Well, first, this post is not for those with even an inkling of ADD. It’s pretty long and has a lot of fine print so to speak.
I was inspired to investigate what coaches can and cannot do with regard to players by this whole Josh being out shape and who’s table does it fall on situation. Someone posted some cursory thoughts about what coaches could do, which got me thinking that, as I posted in reply, I simply do not know the ins and outs of how much a coach can control. Someone else suggested that, well, yes, now I do know because of the intriguing, but rather superficial post about just what coaches, basketball in particular, can do with their players throughout any particular calendar year.
When I found the NCAA rule handbook and began reading, I found that no, I didn’t know much at all. It was then that I remembered a saying by someone dear to us all… It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that really counts.
So, here is my attempt at a clear and flowing review of the NCAA rules as they pertain to basketball players, coaches and the interactions allowed between them.
We all know the NCAA puts a priority on the student athlete, operative word being student. So, they place limitations on what can be asked of them. We also know the NCAA seems to want a level playing field among institutions, so there are rules that account for the differences among schools as to their class schedules.
Some of the rules are simple and easy to understand, others far from it leaving room for interpretation, at least to me. Addressed are items such as ‘preseason’, ‘playing season’, ‘countable athletically related activities’, ‘voluntary athletically related activities’ and ‘weekly hour limitations’.
Well, let’s get to it…
I’ll start with the simple concept of the ‘playing season’. The rule below simply defines the term and by definition differentiates the playing season from the rest of the calendar year. This is important because of rules dictating what activities are allowed within the season, which may not be allowed at any other time.
17.1.1 Playing Season. The playing (practice and competition) season for a particular sport is the period of time between the date of an institution’s first officially recognized practice session and the date of the institution’s last practice session or date of competition, whichever occurs later. An institution is permitted to conduct officially recognized practice and competition each academic year only during the playing season as regulated for each sport in accordance with the provisions of this bylaw. The institution must conduct the same playing season for varsity and subvarsity teams in the same sport. (Revised: 1/10/92)
Also, each school needs to define this period on the calendar.
17.1.3 Declaration of Playing Season. Each member institution shall determine the playing season for each of the sports referenced under Bylaw 17.02.12. Declaration of the institution’s playing season in each such sport shall be on file in writing in the department of athletics prior to the beginning of the institution’s playing season for that sport. Changes in the declaration for a particular sport are permissible and also shall be filed in writing in the office of the institution’s athletics director. (Revised: 1/11/89)
OK, so why not just declare the entire year as the playing season. Well…
22.214.171.124 Men’s Basketball. An institution shall not commence on-court preseason basketball practice sessions before 5 p.m. on the Friday nearest October 15 (see Figure 17-2). (Revised: 4/28/05 effective 8/1/05, 1/14/08 effective 8/1/08)
17.3.4 End of Playing Season. A member institution’s last contest (game or scrimmage or postseason tournament contest) with outside competition in basketball shall not be played after the respective Division I Basketball Championship game. However, an institution may not continue to practice (or compete against outside competition) in basketball beyond its last regular-season contest, including the conference championship (if any), unless it has reason to believe it is under consideration for selection to participate in an NCAA championship or other postseason national championship event. An institution not selected to participate in the championship or an institution that loses in the championship may not continue to practice until the conclusion of the championship event.
Alright, we now know the start and end of the season. So, what can happen during the season? Well, the handbook doesn’t seem to rule out any activity so, of course, the coach will choose activities related to the sport, i.e.practices, conditioning etc.
17.02.1 Countable Athletically Related Activities. Countable athletically related activities include any required activity with an athletics purpose involving student-athletes and at the direction of, or supervised by, one or more of an institution’s coaching staff (including strength and conditioning coaches) and must be counted within the weekly and daily limitations under Bylaws 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52. Administrative activities (e.g., academic meetings, compliance meetings) shall not be considered as countable athletically related activities. (Adopted: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/91, Revised: 10/31/02 effective 8/1/03)
Ah, limitations, how much, how many hours?
