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Junior/Community Colleges Breakout
Eligibility Rule Update
(Tuesday, June 11, 10:45 - 11:45 a.m.)

Mike Jacobsen:

Our speaker today is Wayne Baker, associate executive director of the NJCAA. Please don't hesitate to ask questions, whether it's throughout his comments, or at the end. He's got a lot of good answers and many benefits in what he has to say to you today.

Wayne Baker:

This year in eligibility, we had a wide variety of proposals for one reason or the other, and some of those reasons were denied and some were approved, this is what I'd like to talk to you about. The three major areas that the Eligibility and the Executive Committee wanted to look at his year were limitation of foreign student-athletes in participation, amateur status of students and the learning disabled students policy. Of those, the only major addition to the eligibility rules was the learning disabled student. I keep saying the learning disabled because that is what, primarily, we are dealing with, although, my friends at the federal government tell me not to use the word learning because it could be a non learning disability.

The NJCAA Policy Certified Disabled Student Rule will allow a student-athlete, if qualified and if approved by our office, to participate with being less than a full-time student, and therefore, not being able to meet the term-by-term eligibility rules as per the NJCAA bylaws. As you look at this, you're probably thinking that now you're going to have to play against a team who has a seven-foot center who is taking three credits. This is the same thing I heard 10 years ago when we passed the part time rule in the NJCAA and we have around 15 students per year participating under the part time rule out of 48,000. That did not become a problem. I honestly have no idea how many of these student-athletes we're going to have. I was initiated a little bit this year because we went through this at Vin Cullen's school and allowed five students to play this year through proposals to the NJCAA office. I worked with the federal government and the NCAA in developing this. You can ask Vinnie, if you go through and collect all of the documentation to have this student certified, you're going to have about two inches of materials you'll have to submit to our office.

This documentation is very extensive. I don't know too many basketball coaches who would go through getting all of this information if it's not legitimate, so I think we have done what we can to take care of this and legitimize this. Hopefully, we won't have abuses in this system. If we do, we'll make adjustments as we go. Next year, will be our very first year working with the disabled student policy, so we're now flying by the seat of our pants.

One of the things George earlier alluded to were the eligibility differences among our changing student population. Looking in my crystal ball with 11 years experience dealing with NJCAA eligibility and looking down the road, I foresee a day when a Division III program will be playing under different eligibility rules than a Division I program in the NJCAA. I don't know if it will be two years from now, or five years or 20 years from now, but I think that will happen.

A good example is one of the proposals this year was to further limit foreign student participation. Now, it's limited by the number of scholarships that can be given, so henceforth, there's no limit in the number of foreign students that can play in a Division III school. The proposal that came in, which came from a Division I program, was that the same limits that are applied currently to scholarships be applied to participation. In other words, the eligibility form would then document how many foreign students you have and you would be limited to that number. My good friend in New Jersey said it wouldn't work there. As he explained that in the New Jersey area and many other metropolitan areas that have such a large contingent of foreign students, many of them just show up and try out for his Division III program. These are non scholarship, non recruited students who show up and want to participate. If we limited his soccer team, for example, to four foreign student-athletes, he wouldn't have a soccer team at Middlesex Community College.

Remember, these are non scholarship, non recruited student-athletes, therefore, we had to rethink that position a little bit. Also, we're a little concerned, from the liability standpoint, so we had to rethink that. That whole concept of foreign student-athlete participation has gone back to the Eligibility Committee and will be studied this year. The committee may come back in two years looking much different than it did in the proposed state this year. Again, I think, what's going to have to happen, if that is, indeed, what the Division I people want, is the coaches are tired of being beaten and competing against foreign student-athletes and handing six All-American certificates to no Americans. It is ironic that when you stand and hand them out, none of them are Americans. We may come back and see different proposals among divisions.

Another thing that was changed at the 1996 convention was the hardship definition has been changed for the NJCAA to come in line with the way the NCAA and the NAIA's are defined. Always in the past, if you had a hardship student who played in two soccer games and was hurt, he or she had to sit out the first two soccer games the next year. Beginning with students entering on August 1, 1996, they won't have that sit-out period. If they qualify for a hardship, they will be granted that hardship with no stipulation of having to sit out any games. They'll be given the entire year back. So, if they qualify under the 20 percent, first half of the season, we'll give them the hardship, and again, the NCAA honors those hardships. We honor their hardships, so it's probably as good a working relationship involving medical hardships as we ever had in the NJCAA.

