||36th NACDA Convention|
Salt Lake City, Utah
June 10-13, 2001
NCAA Division III Breakout Session
Monday, June 11, 9:00 - 9:50 a.m.
Good morning. I'm Tim Gleason, commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Conference and a member of NACDA's Executive Committee. Before we begin, we would like to recognize Southwest Recreational Industries, who is our audio-visual sponsor this morning. Our session is entitled Amateurism and, in the true spirit of our topic, we have a true amateur moderating our session.
Fortunately, I have some professionals with me who are going to be addressing you today. I would like to introduce, first of all, the person who is not going to be speaking and that is Jen Strawley. Jen is the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement representative. She's been with the NCAA for three years and we're happy to have her with us. We will rely on Jen, not only for the technicalities of the power point, but afterwards, we will have a question and answer period.
The Division III Amateurism Task Force has been in place for one and a half years and has been working very hard. I know amateurism has been something that has been very difficult for us to define. It's been difficult for us to get a handle on and we have many people to thank for helping us to bring that issue into focus.
The first person I would like to introduce is Tom Weingartner, who is the chair of the Division III Amateurism Task Force. Tom is the director of athletics at the University of Chicago and a former member of the Division III Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee. So, here to kickoff things this morning is Tom Weingartner.
Thanks Tim. Welcome. We should introduce ourselves. The first power point is the composition of the Amateurism Task Force. I'm joined here by JoAnn Andregg from the University of St. Thomas and Gary Karner from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Other members of our committee are in the audience. I won't introduce them now, but they will help us answer questions after our presentation.
As Tim said, your task force has worked hard on what is a very complex issue. Division II has already passed amateurism legislation. Division I continues to consider it. Last year, the task force made presentations at these NACDA meetings and at the NCAA convention. The task force met this past Saturday for the entire day. This is a work in progress. We are continuing to consider these issues and we wanted to update you on these issues today and get feedback from you so that we could present the best possible legislative proposals at the next convention.
The session overview today is to not talk too long. The session is divided into four parts. I will talk briefly about the NCAA amateurism principle. We will review the core values for the task force. JoAnn will talk about problems we identified in consideration of this complex issue. Finally, Gary will talk about actual amateurism precedence and scenarios.
Let's talk about the principle of amateurism. You have it before you. I won't read it. The point I want to emphasize is that this principle of amateurism currently does, and was intended to, apply to currently enrolled student-athletes. I can't emphasize that too much, not prospective student-athletes in our thinking. We embrace this concept of amateurism, the rules and values we now impose on our currently enrolled student-athletes. We embrace the unique American system of higher education that links sports and education in a distinctive manner. We embrace amateurism for our currently enrolled student-athletes. We are considering the rules as they apply to the rest of the world for prospective student-athletes.
I can't say this too often. We support the principle of amateurism for our own current student-athletes. However, we feel it's impossible to regulate the rest of the world the way our current rules dictate. It's impossible to regulate that 14 year-old Yugoslav basketball player. It's impossible to regulate that 15 year-old Argentinean soccer player and it's even impossible to regulate that 16 year-old American road racer or golfer. Not only is it impossible to regulate those boys and girls, but it's unrealistic to expect them even know about the NCAA and our rules. In a sense, our reach exceeded our grasp, as the world has grown smaller. We've become too intrusive in the lives of our boys and girls in the United States, and throughout the entire world.
In the consideration of this issue, we essentially used the two-prong analysis. We wanted to reaffirm the Division III philosophy specific to amateurism and then determine and identify any problems in need of reform. That was our first charge. The second charge was we wanted to be aware of what Divisions I and II were doing and to assess any impact, positive or negative, on Division III.
Also, while we were talking about amateurism, we identified four core values. We wanted to keep our eye on the ball. We did not want to lose sight of these values. The first was that we wanted to make sure any proposals we developed and presented to the membership include clarity, common sense and consistency, something we thought was lacking in our current rule structure. The second was that we wanted to have the welfare of prospective student-athletes clearly in mind. We wanted to do what was best for these kids out there throughout the world. Third, we did not want to disrupt the level playing field. We wanted to maintain competitive fairness. We did not want any rule to cause any one group, one set of institutions, to have an advantage over others. Lastly, we wanted to make sure that anything we proposed was consistent with the over-arching Division III philosophy.