184.108.40.206 Daily and Weekly Hour Limitations—Playing Season. A student-athlete’s participation in countable athletically related activities (see Bylaw 17.02.1) shall be limited to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week. (Adopted: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/91)
OK, in season, that’s the easy part. What about outside the playing season, the rest of the school year? What about when school’s not in session?
Obviously, there cannot be practices, but conditioning and other activities can take place outside the season. First, here’s a bit of field leveling because schools don’t all start their academic year on the same day…
220.127.116.11.1.1.1 Exception—September 15 to First Day of Classes—Sports other than Football. In sports other than football, required weight training, conditioning and skill-related instruction is permitted, pursuant to Bylaws 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124.2 and 126.96.36.199.3, during an institution’s summer vacation period from September 15 to the first day of classes of the academic year.(Adopted: 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06)
This is curious as you will note use of the term ‘summer vacation period’. Summer vacation, by deduction, must be a period during which athletically related activities cannot be required. Otherwise there would be no need to define a start date for such activities. So, September 15 is the first (possible) day for athletes to train under supervision for the upcoming season. This gives them one month to get ready for the season. Therein lies the rub. Who arrives already in shape to begin workouts Sept. 15 in preparation for the first practice Oct. 15? I mean, one month is not enough time to start from scratch.
OK, back to some rules that may help set the end date of allowed activities, though cloudily so.
188.8.131.52 Weekly Hour Limitations—Outside the Playing Season. (Adopted: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/91, Revised: 1/10/95 effective 8/1/95, 1/14/97, 11/1/00, 10/31/02 effective 8/1/03, 3/10/04)
(a) Sports other than Football. Outside of the playing season, from the institution’s first day of classes of the academic year or September 15, whichever occurs earlier, to one week prior to the beginning of the institution’s final examination period at the conclusion of the academic year, only a student-athlete’s participation in required weight training, conditioning and skill-related instruction shall be permitted. A student-athlete’s participation in such activities per Bylaw 17.02.1 shall be limited to a maximum of eight hours per week with not more than two hours per week spent on skill-related workouts. All countable related activities outside the playing season are prohibited one week prior to the beginning of the final examination period for the applicable academic term through the conclusion of each student-athlete’s final exams. (Revised: 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06, 9/22/06)
So, Sept. 15 to one week prior to finals at the end of the academic year is when activities are allowed, which by process of elimination, defines summer vacation. Hey, what about summer school? Well, I don’t know. Couldn’t find anything that spoke to summer school sessions.
Here are some related rules…
184.108.40.206 Permissible Conditioning Activities. Team conditioning or physical-fitness activities supervised by coaching staff members may be conducted on or off court but shall not begin prior to the beginning of the institution’s academic year in accordance with Bylaw 220.127.116.11. Such activities shall be limited to eight hours per week. (Revised: 1/10/90 effective 8/1/92, 1/16/93, 1/11/94)
18.104.22.168.4 Conditioning Activities. Conditioning drills per Bylaw 22.214.171.124 that may simulate game activities are permissible, provided no offensive or defensive alignments are set up and no equipment related to the sport is used. In ice hockey, a student-athlete may be involved in on-ice conditioning activities, provided no equipment other than skates is used. In swimming and diving, a student-athlete may be involved in in-pool conditioning activities and swim-specific equipment (e.g., starting blocks, kickboards, pull buoys) may be used. (Revised: 4/28/05 effective 8/1/05)
126.96.36.199 Prohibited Activities. Prior to the start of on-court preseason basketball practice per Bylaw 17.3.2, members of the institution’s coaching staff may not be involved with one or more team members at any location in any of the following activities except as permitted in Bylaws 188.8.131.52.2 and 17.3.6: (Revised: 1/10/90 effective 8/1/92, 1/11/94, 1/14/97 effective 8/1/97)
(a) Setting up offensive or defensive alignments;
(b) Chalk talks;
(c) Discussions of game strategy;
(d) Reviewing game films or videotapes;
(e) Activities using basketball equipment; or
(f ) Observing student-athletes in any basketball activities even if such activities are not arranged by the institution’s coach. (Revised: 9/23/05)