One thing the NJCAA does not have is what the NCAA refers to as a medical red shirt. In baseball, if a guy only pitches in one game, they can wave their own magic wand and decide that, while this kid didn't use any eligibility, because, as they keep trying to tell me, if you play a very limited amount in the NCAA, you can do that. In the NJCAA, you can't do that. If you play one second, you either get a hardship ruling back from our office, or that student-athlete has utilized one season of eligibility.

In talking about eligibility and participation, you have to be very careful in the involvement with your coaches in activities outside the season. There is track meet that is occurring next week that combines the California and the NJCAA top three winners from our track meet and the California track meet. That is not an NJCAA sanction, nor an NJCAA-sponsored activity. We've not granted any approval to that. We do not have anything to do with that. That is not our track meet. There are those out there who are being told it is an NJCAA-sponsored track meet. It is not. You have to be very careful with what your coaches try to come back and tell you, as athletic directors. Coaches will sometimes do what they have to, to get people on the field. A 19-year-old athlete will also tell you what he thinks you need to hear so he can play. I've learned in 11 years, I think 19-year-old males are the biggest liars on earth when it comes to being able to tell you stories to get on the field. The desire to play is much stronger than the desire to be honest. It continues to amaze me, in my job, how many people get in trouble because you're too gullible and you believe. You figure, the transcripts are coming so, go ahead and issue the uniform and let him play.

If you need any documentation, any documentation, a transcript, a transfer, a waiver, I would suggest you get it in writing from wherever they come from as to whether they played or not. If you don't have a form, see me, write me, call me. I've got 1,000 of them in my office that schools use. As soon as the student comes into your office and says he's a transfer, you send this form off to his previous school. Find out all of the things you need to know, and have it in writing. If they owe you a form, do not put them on the eligibility form until you get that form you need. I see it every week, if not every day. Well, you know, we're waiting on a transcript. Fine, is he playing? Yes. What if you don't get this transcript?

I just went through this with a school who was in the track and field national championship. They finished in the top five, team wise. They won't be going anywhere next year because they went through the entire season waiting on a young man to deliver his transcript to them. I was under the assumption the whole time that he was not participating, but he was.

I don't see how they can continue to let that happen. I've seen parents drive all day and all night to get transcripts and bring them back to you. Until you take them off the field, and if you continue to let them play, you won't see that transcript.

There's no changes in the sports procedures. We took the divisions out. Instead of listing baseball three times, Division I, II and III, we just listed baseball. We've just listed them one time and not multi for the division. We then defined them, at the bottom, the fact that the only real difference in the divisions is in the number of scholarships. In Division II, you can give the same number of scholarships, just tuition, book and fee only, and in Division III, obviously, you can't give any scholarships. There wasn't really a need to list each division because the starting dates, game dates, etc., are all the same.

The fall sports had a change in the game dates from September 1 to August 29, next year. The reason for that change in the game dates was to incorporate Labor Day weekend into soccer, football, cross country, all of the fall sports. It did not make a lot of sense to have the game dates start after Labor Day weekend when you had a three-day weekend and the kids were out of school. You need to be able to utilize that weekend. We all agreed, so that went through.

You can go home and tell your basketball coach that proposal to move basketball practice starting date up really received very little, if any, support at the meeting. I got a lot of calls from excited basketball coaches who thought they would be starting practice September 15 next year. Unless I read the vote wrong, because it was just a voice vote, it really didn't have any support at all. Basketball practice will stay with an October 1 starting date for practice and November 1 starting date for games.

There were very few other changes relative to the sports procedures. We continue to make slight adjustments in the sports procedures as we become more flexible with, again, the changing student population, the change in athletics in the colleges and the sports themselves. Their fall lacrosse was added into the sports procedures. That's not a major change.

I see in the future of eligibility is, again, probably some type of limitation on foreign student participation. A hard look at amateur status rules in the NJCAA which I heard what Mr. Ced Dempsey was going to propose for the NCAA. Obviously, he and the NCAA are thinking of looking at that a little bit too. We'll take a look in divisions, if we do go with different eligibility rules among the different divisions, you'll see a hard look at the transfer status of Division I athletes relative to sitting out longer than a semester or 16-week period. I don't think the Division III people are for that. Those are the types of things that will be looked at next year and in the future. We stayed with the Eligibility Committee as a body to look at changes in eligibility next year and in the future.

Questions from the Floor were inaudible.

Mike Jacobsen:

Thank you Wayne. That's a great job. I doubt any one of us here today would trade jobs with Wayne and the job he has to do. He does a great job with it. I was an assistant principal at a high school for some years and his job resembles the job I had. I don't see Wayne having to deal with very many positive things throughout the year. We appreciate Wayne being here and giving us some further insight. He's always available to any of you, so don't hesitate to call him for any questions you may have. This will conclude our session.