NCAA convention decides new policies

Among the decisions made was to uphold the ban on coaches texting recruits.

Jake Grovum

Last week, athletics directors, college presidents and NCAA officials gathered in Nashville, Tenn., to discuss a number of issues at the NCAA’s 2008 National Convention.

Of those discussed, guaranteeing scholarships for student-athletes, the issue of a major college football playoff and prohibiting coaches from texting recruits took center stage.

Increased flexibility with scholarship retention

Under legislation passed by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, student-athletes who are injured, have a medical condition or become pregnant will have their scholarships guaranteed.

With the new rule, student-athletes who suffer from mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction will retain their scholarship through its one-year term.

The legislation takes effect Aug. 1.

Previously, student-athletes’ scholarships were only protected if they suffered an injury that made them unable to compete.

The legislation was heavily supported by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Division I National SAAC Chairman Kerry Kenny said.

“We’ve said for the past year that it’s at the heart and the core of what student-athlete well-being is all about,” he said. “It shouldn’t be canceled and there should be some protection built in.”

The legislation only protects the scholarships through the one-year term, and reassessment of the student-athlete’s aid should be made by individual institutions, Kenny said.

Athletics director Joel Maturi praised the legislation and said concerns over an institution’s right to evaluating a student-athletes’ aid were addressed as well.

“Some people felt that if a kid became a drug addict, you couldn’t take away his or her aid,” he said. “If they don’t do the things they’re supposed to do, aid can still be removed, but it shouldn’t be removed just because of the illness.”

Maturi serves on the Division I Management Council, which passed the legislation to the Board of Directors, and is also a liaison to the national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

No football playoffs, for now

In a letter to NCAA President Myles Brand, University of Georgia President Michael Adams called for a playoff in major college football.

Citing the increased commercialism of college football, Adams said in the letter that the Bowl Championship Series has become “a beauty contest largely stage-managed by the networks.”

In the letter, Adams points to the possibility of having the winners of the four major bowls play semifinal games in mid-January, with the national championship a week later.

While the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee hasn’t been asked to comment on the issue, Kenny said one concern for student-athletes would be the extended season and increased time demands.

As for the Big Ten, Maturi said officials are largely satisfied with the current system.

“Certainly we in the Big Ten benefit from our bowl arrangements,” he said. “I think the majority of our presidents don’t want to see a football playoff.”

Brand said in a statement the structure of postseason college football rests with the presidents of member institutions and the NCAA national office will support their decisions.

Texting ban upheld

In a lopsided vote, NCAA membership struck down an attempted override of legislation prohibiting coaches from text messaging recruits.

Like the scholarship legislation, the texting ban was also heavily supported by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is an important issue to student-athletes, Maturi said.

“Highly recruited kids are getting hundreds of text messages a day in some instances,” he said. “If you receive them, you pay as well. To me those are all compelling arguments.”

The use of text messages by coaches took away from the personal aspects of the recruiting process, Kenny said.

“If you’re going to spend four years of your life with a coach, both parties should really try to get to know the other as much as possible,” he said. “With text messaging, just the limited contact that it allows, it’s just not something that needed to be in the recruiting process.”