Student-athletes struggle with last minute training, meetings

A proposed NCAA rule would require each sport to create a comprehensive schedule and avoid last-minute changes.

Rilyn Eischens

A proposed NCAA rule aims to help student-athletes who encounter conflicts between athletic and academic commitments.

The rule would require comprehensive schedules developed yearly by each sport. University of Minnesota students and officials say the rule may limit last-minute schedule changes that detract from athletes’ academics.

“Student-athlete schedules are so tight from attending class, practices, spring training, studying and being a normal student,” said J.T. Bruett, director of the McNamara Academic Center for Student-Athletes. “There’s only 24 hours in a day, and they need to sleep, too.”

The regulation was unanimously recommended in a joint meeting of the Faculty Academic Oversight for Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee earlier this month.

University President Eric Kaler will vote on the rule, along with the 65 institutions in the nation’s autonomy conferences, such as the Big Ten, Bruett said. If approved, it will go into effect August 2017.

However, many University sports already create these plans, so it wouldn’t have a major impact on campus, Bruett said. But formalizing the process ensures student-athletes make time for academic activities, Bruett said.

Recent graduate Anna Rasmussen, a tutor at the McNamara Academic Center, said her students have to cut sessions short for unscheduled meetings and events.

Any rule that establishes schedules further in advance will help both student-athletes and the tutoring center, she said.

When coaches make scheduling changes that conflict with a student-athlete’s non-athletic commitments, they often don’t have much of a choice in what to do, Rasmussen said.

“It’s so mandatory … if a coach says you have to be somewhere,” she said. “They see themselves a lot of times as being athletes first.”

Football player and graduate student Duke Anyanwu said student-athletes typically have an idea of what their schedules will look like during the regular season, but the regulation would benefit unpredictable schedules during the off-season and post-season, Anyanwu said.

“We’re always on our toes, so basically it’s like, ‘Don’t leave campus, have your phone on you, be ready to go,’” he said.

The regulation also states that officials would have to give students “adequate notice” of changes to the established schedule.

Anyanwu said coaches, athletes and administrators should agree on a definition of “adequate” while creating schedules.

“To me personally, I would say adequate is two weeks,” he said.

The rule would attempt to limit the number of last-minute athletic schedule changes year-round. Those changes make it difficult for students to plan activities unrelated to sports.

“People set up professional development meetings and meetings with professors … to set themselves up for success outside of their sports,” Anyanwu said. “But it’s kind of hard to do that when things are constantly changing.”