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Publish date: Jan 19, 2013

Division I streamlines rulebook

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

Division I took its first steps toward a rulebook that is more meaningful, enforceable and supportive of student-athlete success when the Board of Directors on Saturday adopted a set of proposals aimed at creating a more flexible manual based on common sense.

The rules changes are the latest transformation to grow from the August 2011 summit for Division I presidents and chancellors.  NCAA President Mark Emmert called the summit to further engage presidential leadership to address the critical issues facing intercollegiate athletics.

Already, the division has acted in several important areas in response to the summit. The changes include enhanced academic eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and student-athletes who transfer from two-year colleges, the creation of a tie between a team’s academic performance and participation in NCAA championships, a revamped enforcement and Committee on Infractions process, and a multiyear scholarship model.

“These new rules represent noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as more common sense rules that allow schools more discretion in decision-making,” Emmert said. “This vote by the Board of Directors refocuses our attention on the things that really matter, the core values of intercollegiate athletics.”

The Board voted Saturday to deregulate in several areas, including personnel, amateurism, recruiting, eligibility and awards, benefits and expenses, and create a set of commitments that will serve as the foundation for all future rules changes. The legislation eliminates some rules (such as prohibitions on texting recruits and regulations of printed recruiting materials) and adds others (schools can pay for medical expenses and can’t scout opponents in person).

“These new rules take a significant step toward changing the regulatory culture in Division I,” said Board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest. “These changes make sense not only for our administrators and coaches but also for our student-athletes, the students who will eventually play sports on our campuses and the NCAA national office. Most important, we now have guideposts, in the form of the Division I commitments, to shape all our future rules.”

The simplification of the rules book, officially known as the Division I Manual, is generally considered the toughest assignment coming out of the August 2011 presidential summit. A rules working group forwarded the recommended changes to the Board after more than a year of work constructing the proposals, which included extensive collaboration with the membership. While the rules changes do not reflect unanimous support from all 370 Division I schools, the presidents concluded that streamlining the rulebook would both improve the division and better support student-athletes.

The rules working group now will embark upon the second phase of the effort to change the rules culture. This will include examining financial aid and playing and practice season rules, along with recommending continued changes in areas from the first phase. Clemson president Jim Barker, chair of the working group, said at the group’s meeting last month that he hopes the membership remains actively engaged in the process.

“A successful culture change will require a collaborative effort and a sense of shared responsibility,” Barker said at the time. “Our goal is smarter rules and tougher enforcement.”

The Board delayed a decision on one of the most controversial pieces in the Rules Working Group package – the creation of a uniform start date for recruiting in all sports. The presidents asked the working group to expedite its study of the issue and come back with a solution as soon as possible.

The change was intended to ease administrative burden and allow coaches to develop a deeper relationship with recruits before commitments are made. However, various membership constituents raised issues with the uniform date, with some wishing it were earlier and others hoping for a later date. The Division I Leadership Council recommended a delay.

Any rule adopted through the new process will be reviewed after two years. The timeline will allow for the new rules to work for a period before opening them to changes. The rules working group is devising a new approach to the legislative process in Division I to include an initial vetting of all proposals to ensure they adhere to the guidelines established by the working group in its review of the rules: Is it enforceable? Is it consequential and national in significance? Does it support student-athlete success?

Proposed changes will be filtered through a new process. The presidents have said they will consider only legislation that is within the reform agenda for the next year.

“When this process is complete, Division I should operate with rules that create more ways to provide for our student-athletes and are easier to understand and apply,” Hatch said.

The Board of Directors adopted the following proposals, effective Aug. 1:


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