In short, as you'll learn from JoAnn and Gary, we felt our rules were not only too intrusive, but in some instances, too punitive, too inconsistent and too unwieldy to enforce. Again, our purpose is to present to you our best thinking currently. We are going to continue to think about these problems, but it's an opportunity for you to react to what we've developed thus far. We will take those questions and reactions back and continue to work on our proposals for the convention.
Let me introduce JoAnn Andregg, who will talk about some of the issues we've been discussing over the last 18 months.
Currently, amateur rules attempt to control activities of prospects and organizations over whom the NCAA has no direct control. Unfortunately, we cannot assume that every prospective student-athlete has knowledge of NCAA rules and regulations. It is very difficult, currently, to investigate what a prospective student-athlete has done prior to college enrollment. While tracking what American students have done prior to college enrollment, it is nearly impossible to track what an international prospective student-athlete has done.
The question then becomes, should NCAA amateurism rules extend to individuals who are not part of the NCAA organization? In other words, should something be done to a 15 year-old that inadvertently has run afoul of the NCAA Amateurism Rule? Should something be done to a 15 year-old that would forever affect his college eligibility?
Our current rules lack clarity, consistency and common sense, as Tom has pointed out. The current rules are very confusing. Right now, if you read the manual, there are 11 exemptions to the term "amateur." This points to the fact that we really don't know how to define amateurism at the moment. We can't come to consensus. As the sub-committee explored why our rules were inconsistent and inadequate, it determined that its work could not be driven by numbers, but rather for the need that these rules do, or should be, clear and fair to the process.
Consider the following example. A prospective student-athlete who hits a hole in one at the local country club and has had to turn down a brand new truck in order to retain college eligibility. This is an example where common sense seems to play no part in our current amateurism rules. This is a situation we are trying to rectify.
Issue number three. Currently, the most severe sanctions are applied to student-athletes who intend to professionalize. As an indication that our current rules do not work is apparent in the work of the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee. Currently, institutions are increasingly requesting reinstatement of prospective student-athletes who have violated one of the amateurism rules, but whom the institution feels should be made eligible. The problem the committee is having is, how do you evaluate intent to professionalize. If a prospective student-athlete signs a contract with a professional team, but does not even make it through the first day of tryouts, that student has lost his or her eligibility in that sport forever. That's an example where I feel the sanctions are much too severe. There are also sanctions that penalize prospective student-athletes for actions that, really when you think about it, give them no competitive advantage over their peers.
Issue number four. The current rules do not support the Division III philosophy regarding deregulation and student-athlete welfare. Our current amateurism rules are not in the best interest of our prospective students. If we are going to support Division III philosophically, we need to stop focusing on being restrictive and try to provide relief to those prospective athletes who inadvertently trip over the minefield of our amateurism rules.
The Amateurism Committee is working to preserve the uniqueness of intercollegiate athletics without being punitive in an illogical or unreasonable manner. We will be able to provide a greater number of prospects with the opportunity to participate in intercollegiate sports while addressing what should be the true concern on amateurism and that is, competitive equity.
Out of the issues I have just mentioned, we have come up with several areas of discussion. Acceptance of prize money, signing a professional contract, entering the draft, seasons of competition rule that addresses the competitive experience prior to college enrollment but after high school graduation, acceptance of pay for play and competition with professionals. Gary Karner, the commissioner of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will address each of these issues with you.
Thank you JoAnn. We're not international just yet. I think when the committee first started looking at this issue, one of the things it chose to do was to look back at what is currently happening in the area of amateurism and how we're dealing with it at the Division III level. Most specifically, what kind of cases are coming before the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee and the staff, when it comes to dealing with the reinstatement of individuals who, through our complex rules prior to their college enrollment, run amuck of some of our amateurism rules?
One of the problems the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee is experiencing is that we're expecting them to make subjective judgements in place of value judgements in a lot of these cases. Part of the charge of the committee is to look at ways of addressing those issues legislatively as opposed to turning it over to a committee to make those kinds of decisions. If, ultimately, we're ending up in the same place anyway as a result of the decisions being made, why not look at addressing it legislatively from a very pragmatic prospective? Look at this particular instance on the screen dealing with men's cross country.
