Talking Shop: Thoughts from the NCAA Convention

By Dan Freeman, @DanTheInternMan

Is 2017 the year of the student-athlete? Recent NCAA proposals may suggest that. Photo via aarp.com

Is 2017 the year of the student-athlete? Recent NCAA proposals may suggest that. Photo via aarp.com

This is the year of the student-athlete. Long gone are the days when student-athletes didn’t feel like they could make a difference. Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representatives now sit at the round table and rub elbows with the highest of the high in the NCAA and the top athletics directors in the country.

During the second week of January, all of the greatest minds in the NCAA traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for the NCAA Convention. Proposals were discussed, the autonomous ‘Power Five’ conferences made their decisions and the student-athletes had a pronounced voice through it all.

When first exploring the wide world of NCAA legislation, your first stop should be at the Compliance department.

The Compliance department is a one-stop-shop when athletes, coaches, or administrators want to know if something is allowed under the NCAA umbrella.

I reached out to Taurian Houston, Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance at Colgate University to discuss the latest proposals adopted by the NCAA. A rising star in the industry, Houston joined Colgate in June 2015. Prior to Colgate, he was a compliance specialist at Dartmouth and served a year with the NCAA’s Academic and Membership Affairs Department in Indianapolis as a postgraduate intern.

Houston is a member of the National Association for Athletics Compliance and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association.

Houston isn’t just a compliance specialist, he’s also a former track and field throws specialist from East Carolina University and was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council. 

While a student-athlete, he was the student government association’s director of athletic affairs. He was also a student assistant in the Center for Student Leadership & Civic Engagement and a congressional district intern for U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones.

I asked Houston to discuss the finer and more stimulating points from the NCAA convention. He believed the most significant was the, “prohibition of athletically related activities, other than competition, during a continuous eight-hour period between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. All five autonomy conferences sponsored the legislation.”

Houston added, “It definitely signified a great win for student-athletes in their effort to get coaches to recognize the balancing act between their athletic and academic commitments.”

One issue that Houston foresees is the difficulty for some non-autonomous institutions to adopt these legislative measures, especially in cases where multiple teams use the same facility for practice/completion.

Example: The volleyball team has a game that goes five sets, ending at 9 p.m. The basketball team, who had to move practice due to early morning conflict, couldn’t get on the court until 9:15 p.m. and now has to end at 10 p.m. to allow for a continuous eight hours of no required athletically related activities.

Two more proposals adopted, lean in the same direction as the previous. They will now allow student-athletes to take part in study-abroad and internship opportunities without having to worry about that time away from the sport counting against their five-year clock (Student-athletes are given five years to complete their four years of athletic eligibility).

“A student athlete shouldn’t have to worry about sacrificing a year of eligibility in order to take part in an educational experience that will broaden their horizon and prepare them for life after graduation," added Houston. "Allowing them to toll their clock, similarly to student athletes who serve in the armed forces or take part in religious missions, shows that the athletic administrators are listening to the needs of the young people we serve and are working to provide them with a positive student-athlete experience.”

Lastly, the NCAA is now allowing institutions the opportunity to retroactively award financial aid to a student-athlete. That amendment would have the potential to change how coaches distribute scholarships to their student-athletes.

It is already permissible to increase a student athlete’s athletic award aid at any time and this could allow coaches using to acknowledge the athletic or academic contributions a student-athlete made to the team during the entire year.   

I would like to thank Houston for his invaluable input as a former student athlete, Compliance Specialist, and law school graduate. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter

If you’re looking for more information about the NCAA Legislature we spoke about in this article, please go to: http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news/2017-ncaa-convention-legislation-division-i

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