17.3.6 Out-of-Season Athletically Related Activities. In basketball, student-athletes and members of the coaching staff shall not engage in countable athletically related activities outside the institution’s playing season except as permitted in Bylaw 184.108.40.206. (Revised: 4/28/05 effective 8/1/05, 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06)
220.127.116.11.2 Skill Instruction—Sports Other Than Baseball and Football. Participation by studentathletes in skill-related instruction in sports other than baseball and football is permitted outside the institution’s declared playing season, from the institution’s first day of classes of the academic year or September 15, whichever occurs earlier, to one week prior to the beginning of the institution’s final examination period at the conclusion of the academic year [see Bylaw 18.104.22.168-(a)]. More than four student-athletes from the team may be involved in skill-related instruction with their coaches from September 15 through April 15. Prior to September 15 and after April 15, not more than four student-athletes from the same team may be involved in skill-related instruction with their coaches at any one time in any facility. Skill-related instruction shall not be publicized and shall not be conducted in view of a general public audience. (Adopted: 1/10/95 effective 8/1/95, Revised: 1/9/96, 1/14/97 effective 8/1/97, 10/27/98, 10/31/02 effective 8/1/03, 4/29/04 effective 8/1/04, 4/28/05, 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06, 4/26/07 effective 8/1/07, 10/30/08)
April 15? Seems kinda random. There’s an example of fine print to me.
Oh well, let’s move on to the dreaded summer vacation period.
22.214.171.124.1.1 Sports Other Than Championship Subdivision Football. In sports other than championship subdivision football, a student-athlete may not participate in any countable athletically related activities outside the playing season during any institutional vacation period and/or summer. Strength and conditioning coaches who are not countable coaches and who perform such duties on a department-wide basis may design and conduct specific workout programs for student-athletes, provided such workouts are voluntary and conducted at the request of the student-athlete. (Adopted: 10/31/02 effective 8/1/03, Revised: 4/28/05, 12/15/06)
126.96.36.199 Summer Practice. Practice that is organized or financially supported by a member institution shall be prohibited during the summer unless specifically authorized in the bylaws (e.g., foreign tour) or through official interpretations. An institution may pay fees associated with the use of institutional practice and competition facilities by student-athletes engaged in voluntary athletically related activities in their sport. (Adopted: 4/28/05, Revised: 9/27/05, 11/1/07 effective 8/1/08)
And now, the grand finale…yes, I’m almost done…
17.02.13 Voluntary Athletically Related Activities. In order for any athletically related activity to be considered “voluntary,” all of the following conditions must be met: (Adopted: 4/18/01)
(a) The student-athlete must not be required to report back to a coach or other athletics department staff member (e.g., strength coach, trainer, manager) any information related to the activity. In addition, no athletics department staff member who observes the activity (e.g., strength coach, trainer, manager) may report back to the student-athlete’s coach any information related to the activity;
(b) The activity must be initiated and requested solely by the student-athlete. Neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may require the student-athlete to participate in the activity at any time. However, it is permissible for an athletics department staff member to provide information to student-athletes related to available opportunities for participating in voluntary activities (e.g., times when the strength and conditioning coach will be on duty in the weight room or on the track). In addition, for students who have initiated a request to engage in voluntary activities, the institution or an athletics department staff member may assign specific times for student-athletes to use institutional facilities for such purposes and inform the student-athletes of the time in advance;
(c) The student-athlete’s attendance and participation in the activity (or lack thereof ) may not be recorded for the purposes of reporting such information to coaching staff members or other student-athletes; and
(d) The student-athlete may not be subjected to penalty if he or she elects not to participate in the activity. In addition, neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may provide recognition or incentives (e.g., awards) to a student-athlete based on his or her attendance or performance in the activity. [Note: Coaching staff members may be present during permissible skill-related instruction pursuant to Bylaws 188.8.131.52.2 and 184.108.40.206.3] (Revised: 4/29/04 effective 8/1/04)
Key points above are ‘not required’ and ‘no penalty for non participation’.
My takeaway is that coaches have a good deal of control, but none for summer. It is therefore completely up to the student athlete to take charge of his conditioning prior to arriving at school to begin the season.
In other words, you can lead a horse to water, you just can’t make him drink.