Prior to enrollment, a student-athlete received $50 based on his place finish in a road race. Currently, it is impermissible for, as you know, a pre-enrolled student-athlete to accept prize money or the equivalent, thereof, in competition of that sport. Typically, what occurs in instances such as this, the reinstatement committee and staff looks at it, makes a determination that this is not entirely significant in terms of the prize money that was received. The action that is taken is the eligibility is reinstated in full after the student-athlete repays the value of the prize money. More often than not, that is exactly what takes place. There isn't a penalty applied to the competitive aspect of this, it's merely repaying the prize money and your eligibility is being reinstated in full. Keep in mind, that had the student not accepted the prize money in the first place, there wouldn't have been an issue here at all. The issue is really that he accepted the prize money.
Case number two is in women's skiing. Prior to enrolling, a student-athlete participated in skiing events where she received $500 based on her place finish. Once again, the action is very similar. The student is reinstated fully based upon the repayment of the impermissible prize money. My guess is that these are typically the types of cases dealing with prize money that comes before the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee.
In looking at these kinds of cases, the task force determines that one of the proposals would include the permissibility of PSAs, prospective student-athletes to accept prize money. The rationale is the money in itself does not yield a competitive advantage. When you view it what is occurring currently with the reinstatement process, it's not being viewed as a competitive advantage, it's simply a violation by virtue of accepting the prize money. The prospective student-athlete can compete in the competition currently, so by merely allowing him to accept the money, it doesn't change the status quo as we're applying the legislation currently.
One other thing that came to mind is there are a number of student-athletes on our campuses currently that have run amuck of this particular legislation, unknowingly to us and, in some cases, even to themselves. The ones that do come to light end up going to the student-athlete reinstatement staff and committee, but my guess is there are a lot of others out there that really never come to light either because the student-athlete doesn't understand what the ramifications were or chooses not to divulge the fact that they did receive some money at some point prior to enrolling in college.
The next area of analysis the committee looked at was an individual signing a contract. I'm also going to include the idea of entering a professional draft because the concepts here are relatively similar. Under current legislation, the act of simply signing a contract renders a pre-enrolled student-athlete permanently ineligible for intercollegiate competition, even if, and JoAnn alluded to this earlier, they never engage in any professional competition or accepted any compensation relative to that contract. By merely putting your name on a dotted line, you have rendered yourself ineligible even if you don't take the next step. This is under our current legislation.
Baseball is the one we often think of, even at our Division III level. PSA signed a baseball contract with a minor league team. The contract included a $10,000 signing bonus. PSA was released by the minor league team due to a pre-existing wrist injury. PSA never received any of the signing bonus. Under our current legislation, that individual is ineligible. Their eligibility cannot be reinstated because they signed a professional contract.
Let's look at another example. A PSA signed a contract with a professional soccer team. The student-athlete did not receive any compensation and competed in only three exhibition contests. The PSA's contract was never finalized as much as he did not receive international clearance and was released from the team on June 1, 2000. Once again, the reinstatement staff and committee really have little choice. In this case, the athlete is permanently ineligible for a collegiate competition.
In looking at these kinds of cases, the task force arrived at a consensus that our proposal would include the permissibility of a PSA to sign a contract or enter the professional draft. You may know that currently, some student-athletes are in the draft whether they choose to be or not, depending upon the sport. There's not really an action the student-athlete makes in order to be entered into the draft. Nonetheless, we were proposing they be allowed to sign a contract and enter the draft. The rationale is that the action of signing a contract or entering the draft does not yield any kind of competitive advantage. As you remember, back to the core values as were alluded to earlier, that was one of the things that was foremost in the minds of the committee when we looked at these things. Do these things really result in any kind of significant advantage? In the opinion of the committee, merely signing a contract and entering the draft does not do that.
One of the things the committee was targeting here was that the 16 or 17 year-old, quite frankly, makes a poor choice at a particular point in their lives. They choose to sign a contract, maybe not fully understanding the ramifications of doing so, or finds out after, that maybe this isn't the way he or she wants to go. They might want to pursue their educational career, first and foremost. Under our current legislation, the poor choice that individual makes at that age leaves them with no recourse.
