There seems to be a lot of hoopla about the story that broke on Friday involving The University of Michigan and the allegations that their football team was over the 20 hour limit. I have no idea what is going on in Wolverine country, but I do know that there are a number of common misconceptions that student-athletes have about 20-hour and 8-hour practice limitations.
I have had the opportunity to attend a number of NCAA Regional Leadership and NCAA Student-Athlete Development conferences over the past two years as a member of National SAAC. Without fail, at every conference there have been a handful of student-athletes who approach me because they think they are well above the 20-hour practice rule that is in use by the NCAA. After a brief discussion with the student-athletes, it is common that we realize that they have not broken the 20-hour rule, they simply don’t understand it. This is not to say that this rule is always followed. I am sure that there are a number of instances where student-athletes are going over their allowable 20 hours. If this is the case, the best thing to do is to report this to your compliance officer. But before we all cry wolf, I think it is important that we truly understand what is allowable under the 20 hour practice limitations.
The 20 hour rule was adopted in 1991 to reduce the amount of required time students spend on athletically related activities for academics and college experience. It is crazy to think that this rule wasn’t always in existence, but apparently our grandparents not only had to walk to school uphill both ways, but they also were allowed to practice and compete as much as their coach desired. Where student-athletes get caught up under the current guidelines is in distinguishing between countable and non-countable related activities.
Here are some of the stipulations of the 20 hour rule.
1. To be countable, the purpose of a given activity must be monitored by coaching staff.
2. No student-athlete may have mandatory practice for more than 4 hours per day – with an exception for men’s and women’s golf.
3. Competition counts as 3 hours – even if your track meet lasts all day.
4. You must have one day off per week, though this can be your travel day to or from a competition.
5. Mandatory practice does not include time in the training room for getting taped/rehabilitated, or time that is not spent with your coach – often referred to as ‘captain’s practice’
6. You compliance team meeting, or other time spent incidental to participation also does not count. This could possibly even include time spent in the film room if coaches are not supervising.
7. In order for something to be ‘voluntary’, it must not be required that you report back to the coach. Voluntary workouts can also be conducted in athletics facilities as long as a coach is not directly supervising.
8. There are also a number of other stipulations for the 8 hour rule – for when you are out of season – that are equally important.
The fact of the matter is that the 20 hour rule is actually pretty black and white. It is our responsibility to eliminate the gray area by educating ourselves and our teammates on what is and is not permissible. Your campus compliance directors know this stuff like the back of their hands. If you have a question about it – ask! You are also welcome to contact your National SAAC representative if you need further clarification, or even if you just want to get the student-athlete perspective.
With all of the added treatments, tutoring sessions, and team meetings, our 20 hour max can often seem like 40 or 50 hours – but at least we have a max! If you still think your team is going over the limit, you should talk to your compliance director – and talk to your grandfather. He’ll be sure to tell you about the good ol’ days!
Chair, NCAA Division I SAAC
University of Kansas
Big 12 Conference
*Please reference NCAA Bylaw 2.14 for further information as well.