 2021-22 academic year will be able to benefit from this rule change.
  • This will be a one-time opportunity that can be used at any point during a student-athlete’s eligibility. It can be used as an undergrad or as a grad transfer, but not both.
  • Student-athletes must be eligible at the time of their transfer.
  • Athletes will not be permitted to compete for two different programs in the same school year.
  • Coaches and athletic departments will not be able to object to the athlete’s transfer.
  • Student-athletes and their new head coach will be required to affirm that recruiting didn’t occur until after the athlete’s name appeared in the NCAA Transfer Portal.
  • Under this proposal, student-athletes will have a deadline to enter the Transfer Portal in order to take advantage of this new rule – May 1 for Fall and Winter sports and July 1 for Spring sports.
  • There will likely be exceptions to those deadlines granted for student-athletes in situations when there is a head coaching change or when an athlete is informed of a scholarship reduction or non-renewal.

Potential pitfalls and concerns

  • With a proposed deadline of May 1st for Fall sport athletes in a year when most Fall sports have been shifted to the Spring, student-athletes who are considering a transfer may need to enter the Transfer Portal before their season concludes (unless an exception is granted for this particular situation).
  • The dates noted above could also have a very significant impact for student-athletes who may want to transfer at midyear. An athlete who might be thinking next Fall about a midyear transfer would not be able to use this new rule unless they had already entered the Transfer Portal before May 1 or July 1 (depending upon their sport).

This means that midyear transfers won’t be eligible in their first year at their new school unless the rule is revised or if another exception is established.

  • Also, it’s unclear at this time whether conferences will still impose restrictions or penalties on athletes who transfer from one school to another within the same conference.

If your athlete is considering a transfer and you would like to review and discuss the Transfer rules, purchase and schedule a confidential Transfer Consult online or by calling our office at 913-766-1235.

The NAIA has become the first college sports organization to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, or likeness.

This action takes effect immediately.

As a result, an NAIA student-athlete will be permitted to be compensated if they are promoting a local business, providing instruction, signing autographs, or making an appearance on a radio show, as examples.

This does NOT mean that NAIA student-athletes will be able to receive compensation from their university (other than the value of their scholarship).

However, they will be allowed to identify themselves as a student-athlete and can name their university in any promotional activities or appearances, while also being able to receive payment for those activities.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com.