This particular aspect gets at the heart of whether or not somebody gains a competitive advantage as a result of any of the allowances our proposals would permit somebody to take advantage of. Again, we're dealing with pre-enrolled student-athletes who actually engage in organized competition following high school. We'll get into details about what organized competition really means. In such instances, the committee could or would constitute a competitive advantage. If someone does go on after high school and competes at a high level of organized competition for a period of time, in those instances, there is a competitive advantage these individuals might realize. That goes back again to the level playing field. Because of that, there should be some consequences attached to that. Consequences that would not necessarily, as we currently have, make somebody ineligible forever, but consequences that would demonstrate that if someone were to do this and then choose to come back and get an education, they are probably serious about doing so.
We looked at the consequences. They are outlined on the screen. Subsequent to high school graduation or a prospect does not enroll at a collegiate institution at his or her first opportunity, the prospect shall be charged with a season of intercollegiate competition for every calendar year subsequent to high school graduation and prior to full-time collegiate enrollment during which the prospect engages in organized competition. One quick clarification there. We're not talking about the summer immediately after high school. We're talking about their first opportunity to enroll, which would be the subsequent fall. Anything they would do that summer immediately following high school graduation would not be affected by this.
If the prospect engages in organized competition upon reticulation, the prospect must fulfill an academic year of residence. There are two things that kick in. One, you would be charged a season of competition for every year you engage in organized competition post high school. You would also be required to sit out an academic year of residence upon reticulating to one of our institutions. That goes back to the individual clearly demonstrating they are serious about returning to college and pursuing their educational careers.
Here are a couple of examples of how this would be applied. An individual graduated from high school in the spring of 2000, competed two years on a tennis circuit prior to enrolling in college. Now, after two years, decides to enroll in college in the fall of 2002. In this particular instance, a student-athlete would be charged with two seasons of competition and be required to sit an academic year in residence.
The definition of organized competition. We need to make a distinction that this particular definition would apply only to the amateurism legislation we're proposing here. It would not apply to the organized competition legislation that typically comes into play when you're dealing with Bylaw 14 and enrolled student-athletes. Please make sure you understand that distinction because there could be some confusion. We're not suggesting that this be the "competition rule" as it applies to all NCAA legislation. It strictly applies to amateurism as we would apply it to pre-enrolled student-athletes.
The definition would be any competition in which compensation is provided to any participants, which includes actual and necessary expenses. The second thing to trigger this would be any individual competition pursuant to signing a contract or involvement process. Going back to that earlier example of any individual that signs, if they subsequently compete, the organization competition rule would kick in. Any competition funded by a professional sports organization. Any competition funded by an athletics institution or a booster, any practice with a professional athletics team, excluding a 48-hour tryout period. This definition has been constructed to purposely exclude competition like church leagues and rec leagues and those types of competition. That wasn't the intent of the committee at all. It was to deal with individuals who are competing in organized competition that would be deemed significant, high-level organized competition and not with the local rec league or local church league or something of that nature. It was felt by the committee that those individuals competing at those levels are not likely to gain a significant competitive advantage over other student-athletes should they decide to do that for one or two years.
As there is with all NCAA legislation, there are always exceptions and things that have to be looked at. Again, there will always be scenarios that come up under this legislation, should it be adopted. They will have to be dealt with through a variety of mechanisms, whether it's a Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, whether it's through further tinkering of the legislation or modifications. Legislatively, the committee felt comfortable with including a couple of exceptions, one of which would be prep school. There would be a one-year exception for individuals enrolled in a postgraduate college preparatory school. In other words, the organized season of competition rule would not be triggered in that instance.
There would be exceptions for various types of athletics activities that the committee considers part of the developmental programs for our national teams. For example, the USOC sanctions advance Olympics, the World Games, University Games, those types of events that are intended primarily for the development of our national teams. There would be one-time, one-year exceptions for those types of competitions.
Another area the committee considered, and is proposing including, is a two-year exception for any individuals who compete in USA Hockey or the Canadian Hockey League at the junior level. That's another area of exception that the committee is proposing to be included in the legislation.
