NCAA study finds athletics a full-time job, plus overtime

The NCAA limits student-athletes to 20 hours of practice per week, but many choose to practice on their own.

With 168 hours in a week, Division I football players spending an average of nearly 85 hours between athletics and academics in a given week could seem like an overload.

But that time commitment is more the rule rather than the exception in Division I athletics, according to a study released by the NCAA at its national convention earlier this month.

Across the board, student-athletes reported spending around 30 hours per week or more on athletics activities. Those involved in baseball, football and men’s golf reported putting in at least 40 hours on their sport.

The NCAA caps the amount of time student-athletes are allowed to spend on athletics activities at four hours per day and 20 hours per week.

However, only required, coach-supervised activities count toward the amount allowed, which leaves room for student-athletes to choose to spend more time on athletics.

Between practice, workouts, team-led activities and meetings with the training and coaching staffs, Gopher football players could spend upwards of eight to 10 hours a day at their facility, sophomore quarterback Adam Weber said.

“During the season you might have days where you’re almost here all day,” he said. “A lot of times you’re getting up at six in the morning and sometimes, with homework and everything, you’re not going to bed until late at night, so it’s an all-day commitment.”

Weber compared the time commitment to a full- or part-time job and said that same commitment remains even during the offseason.

Still, athletics department compliance director JT Bruett said all coaches have to submit practice logs to his office, which are initialed by the student-athletes to confirm them.

Despite the study’s findings, NCAA spokeswoman Jennifer Kearns said it was simply intended to gather information, and the association was not investigating potential violations.

The involvement in athletics doesn’t mean student-athletes skip out on their academics either, according to the study.

Those involved in each sport reported spending at least 30 hours on academics on top of their athletics commitments.

While student-athletes reported devoting significant time to academics, baseball players reported spending eight more hours per week on their sport than on academics.

Similarly, football players and men’s hockey players reported devoting five and six more hours respectively to athletics over academics.

There was not one women’s sport where student-athletes reported spending more time on athletics than on academics.

The same football players who reported spending nearly 45 hours per week on their sport said they spent nearly 40 hours on academics, according to the study.

That number “might be on the high side,” Weber said, as he estimated the time spent on academics to be between 25 and 35 hours.

While surveyed men’s hockey players reported spending less time on athletics than football players – at 37.6 hours – that time commitment is still well over that which is allowed by the NCAA.

As for the Gopher men’s hockey team, assistant coach John Hill estimated his players spend about 15 to 16 hours per week on required team activities.

“I don’t know how you can get 37,” Hill said of the NCAA’s findings.

Senior forward Mike Howe said the NCAA’s findings “might be a little high, but it’s pretty close.”

Howe said on a typical practice day, players will spend about three hours at the rink, but said there’s more to the time commitment than practice itself.

Balancing academics and athletics can be difficult, senior forward Tom Pohl said, but said juggling the commitments can be done.

“No one on our squad is a pre-med major,” he said. “Obviously guys work hard at school, but there’s nothing overwhelming academically.”

Pohl estimated the players spend four to five hours at the rink per day, but said many players take it upon themselves to stay longer than the coaching staff requires.

“Guys take time on their own, trying to improve their games,” he said. “If you add that into it, then no doubt it’s probably over 20 hours a week.”