Going on to the next area of analysis is competition with professionals. A lot of you may be aware of the fact that currently, our legislation states that competition against professionals is permissible. Competing with professionals is impermissible. A golfer, for example, could go out and compete in the Masters and not affect his or her eligibility whatsoever. However, an individual on a team sport who would choose to compete on a team that does include a professional or someone considered a professional, would be affected by our current legislation. We have to determine who is and who isn't a professional in some cases. Part of the discussion is centered around applying some consistency with the way we treat our individual and team sports.
The example that's given here is men's soccer. PSA competed in 16 contests with a professional soccer team. Typically, what is currently done by the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee and staff is that the eligibility is reinstated after he is withheld from the first 25 percent of the competition. Today, the reinstatement condition would withhold one for one. I'm assuming that means one for one competition that they participate in. In this particular example, the individual would likely be held off for 16 collegiate contests.
The committee is proposing that we would allow individuals to compete both against and with professionals. Against is already permissible, but allow them to compete with professionals without jeopardizing their collegiate eligibility. Keep in mind that if they do so, then the organized competition thing comes back and affects them that way. I don't want to mislead you by saying in competing with a professional leaves no consequences, there are. Presumably, the organized competition rule will come back and they will be affected that way. They will still lose seasons of competition in all likelihood. It's not a free pass, by any means.
The task force arrived at a consensus to allow student-athletes to compete with professionals. Sometimes the definition of professional is ambiguous and vague. Adoption of seasons of competition rule would more fairly address the competitive experience. That's what we're trying to get at. We're trying to make sure we don't have a competitive inequity created by allowing somebody to compete with professionals, which you could argue is a significant competitive advantage. That being the case, the seasons of competition rule would come into play.
One other area that was highlighted earlier and one that the task force probably struggles with more than anything else, is the pay for play. There's no doubt that over the last year and a half the committee has been functioning, they have heard more concerns about this particular element than all of the others combined. That goes back to our basic philosophy of amateurism. There's something about making that leap to allowing individuals who actually receive a viable salary of some sort to compete as a professional. To allow them to come back and retain their collegiate eligibility is questionable, even though they would be affected by the season of competition rule. After seriously looking at this issue, the committee has arrived at a consensus that this will not be a part of the proposal as we will be submitting it for further review by the Management Council and the Presidents Council and for legislation in January.
Part of it is from a pragmatic standpoint that what we've heard from the student-athlete reinstatement staff. By adopting all of the other elements of the legislation that we've already addressed here today, we're going to take care of the vast majority of the issues and problems we experience that come before the Student-Athletes Reinstatement Committee in Division III. Again, this is not to discount the possibility that we have prospective Division III athletes out there that might professionalize themselves and actually accept a salary. When all was said and done, the committee felt it was better to pull back on that particular aspect of this proposal at this time.
That takes us through the elements and the analysis we went through. At this time, let me state that the committee has worked extremely hard. I'm a relatively new member of the committee, so I can't speak to what took place from the very beginning. Last year, as many of you did, I sat through some round tables here at the NACDA Convention where Tom presented to us some of the basic elements of this proposal. We've had discussions at the NCAA convention on this topic. This committee has received and accepted and implemented a great deal of feedback and input that has already been received from the membership. The committee feels pretty comfortable at this point. We've got a good package, not to suggest that there will be some fine tinkering. This is complex legislation. Every time you pull something out or insert something, it has a rippling affect on other aspects of the legislation or other rules we have in place. We're constantly tinkering with it and we will continue to tinker with it. It's going to be reviewed once again by the Management Council at their meetings in July and then by the Presidents Council in August. I suspect there might be a little tinkering that takes place at those levels. We fully intend to put together something that is doable, that makes sense, that's clear. Going back to our core values, it will be something we can all be pretty comfortable with voting on in January.
I'm going to turn this over to Tom. You need to keep in mind that there will always be situations that come up that are not clearly addressed by this legislation. There are mechanisms in place to deal with those. I encourage you to narrow your questions more to the conceptual aspects of this proposal rather than the what if questions. We will be sure to take your input and consider that further.
Thank you very much.
Let me introduce a couple of members of the committee who are with us today. Steve Erber from Muhlenberg College is here, John Harper from Bridgewater State, Les Pullman is joining us up front. As Gary said, we've worked on this issue, but we'd like to entertain your questions, concerns and comments.
Thank you for your suggestions and questions. If you see us going the wrong way or missing something, a few of us will be outside and are happy to chat with you. Thank you very much.